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Total cost of Olympics going up, but no firm numbers available

Provincial finance minister Colin Hansen today admitted Olympic security bills will “likely” push the cost of the games to the province over $600 million.

He made the admission speaking to reporters not long after introducing the Finance Statutes (Deficit Authorization and Debt Elimination) Amendment Act, 2009, a bill allowing the government to bring forward deficit budgets in fiscal years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.

Hansen did not, however, release the new security budget.

“Until such time as the federal government has signed off I'm not at liberty to disclose what that number is,” he said. “Quite frankly I thought we were just about there a couple weeks ago and I thought we were pretty close to having this wrapped up and that I would be in a position to share that number.”

In 2002, the provincial and federal governments agreed to split what was then estimated to be $175 million for games security. The total cost to the province for the games was to be $600 million, and “not a penny more.”

The security cost is now expected to be closer to $1 billion and the federal and provincial governments have been negotiating over how much each level of government will pay.

“My goal is to get all the numbers out on the table so people have access to them,” Hansen said. Then, echoing comments made by Premier Gordon Campbell last week, he added, “I want to be in a position to say that every cost whether it's even remotely associated with the cost of the olympics is public information and people can add up whatever they want to add up. The only reason I can't say that today is because of the security cost.”

Once people know the true cost, he said, they'll agree the games are worth the money. “No matter how you define Olympic-related costs, the benefits far outweigh the cost to the taxpayers of British Columbia and the taxpayers of Canada generally.”

The games are scheduled to begin a year from now on February 12, 2010.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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