Olympic loan scandal deepens

Vancouver mayoral candidate Peter Ladner prepared to lose election over secret $100M loan
By Christina Montgomery, The Province
Published: Saturday, November 08, 2008

NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner said Friday he was prepared to lose the election rather than go public with – and risk – negotiations on a $100-million city loan to developers of the financially troubled False Creek Olympic village.

“I am willing to lose the election to protect taxpayers’ interests in the Olympic Village,” Ladner said.

And he accused his opponent, Vision Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson, of “spreading misinformation” about the city’s involvement in the project and of costing the city millions of dollars by harming the city’s negotiating position.

The comments came just minutes before sitting Vision Vancouver councillors attempted to table an emergency motion asking for a public council debate Nov. 15 – one day before the civic election – on the matter.

The effort failed when the motion to reconsider the loan was ruled out of order.

Known as the Olympic athletes’ village, the project is a seven-block area on the southeast shore of False Creek. It will feature 1,100 housing units in 14 residential buildings, along with retail space and a community centre. After the Games, it will be converted to 850 market-value homes and 250 units of social housing. About 60 per cent of the residential units have been sold.

On Oct. 14, councillors voted unanimously at a confidential session to approve up to $100 million in loans to Millennium Development, the development wing of Aremco, which is building the village. All councillors present at the in-camera session are legally sworn to keep proceedings confidential. An open council forum would allow them to ask questions about the city’s level of risk as the village is completed – and after the Games, when units will be sold and monies recovered.

It also reportedly voted to approve up to $450,000 to hire a third party to oversee construction of the rest of the project.

The city has already signed a $193-million guarantee to satisfy the lender, U.S.-based Fortress, and has already advanced nearly $30 million to Fortress on behalf of the developer.

Millennium was facing about $60 million in cost overruns on the construction of the village for the 2010 Winter Games. As host city, Vancouver is bound to deliver completed housing to Games officials next year – hence its attempt to move the project along.

The company is facing troubles elsewhere in B.C. Nanaimo city manager Jerry Berry said Friday that the company has missed “a variety” of starting deadlines for a 170-room hotel it is to build there as part of a complex public-private partnership that includes a conference centre, two arenas and a museum.

Money for the City of Vancouver’s village loan is to come from the city’s property endowment fund, a bank of land and cash built up over the years to do things like purchase land for civic theatres or social housing. Its cash reserves fluctuate and can be as little as $30 million or as high as $200 million.

The failure of Friday night’s motion to council didn’t stop the accusations – or the flood of press releases and press conferences that had marked the day.

Ladner accused Robertson of turning critical negotiations into a “political football.”

He said that a world economic downturn meant the city was in “ongoing” negotiations with the developers and noted that the talks being held by city staff were authorized by a unanimous, in-camera council vote.

“I appreciate that citizens are concerned about this, given all the media attention resulting from leaked information on the financing of the project,” he said.

"People need to know the Olympic Village will be completed on time and that the financial obligation of the city hasn’t changed.

“Gregor’s call for a public council meeting to discuss this situation shows a lack of understanding of how city government works. He either does not understand or does not care that city negotiations could be undermined by public disclosure.”

The argument didn’t stop Robertson, who continued to insist that “the citizens of Vancouver should expect no less than full and open disclosure of how every one of their tax dollars are spent – let alone $100 million of them.”

Robertson said that a number of issues not directly related to financial details of the deal should be moved into open debate – including clarification of the status of the city’s financial director, Estelle Lo, who is reported to have tendered her resignation after repeatedly voicing concerns about the city’s financial involvement in the project.

Robertson also continues to demand clarification on the city’s credit rating, in light of loan information being made public.

Several former city politicians leapt into the debate Friday.

Former city councillor Jim Green said he was surprised the fund was being considered as a source of loan money.

Jonathan Baker, a lawyer, expert in municipal law and former city councillor, told reporters that while in-camera restrictions did apply to many issues, they were not meant to be applied to “prevent political embarrassment.”

– with a file from John Colebourn



Stunning to hear that the city’s interests are being protected by keeping the city from knowing what’s going on. Sounds like a whopper.

"It goes from bad to worse for NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner

By Charlie Smith

NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner probably wanted to fight an election on fiscal probity. But his campaign has been derailed by his inability to recognize the public mood.

