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Harper, Campbell agree to VANOC funding

Additional $110 million approved

It was the announcement John Furlong, the CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games, was waiting for this summer.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his government would commit an additional $55 million for construction of the Games venues.

That was all Premier Gordon Campbell was waiting to hear; B.C. will now contribute $55 million too.

"Today your announcement is a huge boost, I think, to the Games," Campbell told the Prime Minister at the press conference in the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver.

And though Furlong wasn’t at the press conference, VANOC chairman Jack Poole assured he would be smiling on vacation, his first real vacation in five years.

"On behalf of John and his team and behalf of our athletes, our partners, our corporate sponsors and our board of directors – thank you for your final commitment of funds to finance the construction and delivery of the sports venues," said Poole.

He explained that VANOC’s board approved the new construction budget in November 2005. That budget increased $110 million to a total capital budget of $580 million. The increase was due to several factors, among them the booming construction industry, which has led to a shortage of skilled labour, and the increased cost of building materials.

When asked why it took eight months for the federal government to commit to the funding request, Harper explained that they also had to do a review of the numbers.

"We set up a process to thoroughly review the request and make sure that everything was kosher and that the request was fully justified because it was an over budget request, so that’s why we took some time on that," he said.

And while the press conference gave politicians time to speak about the positive force of the Olympics and the boost this new money will give to the athletes by getting the venues ready on time, the director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation was critical of the decision.

"VANOC’s first response was to ask taxpayers for more money and unfortunately the federal government’s first reaction was to give in," said Sara MacIntyre. "VANOC should first look at its bottom line and cut costs or increase broadcasting and sponsorship revenues. Instead they went right to governments though. Rest assured this will not be the last time taxpayers are hit up for more cash."

When asked for assurances that the federal government wouldn’t be spending more taxpayers money on the Olympic construction budget, Harper was clear.

"This is the last intended contribution of the Government of Canada," said Harper.

"We are not liable for any further cost overruns."

He did, however, allude to potential higher security costs.

"… there are as yet to be determined costs associated with security," he said. "We believe we’re in budget there but we have to be flexible on that particular front."