Wilson appointed critic for sport, 2010 Games 

Top priority - additional Olympic funding from federal government

Blair Wilson, MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast- Sea to Sky Country, has been appointed as the Liberal critic for Sport and the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"Six of the Olympics’ 11 competition venues, as well as all of the Paralympic events, are in my riding, so this position is a natural fit," said Wilson.

"I am very happy to be given the responsibility for this file and look forward to working vigorously with the government and with (the Vancouver Organizing Committee) and the mayors to come up with some concrete solutions to the problems we have now."

Top of the list, said Wilson, is getting the federal government to hand over $55 million in additional funding that VANOC asked for several months ago. The money is to offset the increasing cost of construction and the fact that the bid for the Games was in 2002 dollars.

Wilson, along with leader of the opposition Bill Graham, met with VANOC executives on the weekend to discuss funding and other issues.

"(We) met directly with (VANOC CEO) John Furlong and discussed ways in which we can hold the government’s feet to the fire and get them to commit to that funding as soon as possible," said Wilson, adding that he spoke recently to David Emerson, the government’s minister responsible for the Games, and was told the money is forthcoming.

"I don’t know what the delay can possibly be due to," said Wilson.

"I want to act more as a conduit to facilitate co-operation between VANOC and the government and work productively together for a great Games."

Wilson also plans on wading into the debate around the location of the Paralympic ice arena.

Currently Whistler is considering building a new facility on Lot 1/9 in the village, which would hold the arena, some community space, and other public use spaces. But it is an expensive undertaking and no decision has been made yet.

At one point Squamish wanted to take the project on board and Whistler backed the idea until public outcry over losing the legacy facility forced Whistler to take back the arena.

Now, said Wilson, he is once again talking to both mayors to find out what is going on.

"I have had discussions with the mayor of Whistler and I have had discussions with the mayor of Squamish and I want to act as go-between for the federal government and the municipalities and say, ‘let’s get this thing decided,’" said Wilson.

"Is it going to be in Whistler or is it going to be in Squamish and how are we going to pay for it?

"The longer it gets delayed the higher the construction costs get and the risk is this government may pull it out of the corridor all together and put it in at UBC and we will lose the facilities for the citizens of my riding."

Wilson also discussed the situation of the Whistler athletes village at the weekend meeting with VANOC. That’s prompted him to send a memo to the provincial minister responsible for the Games, Colin Hansen, to request a briefing on the situation.

Currently the municipality is waiting for the province to give the thumbs up to its business plan for the athletes village so construction can begin on the site across the highway from Function Junction.

"That might be another of the areas that I might be able to help facilitate a smooth resolution to the problem," said Wilson.

He also plans to lobby the government for support of the Hydrogen Highway idea, a project the municipality has long championed.

"I have had meetings with B.C. Transit and discussions with the province and I have presented the option to the federal government here, though it is in the early stages right now," said Wilson.

"There is a feasibility study that has been produced that would see hydrogen powered buses to Whistler for 2010.

"Again a lot of these things, as well as requiring investment, require political will and I say we have to get these things done now if we want them by 2010."

Wilson has been involved in the Olympics and Paralympic Games since he organized a Rally on Robson Street on March 2, 2003. The rally was instrumental in building support for the Games in Vancouver.

The new appointment occurred as part of reorganization within the Liberal Caucus that will allow previous critics that are running for the party's leadership to focus on their campaigns.

Wilson is also the Chair of the B.C. Caucus of the Liberal Party of Canada. He was first elected as the Member of Parliament for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea-to-Sky Country in 2006.


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