The unanimous decision by council on Monday night to formally request the province to reimburse the city for the money it spent on its failed Canada Summer Games bid was an exercise in futility.
We wonder why they even bothered considering the idea.
Everyone around the council table apparently knew that the city was having private conversations with the province to get some or all of that cash back.
Last January, when Mayor Shari Decter Hirst announced that Brandon’s bid for the 2017 Canada Summer Games bid had been rejected, media were told that the bid committee had spent roughly $250,000 on bid preparation, travelling to the games in Halifax, and on engineering and consulting reports.
“We have asked that the city be reimbursed for that $250,000 and we’ll wait and see what happens with that,” Decter Hirst said at the time.
It seems there had been numerous discussions with the province over that $250,000 — which, by the way, has ballooned to a whopping $268,629.35, according to information released by the city yesterday. Decter Hirst told the Sun on Tuesday that the province has known the city was requesting a reimbursement since January, and that as late as last week the answer was still “no.”
“Their position has always been consistent, since January,” she said. “I’ve always kept council informed that the province was not interested in looking at a reimbursement.”
If that was the case, what part of “no” don’t councillors understand? Under those circumstances, that Coun. Stephen Montague’s motion on Monday night came up at all is mystifying.
Worse still was the fact that there was no discussion over the Richmond ward councillor’s motion on Monday night. No one — not the mayor, not the city manager, nor any councillor who knew or even suspected the truth — stepped up and said, “Hey, haven’t we already been told no by the province?”
And the motion passed unanimously.
Yet in comments Montague made to the Sun on Tuesday, and through his Twitter account yesterday, it seems the councillor was not aware that the city had been told an outright “no,” or that the administration had even made another request for reimbursement last week.
And he wasn’t the only one. Coun. John LoRegio (Meadows) said councillors “kind of suspected that we weren’t going to get the money,” and Coun. Garth Rice (South Centre) said the mayor had mentioned to council “a while back” that the city would have to incur the Canada Games bid cost.
“In Stephen’s case, he wants it in writing,” Rice said. “He’d rather see the rejection letter I guess is what he’s after, and I certainly support that.”
Officially, or unofficially, no is still no.
This situation is reminiscent of the situation surrounding the official rejection announcement by the city. Though the bid committee and city administration were told “officially” that the bid had been rejected sometime after New Year’s Day, unofficially the mayor knew several days earlier. But the announcement that the Games were lost was only made on Jan. 10. This administration has a way of delaying the release of bad news, though we’re not sure what purpose that serves.
Why the mayor or anyone else in the city administration or on council thought that the provincial government was responsible for reimbursing Brandon for our own folly is beyond our reasoning.
Monday’s motion amounted to political grandstanding — a dog and pony show meant to offer proof to the public that council had tried its best to reclaim some misspent funds.
As we have shown before on this page, Brandon’s bid committee or the council should have pulled the plug on that bid process months earlier if it was already known that the Sportsplex pool and its six-lane venue would not measure up to the eight lanes required by Swim Canada for the Games.
And they did know.
“We knew the pool was a giant elephant from Day 1,” bid committee chair Jeff Cristall said in January. “At no point in time from the formation of the bid committee did we come to the conclusion, nor did we ask for funding to make an in-house pool.”
Thankfully, the provincial government made the correct decision and declined the city’s attempt to pass the buck — a fact the province’s cabinet communications director confirmed in no uncertain terms only one day after the official council motion was passed.
Unfortunately for Brandon, all we got is more embarrassment.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 10, 2013