News

Metro Vancouver Commerce and its steroidal Olympic biz numbers

BOB MACKIN, QMI AGENCY

A $1.5 million taxpayer-funded program that wined, dined and plied foreign businesspeople with tickets to the 2010 Winter Olympics claims it attracted $168.8 million in direct investment.

Metro Vancouver Commerce, a group of nine municipalities that received $800,000 in federal tax dollars, hired PricewaterhouseCoopers which said $146.4 million of the benefit was for one-time expenditures. Only $22.4 million was categorized as "recurring expenditures" such as salaries, rent and office expenses.

The one-time expenditures are chiefly film shoots for big box office Hollywood productions like Tron:Legacy, Thor and Mission:Impossible 4. The $60 million estimate for Mission:Impossible was the only film production figure disclosed.

"The film industry was significant in this," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. "There were projects that were hanging in the balance and the Olympics tipped the scales."

Robertson, who promised transparency when he became mayor in 2008, said the full list of invitees and Olympic ticket users would not be released until more deals are signed.

Last April, MVC claimed there were $60 million worth of non-film economic benefits. Those spinoffs included $1.3 million for Vancouver energy consumption software company Pulse Energy to make a joint bid for a British government contract. The partnership with Southfacing UK was not chosen.

Toronto's Monetime was supposed to inject $1 million in the local economy and hire up to 10 people. It opened a Yaletown office and instead hired six (including three part-timers) for a six-month project last year, but is now down to two people.

The region has suffered considerable business losses tied to the struggling United States economy. Perhaps the biggest example was Microsoft, which vacated 73,000-square feet of Richmond's Crestwood Corporate Centre last fall. Employees who were not laid-off from the 2007-opened Microsoft Canada Development Centre moved to an existing downtown Vancouver office. In November, Robertson's city council pushed Olympic Village developer Millennium into receivership over a $740 million debt.

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca