Tuesday January 20, 2009
NPA playing the blame-game
By BILL TIELEMAN
"The more you are willing to accept responsibility for your actions, the more credibility you will have."
- Author Brian Koslow
Vancouver taxpayers face the biggest potential disaster this city has seen since it burned to the ground in 1886, thanks to the Olympic Village fiasco.
It's astonishing that the B.C. Legislature had to be recalled for an emergency session to give Vancouver authority to borrow up to $875 million to complete the Millennium Development condominium project that will be temporarily home to 2010 Olympic athletes.
But even more astonishing is that former politicians and staff from the Non-Partisan Association city government that got Vancouver into this mess are now trying desperately to evade responsibility for it.
And no wonder. The NPA's outrageous behaviour has left taxpayers on the hook for an undetermined amount that could exceed $200 million.
"This project will not land on the taxpayers," says Peter Ladner, the NPA's mayoral candidate and former councillor.
Ladner complains that Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is "using inflammatory rhetoric and misleading information" to hold the NPA accountable for "problems beyond their control."
And Daniel Fontaine, former chief of staff to NPA Mayor Sam Sullivan, and other NPA stalwarts at website Citycaucus cry about the "blame-game" going on.
Look at four key facts about the Olympic Village and decide:
- Flash back to April 2006, when council had to pick between three developers' proposals for the Olympic Village.
But despite requests from Vision and Coalition of Progressive Electors councillors, the NPA majority refused to allow them to see all three full proposals.
- In June 2007, the NPA majority voted to guarantee a loan to Millennium for completion of the Olympic Village - a loan which put Vancouver on the hook for the entire project when Fortress Investment Group, Millennium's lender, put the brakes on funding. Vision and COPE councillors voted no.
- In October 2008 Vision and COPE tried to make open to the public and media a council meeting that gave a further $100- million loan guarantee to Millennium - but were voted down by the NPA majority.
- The city's chief financial officer, Estelle Lo, quit because the NPA wouldn't listen to her deep concerns about the project.
The results of the NPA's work are clear - Vancouver's good credit rating is in jeopardy, according to rating agency Standard & Poor's, and the city at risk for hundreds of millions if the project doesn't break even.
So for the NPA to complain is pretty rich - and fixing their mess may make the city a lot poorer.
Full disclosure: Bill Tieleman is a Vision Vancouver supporter.