Legacies Aren’t Free

So it begins.

Toronto’s PanAm games are still more than 5 years away and already the cost downloading directly onto the public’s back is off and running. Yesterday 10 000 undergraduates at U of T’s Scarborough campus began 3 days of voting on whether or not they were going to help fund the construction of an aquatics facility through increases in student fees starting this September. Funny how that possibility wasn’t mentioned here or here as part of the gleeful press releases issued after the city’s bid was crowned in November.

Joeita Gupta, vice-president of the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students, said in a Toronto Sun article on Tuesday that “The school is asking students to pay for 80% of the university’s contribution — about $30 million.” Not surprisingly, he’s urging a No vote. I’m assuming that if they’re being expected to pay for the pools these same students were asked to vote on the proposal to bring the games to the school in the first place.

Because it seems that the city itself wasn’t consulted about the bid until the process was already underway. According to the National Post, Mayor David Miller “was a latecomer to the PanAm party…” Apparently, this wild, out of control spendthrift was concerned about the city having to pick up the tab on any cost overruns. And there are always cost overruns on events like these. Watch the revised numbers coming in from Vancouver for their games just as we start putting shovels into the ground for ours.

“Mr. Miller needed reassurances about cost overruns.” the Post story continued. “He also had his own vision for the games’ legacy, in line with his agenda for bringing transit and sports infrastructure to low-income neighbourhoods.” That bastard.

No, our PanAm games were brought to us due to the yeoman efforts of Premier Dalton McGuinty, former premier David Peterson and a couple Olympic committee mucky-mucks, all of whom were concerned that Toronto was in desperate need of some nebulous victory for “…resonance on the international scene,” as McGuinty put it. Huh?!

So desperate were we that the premier, who has fought tooth and nail for nearly 7 years to not restore provincial funding for the TTC operational costs, agreed to have the province pay for the cost overruns. Pure semantics, of course, as we’ll all end up paying through increased taxes, user fees and/or cuts in services. You’re welcome Ontario.

While we may be poorer for it in the long run, we here in Toronto will have new shiny things to crow about due to the PanAm games, some of which will even be useful. A fixed link to the airport. Increased infrastructure especially in terms of public transportation. Swimming pools and diving centres. Possibly even super human athletes!

So forget the money, OK? It’s all about legacy. Yours, mine, the city, the province, the country, the Premier. That’s not something you can really put a price tag on.

Actually, no wait. You can. For U of T students in Scarborough, that price will be $80 a year until 2015 when the facility opens and then $280 per for the next 21 years. Legacies, it seems, don’t come cheap these days.

snidely submitted by Cityslikr

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