Jim Sinclair is very skeptical the 2010 Olympics created any real jobs
It has been argued from the get-go that the business case for the Vancouver 2010 Games was sound. There would be no doubt that our return on investment would be high, and the "world would come here" to invest, create jobs and build a lasting economic legacy for the region.
In the case of the resort municipality of Whistler, Mayor Ken Melamed and his council have taken a conservative "wait and see" approach when it comes to touting any kind of economic spinoffs. When you read stories like the one published in the Vancouver Sun last week, which shows the town struggling, you can certainly understand why Melamed is cautious.
Back in Vancouver, however, Mayor Gregor has taken a different approach. Unlike Melamed, he's leapt in front of the cameras and claimed that the Games have been a boon to his city. Despite skepticism about there being any substantive deals made by Hizzoner or his dutiful servants in the Vancouver Economic Development Commission (one has to look at the Vancouver House guest lists to wonder where all those deals were being done), it hasn't prevented Gregor from bragging.
Robertson recently participated in a news conference with a number of other Metro mayors and outlined the kinds of investments being made in the region as a result of the Games. One of those "Olympic investments" included a Tom Cruise film production happening here.
When it comes to whether the Olympics created lasting economic legacies for Vancouver, Robertson is positively bullish. In fact, according to Gregor the 2010 Games have already delivered the following economic impacts:
- $306 million in direct and indirect economic spin-offs to Metro Vancouver
- 2,558 full time jobs
- $168.8 million in direct investment, with $146.4 million in one-time capital investments and special projects, including films
- $156.2 million in GDP and $25.4 million in provincial and federal tax revenue
- Nine business deals for the City of Vancouver worth an estimated $85 million, creating 400 jobs
- $22.4 million in continuous annual impacts.
As well, the total cost of the program was just $1.5 million, resulting in a return on investment of 20399%.
“Vancouver is poised to have one of the strongest economies in Canada this year and our success on capitalizing on the Olympics is a big reason why,” said the Mayor.
Perhaps it was all this boasting on Robertson's part that led me to take a special interest in an interview Jill Bennett from CKNW did a couple weeks back. She spoke with BC Federation of Labour boss Jim Sinclair who threw a bucket of water on the Mayor's claims of economic spinoffs. Here is what he told CKNW (mp3 clip with transcript below):
I think they have to say what they say cause they supported the Olympics. The bottom line is it was a great party. A great celebration. We felt really good. But let’s not confuse this with real economic growth in dealing with the underlying problems with the economy. People aren’t investing here cause they came to the Olympics. That’s for sure. They’re investing here because they see we have a skilled labour force ... So you need to look at this not through rose coloured glasses. But in a realistic way. If its so good then why are we leading the country in unemployment right now. I guess you’ll have to convince me that because somebody came to watch the Olympics they decided to move their business here...I think that’s a stretch...
...I think we should just stop trying to claim that Olympics are great for people because they are a great economic boom to the economy over time and just admit it was a good time. People celebrated Canada. It cost us a lot of money. At the end of the day it’s over, we’ll have to pay for it. But let’s not try and hang a whole bunch of other stuff on it to justify it.
It's fairly clear from Sinclair's interview that he's not convinced the 2010 Olympics were a boon for Vancouver's economic future. Suffice to say, he'd also likely take issue with Mayor Gregor's claims the City received a "20399%" return on their taxpayer investment.
Clearly the BC Federation of Labour and Mayor Gregor are not singing from the same song sheet on this one. So who's right?
Are Mayor Gregor's claims of big economic benefits (back up by PriceWaterhouseCoopers report) going to carry the day? Or is one of Vision Vancouver's biggest supporters off the mark when he tells CKNW the Olympics were simply a big party and not much more.
For more information on these claims see also a blog post by Vancouver Sun's Jeff Lee. You can certainly put most of Lee's commenters in the "skeptical" column.
- Post by Daniel