Hudak – “You have put Ontario families in a difficult position…”

Posted 18 September 2011 by in Politics

Tim HudakTORONTO – Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak has released an Open Letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty expressing concern over the state of the Pan American Games in Ontario.

Here is the text of that letter:

September 18, 2011
The Honourable Dalton McGuinty
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Dear Premier McGuinty,

I am increasingly concerned at the evidence showing that the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games is unraveling. Ontario families were sold on the Pan Am Games with your bid chair David Peterson’s promise that it would be “a great party, without a hangover.” Warning signs of problems came earlier this month, when the City of Hamilton revealed that the velodrome venue is not on time and not on budget. Headlines like “Pan Am Games team stumbles out of the gate” in today’s Toronto Star do nothing to restore shaken public confidence that you or your hand-picked organizing committee is getting control over the problems with organizing the Games.

You have put Ontario families in a difficult position with the way you and your hand-picked Liberal appointees to the organizing committee have structured the finances of the Games. In addition to assuming responsibility for 35% of the cost of the Games, you made the Province of Ontario the guarantor for any deficits and cost overruns for venues. Now it has come to light that with less than four years until the opening of the Games there has been no progress on site selection, let alone construction of venues.

Many Ontarians recall the massive cost overruns the last time a Liberal government was in charge of developing a major sporting venue – the Toronto Skydome. When it was first proposed, the price of Skydome was estimated at $150 million. Despite then Premier David Peterson’s assurances that no more than $30 million would come from taxpayers, Ontario families were ultimately on the hook when the price tag of Skydome soared to $383 million.

Now you and your hand-picked bid chair are making the exact same promises to families about the costs of your troubled Pan Am Games.

I am concerned about a lack of transparency in your decision to put the organizing committee beyond the reach of freedom of information requests. The board meetings of the Pan Am Games organizing committee are chaired by long-time Liberal donor Roger Garland. The minutes of those meetings are not public. The salaries and expenses of the Toronto 2015 staff are not public. Open access would allow Ontario families to monitor the use of public money and flag evidence of cost overruns and hold you and your appointees to the organizing committee accountable.

On the face of it, you appear to have passed the critical point for being able to deliver the Pan Am Games venues on time and on budget. The 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games require 52 venues as compared to just 9 for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. By this stage of Vancouver Olympic Games planning, the sites for venues were selected, contractors chosen and contracts signed. In fact, many of the Vancouver Olympic Games venues were already well under construction.

Ontario families who see history repeating itself answers to some very specific questions:

1. What impact have you planned for cost overruns in Ontario’s finances?

2. What measures have you taken to ensure Ontario families are not left paying for cost overruns that appear inevitable?

3. What direction are you giving to the committee to ensure they will get the organization of the Games back on track immediately?

4. Given the uncertainty surrounding cost overruns, will you open up the books of the organizing committee to public scrutiny?

Ontario families and seniors cannot afford any more tax increases. They worry about health care and education, which is why a Tim Hudak government will increase investments to frontline services in these areas. Families and I are concerned that the mistakes you are making with the Pan Am Games will rob precious resources from their real priorities or that you will hit them with yet another tax hike to pay for cost overruns with the Games.

It is up to you to explain how you will stop the 2015 Pan Am Games from unraveling further, and how you plan to protect Ontario families from cost overruns that appear inevitable.

Sincerely,

Tim Hudak
Leader of the Official Opposition