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Olympic security costs concealed for 18 months

B.C. and federal government officials knew in July 2007 that the RCMP budget for securing the 2010 Winter Olympics would cost taxpayers at least $466 million.

RCMP Access to Information documents obtained by the Work Less Party show a new estimate was presented by the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit to a joint federal-provincial security committee on July 6, 2007. Then-B.C. 2010 Winter Games Secretariat CEO Annette Antoniak was in attendance.

A July 12, 2007 RCMP update for Treasury Board Secretariat set mid-November 2007 as the "target date for public disclosure of validated security costs."

An urgent July 16, 2007 e-mail from RCMP financial management executive director Marty Muldoon to officer in charge of protective operations Peter Henschel said: "The worry is that if a media inquiry comes, we want to be prepared to soft-cell (sic) the numbers."

A July 16, 2007 briefing note informed new RCMP commissioner William Elliott that "the new and largely preliminary estimate is up considerably from the approved $175-million security budget."

It said the budget ballooned because of rising accommodation costs and other inflationary pressures, an increase in police personnel from 4,500 to 6,321 and an estimated $100 million for private security screeners, X-ray machines, fencing, lighting and accommodation fees.

The briefing note also said "key personnel" from VANOC, V2010 ISU and RCMP headquarters "will meet during the week of July 23."

The security committee heard Nov. 6, 2007 from Asst. Comm. Roger Brown, V2010 ISU chief Bud Mercer and B.C. RCMP chief financial officer Robert Jorssen that the total RCMP costs would be $490.3 million. When the overall $900-million budget was finally published on Feb. 19, 2009, it included $491.9 million for the RCMP.

Const. Bert Paquet said Mercer was not available for an interview. VANOC did not comment. A request to interview B.C. Olympics minister Colin Hansen was not fulfilled by deadline.

"This is a pretty crummy way to run a democracy and it highlights the utter lack of transparency when it comes to the Olympics," said WLP representative and 2010 Watch's Chris Shaw.

Bob Mackin reports for Vancouver 24 Hours.

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