The Progressive Conservatives demanded the resignation of the Ontario cabinet minister in charge of the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto on Monday after it was announced security costs for the event had jumped by $33 million.
While Tourism Minister Michael Chan was assuring the legislature the Games were on time and on budget, the government announced the estimated costs of security will increase to $239 million from the last estimate of $206 million. The original cost of security built into the Toronto 2015 Pan Am budget was $113 million.
"Security is evolving, and that file will evolve right up to the Games," Chan said.
Chan has no ability to control rising costs for the international sporting event and should resign or be fired, said PC critic Rod Jackson.
"It's easy to be on time and budget if your budget is a moving target and keeps going up," said Jackson. "It's disingenuous at best, and shows the minister does not have a grip on the Pan Am Games and it's time for him to go."
The Ministry of Community Safety announced a contract is now "almost in place" for private security services at next year's Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, which will be held in 14 communities across southern Ontario.
The $239-million figure includes the private security contract plus the cost of the Ontario Provincial Police and local police forces and their overtime, but could rise if the threat level increases, said Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur.
"The integrated security team under the OPP who are planning the event, that's their forecast," she said. "I am confident, but right now the threat for the game is low and if the threat does increase then we will have to adjust according to the threat."
One thing that could raise the threat level — and the security costs — is if someone like U.S. President Barack Obama decides to attend the Toronto Games, but he could afford to provide his own security, joked Chan.
"Well if they want to, I think America is rich enough to do it," he said with a chuckle.
The government pointed out that the private security guards hired for the Pan Am Games will not be given police powers, and will act much like security guards who work at professional sporting events or concerts.
A fraction of what Vancouver paid
The security bill is just a fraction of the nearly $900 million that was spent on security at the Vancouver Olympics, but officials believe there is a lower risk profile at the Pan Am Games with far fewer high-profile dignitaries expected to attend.
Ontario's Liberal government was already under fire for not including the cost of building the athletes' village in its original $1.4-billion budget for the games.
The total price, including security, transportation and the athletes' village, will drive the cost of Toronto's Pan Am Games to an estimated $2.5 billion.
However, the transportation plan still has not been developed and the costs, originally estimated at $75-$90 million, are expected to go even higher.
"Transportation is an evolving file and the latest I have right now is we are engaging the different municipalities to make sure the regular costs they incur will be their own expenses," said Chan. "Anything on top of that, we will pick up."
The province hopes to recoup about $65 million when the athletes' housing is turned into 253 affordable rental apartments, a 740-square-metre YMCA and 500 residences for George Brown College students after the Games.
About 10,000 athletes and coaches from 41 countries are expected at the Pan Am Games, with events to be held at 34 different competition venues around the Golden Horseshoe from St. Catharines in the south to as far north as Minden Hills and Orillia.