Tax­pay­ers should ex­pect an Olympics-sized bill, but not much else

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Opinion - BY FRANCO TERRAZZANO

If Cal­gary hosts the Olympics, it will cost tax­pay­ers a whole lot, for very lit­tle.

Cal­gary’s Olympic bid­ding or­ga­ni­za­tion, Cal­gary 2026, re­cently re­leased their host­ing plans for the 2026 Olympics. They es­ti­mate the Olympics will cost $5.2 bil­lion, with tax­pay­ers foot­ing $3 bil­lion of the to­tal tab. Tax­pay­ers would be on the hook for a bill that is 25 per cent larger than was pre­dicted last year.

This begs the ques­tion: if we have al­ready seen costs in­crease by this much in one year, what will the costs amount to by 2026?

Moshe Lan­der, a sports econ­o­mist at Mon­treal’s Con­cor­dia Univer­sity, pre­dicts the real cost of the Games will reach nearly $8 bil­lion.

His­tor­i­cally, the Olympics has been no stranger to cost over­runs. Since the 1960s, 19 Olympics have been over bud­get, av­er­ag­ing 156 per cent over­runs dur­ing those Games.

There’s no money for any of this. Cal­gar­i­ans have been warned about fu­ture tax in­creases or cuts to ser­vices.

No money for the essen­tials, but some­how there will be money for a sport­ing event? Both the Al­berta and fed­eral gov­ern­ments have strung to­gether years of deficits and are pil­ing up debt. The av­er­age Cal­gar­ian owes nearly $30,000 each in fed­eral and pro­vin­cial debt. Bunker down for the next wave of tax hikes. Enough with the costs, what about the ben­e­fits? What are we get­ting for our bil­lions of dol­lars? Sadly, not much.

The City of Cal­gary has pro­jected bil­lions of dol­lars worth of in­fra­struc­ture needs that are go­ing un­funded, and many key pri­or­i­ties will not re­ceive any ex­tra fund­ing through the Olympics plans. Will we get a new line con­nect­ing the LRT with the air­port? Nope.

But don’t worry, your tax dol­lars will help build a new mid-sized arena, a field­house, fa­cil­i­ties to ac­com­mo­date ath­letes, me­dia, spon­sors and “dig­ni­taries,” along with im­prove­ments for fa­cil­i­ties in Can­more, Nakiska and Whistler.

What about all the gov­ern­ment dol­lars that are com­ing to Cal­gary for the Olympics?

If Cal­gary does have an in­fra­struc­ture or an af­ford­able hous­ing cri­sis (maybe gov­ern­ments should stop adding thou­sands of dol­lars to the price of a new house), then gov­ern­ment spend­ing shouldn’t be con­di­tioned on host­ing a sport­ing event.

Fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments take bil­lions of tax dol­lars from Cal­gar­i­ans. One way of “putting” dol­lars back into Cal­gary’s econ­omy is sim­ply by tax­ing less.

Fur­ther, if this is lit­tle more than an at­tempt to squeeze more out of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for Cal­gary, how can we jus­tify ask­ing a sin­gle mom in Toronto to pay more taxes so that Cal­gary can have a sport­ing bonanza? Well, what about the eco­nomic ben­e­fits? To be sure, greater spend­ing from tourists and Cana­di­ans com­ing to en­joy the fes­tiv­i­ties will ben­e­fit our econ­omy.

But, will this gen­er­ate the pro­posed $7 bil­lion in ben­e­fits? Economists have been quick to de­cry this es­ti­mate as be­ing ab­so­lutely over­stated.

Tak­ing money from house­holds and en­trepreneurs, sprin­kling some to your stake­hold­ers, then putting some of the money back into the econ­omy in a way that will be par­tially con­sumed in a mat­ter of weeks does not pro­mote true growth.

Se­ri­ous doubt should come to mind when­ever a one-time gov­ern­ment-funded party is ar­gued for to pro­mote the econ­omy.

The Olympics is a sport­ing event on the grand­est of scales. It’s a whole lot of fun. But is it worth bil­lions of dol­lars in higher taxes?

Franco Terrazzano is the Al­berta Di­rec­tor with the Cana­dian Tax­pay­ers Fed­er­a­tion

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