Monday, January 24, 2011

Treasury Board presidents say the darndest things


Stockwell Day is an enigma wrapped in a riddle.

He was unfairly ridiculed for showing up at a news conference in 2000 riding a Jet Ski. Canadians need more politicians arriving for events aboard alternate means of transportation. I'm not a politician, but if I had a Jet Ski that's how I'd arrive for work.

He was leader of the Canadian Alliance, which was oh-so briefly called the Conservative Reform Alliance Party until someone realized it literally stood for CRAP. That's also what his supporters were saying after losing the 2000 election to the Jean Chretien Liberals. During that campaign, he was mocked for his creationist beliefs.

On Jan. 19, 2010, he was sworn-in as president of the Treasury Board. Here is his job description.

"The Treasury Board is responsible for accountability and ethics, financial, personnel and administrative management, comptrollership, approving regulations and most Orders-in-Council.

"The formal role of the President is to chair the Treasury Board. He carries out his responsibility for the management of the government by translating the policies and programs approved by Cabinet into operational reality and by providing departments with the resources and the administrative environment they need to do their work. The Treasury Board has an administrative arm, the Secretariat, which was part of the Department of Finance until it was proclaimed a department in 1966."

Day is also the senior cabinet minister for British Columbia.

So who better to ask than Day himself a simple question: how much did the federal government spend on the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics?

The City of Vancouver and Province of British Columbia issued post-Games reports disclosing their expenditures. The Government of Canada has not.

Maybe you saw a report on Dec. 23, 2010 called Canada's Games. Conveniently released the day before Christmas Eve. That document purportedly told the story of the federal government's involvement in the Olympics. Flip to the financial chapter and you'll find the government's estimate of $1.247 billion "invested". But look closely at the page 127 disclaimer. It says the following: "All dollar amounts in this report reflect budgets and not actual figures".

So here we are in 2011 and still wondering about the cost of the Games. Here's Day's answer to my simple question at a Jan. 21 news conference on scientific research grants at the University of B.C. Robson Square:

"Everything, every dollar, every dime that we've spent has been and is fully audited and all numbers are available.

"The overall report showed that the Olympics themselves wound up in a net surplus position. Fantastic what is left here as a legacy, not just in terms of training centres and all the magnificent infrastructure projects that we have now, but of course the legacy of accomplishment itself.

"The numbers are out there and if there's a particular element that you haven't got or haven't been able to get, by all means give me a call.

"The overall Olympics have been audited, we're very happy that it's turned out an overall surplus position.

"There's some cases because there's so many organizations and groups that you collaborate with and work with, we're actually still waiting for receipts."

Excuse me, Mr. Day?

A net surplus is defined as profits remaining after operating expenses, taxes, interest, insurance and dividends. The word "surplus" appears only once in the Canada's Games report in reference to surplus medical and dental supplies donated to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Again, I direct your attention to the disclaimer on page 127:"All dollar amounts in this report reflect budgets and not actual figures."

VANOC, which organized the Games, had no profit. On Dec. 17, 2010, it claimed it balanced a $1.884 billion operating budget, but only after an infusion of $187.8 million from taxpayers. In May 2007, CEO John Furlong said no money from taxpayers would be needed for operations.

So, will the Treasury Board president kindly give us a straight answer? How much did the federal government spend on the Vancouver Olympics?

(P.S.: In case you'd like to call Day yourself, his numbers are 613-957-2666, 613-995-1702 or 1-800-665-8711.)

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