VICTORIA, British Columbia (Reuters) - The mystery of security costs for the 2010 Olympics continues despite the fact that the Canadian and British Columbia governments, who are paying the bill, have both released their operating budgets for the next year.
British Columbia released its budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year Tuesday, with officials saying the spending plan included the province’s share of the expected security costs, even if Ottawa will not allow it to even estimate publicly what that would be.
“Trust me, there is probably no one in this room who is more anxious to have that on the table than me,” provincial Finance Minister Colin Hansen told reporters being briefed on the C$39.3 billion ($31 billion) spending plan. The budget forecasts a deficit of nearly C$500 million due to the slowing economy.
The federal government released its budget last month, but has declined to say how much of its security-related spending for next year was directed at protecting the thousands of athletes and guests expected in Vancouver during the Winter Games in February 2010.
Officials had estimated the cost at C$175 million when Vancouver was first awarded the Games in 2003, but media reports now estimate the cost is likely closer to C$1 billion.
Hansen said the negotiations with Ottawa on how the costs are shared are in their final stages.
The sides have been haggling over what is considered an Olympic-related cost and what are costs that would be borne by police and the military even without the Games, according to a provincial official familiar with the talks.
The province has transferred C$87 million to the federal government to pay for its 50 percent share of a portion of the security costs, but officials said that was based on the original bid estimate.
The province and Ottawa have also split the C$580 million in venue construction costs for the Games, with the full cost to taxpayers coming in at more than C$2.5 billion, according to the province’s auditor general.
Olympic organizers are not responsible for any of the security costs, but International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said last week the spending would benefit the country by improving its security infrastructure.
Critics of the Games have warned that the heavy security expected in Vancouver could limit civil liberties and hurt the city’s homeless by pushing them off the streets.
Reporting by Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson