It's going to be "on time and on budget"—or so we were told countless times today. Few details on what the plan for achieving that is, though.
Five words were stressed throughout this morning’s press conference unveiling plans for the 2015 Pan American Games athletes’ village: “on time and on budget.” The promise became such a running theme that when Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Charles Sousa (who is also the minister responsible for the games) brought it up yet again near the end of the session, the audience laughed out loud.
And that is a problem.
The conference, held at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, revealed little more than was contained in the press releases we received on the subject. The numbers that everyone involved wants you to know: $514 million cost to the province; 5,200 direct or indirect jobs created; an 82,000 square foot YMCA; a 500-room George Brown College residence; 253 units of affordable housing; 787 units of market housing—all to be delivered (say it with us) on time and on budget. The legacy projects were the main selling point of those who spoke, as well as the fact that the games have accelerated the development timeline for the west Don Lands by at least five years. (Aside: based on the initial drawings, it appears there may be funding to restore the signage of the Canary restaurant.)
The most interesting speech was delivered by the city’s point man on the project, Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore). The bow-tie’d Grimes made several jokes about the fact-finding trip he and Sousa took to Guadalajara, Mexico during last year’s Pan American Games. After noting that Sousa made him pay for a meal there (Grimes: “I’d get him back on the transit file”) the councillor also stressed how Toronto’s ethnic communities would get behind teams from their native countries. “Imagine the Brazilian community showing up at the airport to welcome Brazilian athletes as they get off the plane,” said Grimes. “We can really get into these communities, into the Danforth, where they won’t have a team here, but maybe adopt a team.” He exited the stage with a cry of “Viva Toronto!”
But despite the repeated vow to have the facilities built on time and on budget, no details were provided as to how this would be achieved (apart from staggering payments to builder Dundee Kilmer), or on what penalties could be levied if construction falls behind. There also wasn’t any indication as to who would kick in money to cover potential cost overruns. While the feeling in the room was cheery, the answers to these questions may determine if Torontonians echo Grimes’s reaction three years from now.