Sunday, September 17, 2006

Should the BC Auditor General scrutinise Expo's books?

The Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Games has been rocked by the report of the Acting Auditor General of BC, who declared that certain infrastructural spending of the province such as the Sea to Sky Highway are more properly accounted for as Olympic spending, doubling the BC contribution to C$1.5 billion.

All this makes me wonder - if a similar accounting was done on the proposal for Expo 2015, what would happen to the City of Toronto's Expo numbers? I am a bit of an Expo-sceptic, not opposed as such but simply feel that the Expo is more something to justify spending on the waterfront rather than a desirable event in itself, and thus opposition to Expo might be construed as anti-waterfront.

Cities like Bilbao, Oslo and Stockholm (the last two recently visited by the Star's Christopher Hume) have not, so far as I know, needed such events in order to do proper city-building. My concern is that just as losing the Olympics bid has left Toronto without any of the infrastructure an Olympics bid would have provided, should Toronto lose the Expo bid all of the transport and other infrastructure will similarly disappear even though much of it will be needed regardless.

On a social level, Toronto has almost forgotten how to show off, perhaps an echo of a staid past. Recent reviews of the Exhibition have noted how tired it was and how little was actually exhibited - perhaps because innovation lives in Kitchener-Waterloo these days.

Finally, the 13.5 billion it is claimed the Expo will generate will mostly accrue to the federal and provincial governments' income and sales taxes while creating new infrastructure to be maintained by the city. For big events such as this to be worthwhile, the city needs to get a portion of the economic activity taxes rather than relying on property tax to solve the inevitable overruns projects of this size seem to attract.
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