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Total cost of 2015 Pan Am Games pegged at more than $2.5-billion

The Ontario government is paying for a new stadium in Hamilton that will host soccer games during the Pan Am Games and serve as the home of the CFL’s Tiger-Cats.

Aaron Lynett/The Canadian Press

The total cost of the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto will be more than $2.5-billion, roughly a billion more than the budget for the event's organizing committee.

The higher price tag is largely due to a series of projects – including a new waterfront district and Canadian Football League stadium – that the Ontario government is building as part of the Games.

Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Michael Chan said Wednesday the extra expense is worth it, especially because the waterfront neighbourhood will include affordable housing.

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"It's a good thing to do, to help the people that are less fortunate and really to strengthen the area in the east waterfront area from a contaminated brownfield to a vibrant community come 2015," he said. "It's good to revitalize the whole area."

The Pan Am Games will be the largest multinational sporting event ever held in Canada, Mr. Chan said, with double the number of athletes who took part in the Vancouver Olympics. The events will be spread out across the Toronto area.

The organizers' $1.4-billion budget covers core expenses, such as constructing venues and running the Games. But Ontario decided to add a series of other projects at extra cost. These include better venues than would otherwise have been built, such as a new stadium in Hamilton that will host soccer games during Pan Am and serve as the home of the CFL's Tiger-Cats.

The province is also paying for the construction of the West Don Lands neighbourhood near Toronto harbour to serve as the athletes' village. The buildings used to house competitors will become condominiums, social housing and college dormitories after the Games.

Ontario's extra costs also include part of the security budget, which is higher than initially estimated, and transportation.

In the event of cost overruns at the Games, the province will have to pay the shortfall.

The Progressive Conservatives accused the Liberals of being disingenuous for counting only the organizing committee's budget as a Pan Am expense and excluding the billion dollars' worth of extra projects. "Why do you think it's acceptable to play games with the Ontario taxpayers' money?" Conservative MPP Rod Jackson asked Mr. Chan in Question Period.

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The minister fired back that the Tories were "embarrassing" Ontario by criticizing the handling of the Games.

"They continue to shine a negative light on our local Pan American communities, our competing athletes and para-athletes, over 20,000 volunteers, over 26 new capital and infrastructure projects, and the 250,000 tourists who will be visiting," he said. "Their party also continues to cut ties and embarrass our province with 41 nations, boycotting our reception last month and spreading unfounded allegations and numbers to the public."

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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