That’s the problem with being born into a wealthy family. You don’t always know how the average guy with a lunchbucket is going to react because you haven’t spent enough time in their company.

Ladner’s mayoral ambitions have probably been in place for many, many years. During his first term, he probably likened then-mayor Larry Campbell to a comet who would inevitably burn out by the end of his second term.

Ladner would be well-situated to be mayor during the 2010 Olympics, which is like catnip to any municipal politician.

However, fate got in the way when Campbell developed heart trouble in 2005 and unexpectedly decided not to seek reelection. That cleared the way for then-NPA councillor Sam Sullivan to snatch the mayor’s gavel.

So what was Ladner to do? Sullivan had the support of almost all of the NPA caucus. He was developing deeper connections with Vancouver’s nonwhite communities.

This year, we saw what transpired. Ladner launched his bloodless coup at the NPA nomination meeting with the support of folks like him: successful, white, well-educated business people and urban professionals.

He became his party’s mayoral candidate, and he appeared well on his way to victory – especially after it was revealed that bumbling Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson was challenging a transit ticket.

Then the approval of the $100-million loan for the Olympic Village burst into the news. Ladner, as chair of the city services and budgets committee, had to wear this.

He compounded his problems by defending the secrecy. That’s the thing about Ladner. He is not a very intuitive politician, and he failed to see how the public and the talk-show hosts might react to this.

The public doesn’t care about the niceties of the Vancouver Charter or the history of the Property Endowment Fund. Or the City’s legal obligations because of a stupid deal it signed with the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation back in 2002.

The public only knows that Ladner secretly agreed to put up $100 million of their money for a developer when Ladner won’t support using taxpayers’ funds to build a single shelter for homeless people.

Because of that, the public may turn out to vote in large numbers on Saturday (November 15). People suddenly care about this election. And a high voter turnout is usually deadly for the NPA.

I’m expecting Robertson to be the next mayor of Vancouver, setting up a showdown with NPA councillor Suzanne Anton in 2011.

Because of the Olympic Village loan, Ladner may have to settle for a consolation prize–a safe B.C. Liberal seat in the 2009 provincial election.

There are far worse things to do in life than sitting in the B.C. legislature. Ladner, as a former editor of Monday magazine in Victoria, might enjoy returning to the city to hang around with his old pal, restaurateur Howie Siegal.

But for Ladner, it won’t quite match being on stage in front of the world in 2010."


It seems like people are starting to stand up and say “Whoa whoa whoa, what are you spending our money on??”, but at the same time, I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here. It seems like he approved this loan to solidify the Vancouver 2010 project, which will be good for Vancouver in the medium (5-10 year) term at least. Can someone clarify?

If you let the Oly leeches into your community- hold onto your wallet. There are labour contracts to fill, there’s plumbing to do, lands to re-zone, consultant fees to be paid…the list goes on. What do you think the big desire to get the games is all about?

You mean it’s not about the glory of amateur sport and personal achievement??? :p:p

Here in Chicago, we already have the infrastructure in place – corrupt land deals, bribery, patronage, consulting deals for friends of the mayor, and so on.

The Olympics would fit in perfectly.

Yep, Chicago is right up there when it comes to corruption. Right next to Boston, Newark, St Louis, Philly, New Orleans, or just about any other large city in the USA.

Of course you do hold the distinction of helping steal the 1960 presidential election. That kind of puts you in a leauge of your own.

Till Fla 2000 (but they had the help of Supreme Court Flack Scalea refusing to recuse himself and voting in favour of his own son)

As always there is debate. This seems to have become urban legend. Actually the most extensive recount was done by the liberal Miami Herald and they admitted Bush would have won,as do most other entities that tried doing a fair recount.

Another problem the FLA supreme court which was overloaded with DEM appointees blatantly ignored FLA state law. The US Supreme court actually voted 7-2 that the FLA state supreme court had overstepped their bounds by intervening and ignoring state laws,

You have a valid complaint with your 5-4 final decision. Thoughts basically come down along political lines so I won’t dispute your reaction to it.


Let’s see someone top that.

Remember, though, that US prosecutors like to go after people eventually, while those in other countries don’t. It’s a story because someone went after him.

If you are a corrupt politician and local prosecutors start to come after you, you may or may not have a problem. But if federal prosecutors come after you, you definitely have a major problem. The Feds don’t mess around.