Over the Christmas holidays, I've been reflecting upon Vancouver's Olympic Village project, and what I see as the new government's possible attempt to demonize what only months ago was considered a jewel of sustainable development.
The new Vision Vancouver Council, fresh off their majority victory in part due to the "controversy" stirred by financing for the Olympic Village, appear to be hellbent on finding something wrong with the project. It got me thinking, what if they dug, and kept digging, but couldn't find anything?
Do you remember George Bush's now discredited claim that Iraq was filled with weapons of mass destruction, or WMDs? He used questionable "intelligence" reports to make the case for a disastrous, expensive and bloody war in Iraq.
So when the Bush administration found out there were no WMDs, why did they not simply stand down and withdraw US forces? Arguably it was about saving face. Sometimes the hardest thing for a politician to do is admit they are wrong.
Back to Vancouver. The new Vision Council recently hired KPMG (the cost to taxpayers unknown) and a team of lawyers (again, no pricetag) to get to the bottom of the perceived Olympic Village "issue." But what if, like President Bush and the WMDs, the Vision administration finds no problem? Will they admit they were wrong and drop the issue? Not likely.
I suspect what is happening now on the Olympic project is you have a bunch of accountants and lawyers who are rifling through every single document. Armed with political support from Council, they are booking meeting after meeting with the project's management team, asking for briefing after briefing. Their leader has told them to seek out those WMDs.
In the end, will the very act of sending an army of external investigators into a project that already has extremely tight timelines not work against the City and VANOC's (Vancouver Olympic Committee) interests? I can't imagine a scenario whereby it will help.
During my time at Mayor's Office, I had the privelege of working closely with the leadership team at the Olympic Village. I was also introduced to the owners of Millennium Development. I have never met a group of professionals who were more dedicated to bringing a project to life.
From the City's side, a fellow by the name of Jody Andrews led the charge. Mr. Andrews is the Deputy City Manager, and he personifies what the future of our public service should be. He's young, dedicated, professional and incredibly smart. He's someone that you want working on a project of this scale.
Rather than focusing on getting the Olympic Village completed on time, I can only imagine that Jody is now busy serving the whims of his new political masters. I haven't spoken to him in about six months, but I wouldn't doubt that he is caught up in hundreds of meetings with external auditors and lawyers. This is precious time he could have spent working on the project on behalf of Vancouver's taxpayers. Being the consummate professional that he is, he is probably taking it all in stride. At least one hopes he is.
As a footnote, I wonder what John Furlong, VANOC's CEO is thinking of all this? I wouldn't blame him if he were steaming mad that the Olympic Village has now become such a political hot potato.
In the end, Mayor Robertson, flanked by a squadron of PR flacks who draft each of his precious talking points, will make some sort of pronouncement regarding the future of this project.
For his sake, let's hope he doesn't do it while standing aboard an Aquabus parked in False Creek with a banner behind him hanging on the half-built Olympic Village that reads Mission Accomplished.