Toronto Pan Am Games bill doubles

Toronto taxpayers found out on Monday that it will cost almost double what they were originally told to host the Pan Am Games.

Toronto taxpayers found out on Monday that it will cost almost double what they were originally told to host the Pan Am Games in 2015.

On Monday, the city's executive committee approved the extra expenditure — but there were a lot of angry councillors and an extremely upset mayor. 

"We had a gun put to our head," said Mayor Rob Ford, blaming the increase on the previous administration.  "We didn't really have a choice.

"This was discussed back in the summer," Ford said. "I wasn't even mayor at that time. And it feels like I'm cleaning up the mess. So I'm very unhappy with it."

Full council will make the final decision at its meeting in February, but it appears likely to go through. 

In 2008, the city said its share of the cost for hosting the 2015 games would be $49.5 million.  On Monday, however, the cost had jumped by 95 per cent to $96.5 million.

The increased costs come from soil remediation — cleaning up any toxic problems — on the land to be used for the new aquatic centre at the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus, which will cost $23 million. 

The city's portion of building the aquatic centre has also ballooned by $21.3 due to inflation. 

There are also additional costs attached to other construction projects and $700,000 for a motocross course at Etobicoke's Centennial Park.

Previous estimates had also been given in 2008 dollars.  The figures released on Monday are adjusted for inflation in 2014-2015. 

Some councillors expressed disbelief that the city would have to spend $23 million to clean up the former landfill site near Morningside and Kingston Road.

Coun. Doug Holyday, who was part of the old council that approved the $49.5 expenditure, said he felt he was not given all the information before the original vote.

"I think when they put this plan together, they knew where they were going to put this site. They knew there were problems with the site, but they didn't come forward and tell us about the $23 million," said Holyday.

"So we, as council, voted on the matter without having all the information and not knowing the total costs — and that's not a way to make decisions. That's wrong."

Coun. Michael Thompson said he wasn't happy with the situation, but "I'm going to hold my nose and I'm going to support it."

Councillors from Scarborough, like Thompson, said they felt if they voted no they would lose the aquatic centre to the nearby city of Markham.

"We had a gun put to our head, as you saw, or Markham would have got it," Ford told reporters. 

The mayor, who rode to victory on a promise to cut costs, said any future increases like this one could have consequences. 

"I told the city manager I was very unhappy, and I said if there's any other surprises, I'm not going to accept it," he said.