Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is hoping the federal and provincial governments will help cover extra policing crowd-control costs to deal with Vancouver Canucks fans if the team excels in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Both levels of government covered security costs for the Winter Olympics so Mr. Robertson said Wednesday he hoped they might help with the Canucks as well.
"If we have a big playoff run and downtown is packed again as it was during the Games, and we're really swamped with costs, then I think we have a good case to make," he told reporters yesterday during a break at the monthly police-board meeting.
Mr. Robertson argued the two governments stand to reap financial rewards from PST and GST revenues linked to services and products purchased in the city's downtown core during the playoffs.
But the B.C. government was immediately dismissive of the idea.
Solicitor-General Mike de Jong said the government has no extra money to help with the expenses, which Vancouver police suggest could reach $968,232 if the Canucks remain in the playoffs to the final championship round and each series goes to game seven.
"Our budgets are fully subscribed. There's no loose money laying around to address this," Mr. de Jong told reporters in Victoria.
A report on the issue, prepared for the police board by Inspector Rick McKenna of the force's emergency and operational planning section, suggested a bid to see if area municipalities could chip in due to regional benefits linked to playoff activity.
"Given that the attendees to this somewhat spontaneous event come primarily from other parts of the Lower Mainland, it would seem fair that the cost for policing the event should be shared," said the report.
The assessment notes that Vancouver residents represent 27 per cent of the regional population, but "this small number of citizens is forced to pay for the policing of large regional events without the financial assistance of other municipalities."
The proposal led Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan to suggest to CBC that Vancouver might have an inflated sense of its own importance.
"Vancouver believes any of the problems it suffers as a result of being the centre of the universe should be shared among the region," Mr. Corrigan told CBC. "But the benefits should remain solely in Vancouver."
Mr. Robertson said, however, it has never been his view that other municipalities have a stake in the issue.
"I was surprised to hear people bugging [Mr. Corrigan]about it. I certainly haven't been asking and wouldn't do that. The beneficiaries on the budget side are the provinces and the feds."
The mayor said a larger issue at play here may be the taxation powers of local governments.
"I think it's an argument that local governments should have more tax powers, really. We are way behind many other cities around the world in terms of having the tools to fund public safety more robustly. All we have is property taxes to work with so we're constantly having to go to the province to get more revenue to cover these kinds of issues."
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu told reporters his department is still considering the possibility of seeking the early closing of downtown liquor stores to prevent troublemakers from acquiring alcohol to fuel their misbehaviour.
The measure, an extremely rare step, was used during the Winter Olympics.
Mr. Chu said police representatives will be meeting shortly with store owners to discuss the issue.
"Perhaps there's a way that we don't have to close early if we can put proper safeguards in. We're not saying we're not going to do it for sure. Obviously the intent is to not let hooligans or people engaging in bad behaviour refuel with alcohol," he said,
Pressed for details on safeguards, he said he would be interested in suggestions from store owners.
"I won't rule out any option in what we're going to do. We're certainly going to work with the industry."
With a report from Justine Hunter in Victoria