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Olympic economic impact will be 'billions and billions': BC minister Hansen

Finance minister Colin Hansen said today the economic impact from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be “billions and billions” but declined to give a firm figure.

Yesterday the Tyee reported that the government had quietly downgraded its estimate of economic activity around the games from $10 billion to $4 billion. Today Hansen faced questions on the issue from New Democratic Party MLAs in the legislature and from reporters in the hallway.

There will be lots of direct spending by VANOC and corporate sponsors, Hansen told reporters, as well as ongoing impact from the high-profile event. “It's a big number regardless,” he said. “In the billions of dollars.”

In February's budget speech Hansen had pegged the figure at $10 billion, but today declined to offer a firm number. “It all depends on what aspect you want to look at and what parameters you want to put around that analysis.”

“I don't think that's good enough for a finance minister,” NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston said. “It's a big difference between a $10 billion economic impact and a $4 billion economic impact. We're three months away from the Games. Why can't the minister answer that question?”

Asked if Hansen misled British Columbians last February on the issue, Ralston said, “Certainly there was every motivation to exaggerate the impact of the Games going into the election.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers announced today that it will release its first reports tomorrow in a series aimed at assessing the social and economic impacts of the Games.

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

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