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Gregor Robertson statement on Olympic village

January 9th, 2009 · 9 Comments

Just back from the wild scene at city hall, with all of us rabid Olympic-following media types herded into a sub-basement to get a briefing on the Olympic village from a “senior government official” we’re not allowed to name. (Not sure what the penalty is if we do — have to go help with the drywalling at the village?) Then another rumble up on the third floor as Gregor made his statement on the dire state of the village finances. I’ll provide more details later, but here’s his official statement.


City of Vancouver

January 9, 2009


In the last election, I made a commitment to Vancouver taxpayers to make public the previous council’s business decisions on the development of the Olympic Village. Today, I am delivering on that commitment.

The Olympic Village is a billion-dollar project, and the City’s on the hook for all of it.

To my great frustration, we can’t turn back the clock on the actions of the last Mayor and Council. We are financially and legally committed to complete this project.

The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be held here in Vancouver. We will meet this challenge, and we will excel as proud hosts to the world’s greatest athletes.

And we’ll be doing it in the most difficult economic environment we’ve seen in more than a generation. As Mayor, my job is to protect the interests of Vancouver taxpayers. I’m focused on making the best business decisions possible as we move forward, and to do it openly.

We now know why the previous city government didn’t want to talk about the deal they’d made. The arrangements were not in the public’s interest.

The decisions taken by the previous city government have put the city at enormous financial risk, even as we were told in 2006 by our elected leaders that the Olympic Village would be developed at no risk to the taxpayers.

I campaigned on the promise that I would provide to the public as much information about the Olympic Village finances as possible.

Here is what we have learned about how the city got to this point today.

We’ve learned that in 2007, as part of a complex three-way agreement, the previous council provided not only a financial guarantee for $190 million between the City, Fortress Investment Group, and Millennium Development, but more significantly, voted to provide a completion  guarantee to Fortress Investment Group.

With that action, they effectively made the City of Vancouver the project developer from that point forward. This decision was only disclosed in the city’s 2007 financial statement, released in April 2008.

Fortress, acting within their rights under that deal, stopped advancing funds to the developer for Olympic Village construction in September 2008. As you know from media reports, city council decided in camera on October 14th to approve payments to the contractors to allow construction to continue.

Upon taking office, it became clear that immediate action had to be taken. The current arrangement was not sustainable.

Confronted with the difficult situation, council has directed city staff to negotiate a financial arrangement that will best protect the taxpayers of Vancouver.

These negotiations are ongoing.

We know we’ve been dealt a very tough hand, but I believe we can meet our obligations. We’re working very closely with our partners – VANOC, the province and the federal government – to maintain the financing for the Olympic Village project and deliver it in time for the Games. The work we are doing with our partners will get us there.  And I commit today to Vancouver taxpayers that they will be informed of the decisions that we have to take in the weeks and months ahead.

Right now, we’re in the middle of urgent and delicate negotiations. The information we are sharing today does not compromise those negotiations, and is important for clarifying the status of the project and dispelling ongoing rumours and speculation.

I will also be following through on one of my other key campaign promises, by holding a special meeting of council on Monday to share what we’ve learned with the people of Vancouver.

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  • spartikus

    Okay, here’s a question about something I’m confused about: Who actually chose Millenium as the bid to recommend? We know that the details of the other bids were withheld from Council…or some of the Council. But who made that decision?

    City staffers…or elected officials?

  • Scott

    “We now know why the previous city government didn’t want to talk about the deal they’d made. The arrangements were not in the public’s interest.

    The decisions taken by the previous city government have put the city at enormous financial risk”

    That’s a little disingenuous.

    So what’s Gregor saying???

    Bad Vision Vancouver! Bad COPE! … because every councillor, having one vote, voted unanimously for what transpired.

    It’s common knowledge.

  • “Whoever wins, we lose.” New slogan for Vancouver 2010.

    Honestly, this situation is a disgusting, devastating mess. Forgive the hyperbole, but this is really bad. The completion guarantee means there’s no walking way. Gregor’s right, the city’s on the hook for it all.

  • td

    What did the previous Council know when they agreed to the $100 Million? What were they told by staff? What were they planning to do when the $100 Million runs out, approve another $100 Million in Camera? And another and another later? What did Ladner mean when he said: No additional risk to Vancouver? What did Owen and Larry Campbell mean when they defended the secrecy by saying: This sort of thing happens all the time? Does it? What financial impact is caused by the fact that it’s luxury condos? Would a more balanced unit mix been more robust in a down market?

    Who knew that subsidized housing means taking money from everyone to build condos that few can afford, 500 condos at $1.7 Million a piece?

  • Paul

    Youth of Vancouver accept this debt as a token of our thanks for subsidizing the corporate Olympic spirit.

  • Denis

    Oh but the development simply can’t lose money said some folks. Maybe the words”trust us” were thown in as well. The long and the short of it all is those great granite covered counters and other little sale gimmicks may not work. It may be cheaper to bulldoze the place but no doubt there is a clause in there somewhere that makes Vancouver the patsy. GReat work previous council. I guess the thrill of the two week games and the idea that the developer just couldn’t lose had folks making foolish decisions. Oh well, it’s only money, the taxpayers money. Now lets move on to the 350 million roof for BC Place and the slightly over budget convention center. Poiliticians will believe just about anything because folks consider them leaders and what’s a feww hundred millions if they get their names on a plaque somewhere. At least the new Mayor is telling the truth.

  • Kevin

    Well from an worker who just lost his job at Olympic Village. I am ashamed and appalled at the fact this village is so far behind schedule and budget that laying off professional tradesmen to hire unskilled labour is a shame

  • Millenium Development […] never intended to pay for the
    land because they never had $ 193 Million to do
    so , they may , just may have just put up 15% of
    the value , hoping like all the other bozos in this
    three ring circus that prices would just go up ,
    Millenium has no collateral , no security , or any assets in France ! They were winging it , Who
    in City Hall Knew all this as I am sure they did and yet accepted Millenium above Concord Pacific , Wall Development etc , is beyond me , City Council is not revealing what Collateral and
    Security Millenium has put up ! Why not !?

  • Tim

    The city councilors should be held accountable for their incompetence. They should be sued, or at least forfeit their jobs. They’ve cost us all a fortune. How could anyone be that stupid? Seriously?