The expense account spending of Pan Am Games organizers has Ontario’s Premier promising to tighten the rules and Toronto’s mayor suggesting a change in leadership may be in order, although critics point out the spending took place on their watch.
A visibly angry Premier Kathleen Wynne blasted Pan Am organizers after the Toronto Sun revealed that CEO Ian Troop and others, who all make six-figure salaries, dinged taxpayers for such things as $1.89 tea at Starbucks and a 91-cent parking fee.
“It’s ridiculous, okay? I’m just going to say it is ridiculous,” Ms. Wynne told reporters on Monday. “I believe that it is the kind of entitlement that is unacceptable. I don’t believe it should happen.”
Mayor Rob Ford, who came to office with a pledge to watch spending, said he received assurances from TO2015 organizers of “no shenanigans” with taxpayers’ money.
“If things don’t change, then it’s going to be hard for me to support the PanAm Games,” Mr. Ford said on Monday, singling out Mr. Troop, who submitted the parking expense. “If he can’t do the job, I think we should look at other people.”
Mr. Troop told Newstalk 1010 radio that all the spending was within the rules, but may have failed the test of “common sense.”
Ms. Wynne said Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Michael Chan directed PanAm’s board three weeks ago to tighten the rules to halt such practices. She also said she would speak with Mr. Chan about getting the expenses paid back.
“The issue is, I think, that the rules that were put in place were allowing this kind of entitlement,” she said. “Those are the wrong rules. They shouldn’t be there and it’s absolutely appropriate for people to be outraged by that kind of decision.”
Former Liberal premier David Peterson, recently appointed chair of TO2015, defended the organization in a statement late Monday and promised change. “I do understand people can interpret these expenses in different ways,” the statement said.
The Games, slated for the summer of 2015 in and around Toronto, are being paid for by the federal government, the province and several municipalities.
The executives organizing the event claimed numerous meals and trips as expenses, including attending the Guadalajara Games two years ago, the Sun reported. It was on this trip that one executive claimed for two $1.89 teas. Another charged $27,305.62 to move from Vancouver to Toronto. Mr. Troop was paid $477,259 last year and $552,065 in 2011.
At Queen’s Park, Progressive Conservative MPP Rod Jackson said the auditor-general should be called in and executives forced to repay the expenses. Mr. Ford said he, too, had written to the city’s auditor to ask about a review.
Amid the outrage, Toronto councillor Joe Mihevc suggested the mayor’s motives for attacking games organizers was designed to distract attention from questions about his own behaviour. Mr. Mihevc said it is “a bit rich” for Mr. Ford to criticize spending that happened on his watch. “Rather than have his staff prepare election-type barbecues, if he hired competent staff to basically go through the books and seek out these kinds of things, maybe they wouldn’t happen in the first place,” Mr. Mihevc said.
New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said it should be possible to hold a major sporting event without well-paid executives racking up expense bills. “There’s a culture of largesse that Liberals and their appointed folks in these boards seem to expect when they get these positions. And it’s unacceptable and it’s high time that it stopped,” she said.