December 22, 2014 10:24 am
Updated: April 27, 2015 3:16 pm

Canadian taxpayers on the hook for Pan Am athletes’ travel costs

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WATCH ABOVE: We’re learning more today about how taxpayers are funding the Pan Am Games. More specifically, how they’re funding athletes from other countries. Sean Mallen reports.

TORONTO – The government is taking money out of your pockets, roughly $9 million, to pay for travel costs of all athletes — domestic and foreign — coming to Toronto for the Pam Am and Parapan Am Games next year.

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The Toronto Star reports that Toronto Games organizers will subsidize the travel costs for 11,000 athletes, coaches and team officials in what officials say is a growing “tradition” for host cities.

Canadian athletes could receive up to $500,000, in addition to support from private sponsors.

According to the guidelines, the travel grants are not paid to individuals but to a country’s amateur sport body for them “to be invested in the best way they see fit.”

David Peterson, chair of the TO2015 organizing committee, told the Star the program is a good way to assist needy countries to send their best teams to Toronto. Peterson added there was “total accountability” in an interview with Global News.

“This is not shipping off money to some South America dictator,” he said. “There’s total accountability. We know exactly how many athletes they’re sending and that’s how much money they get.”

The travel grants have recently been put to use in the Olympics from as early as the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

The Star reports the subsidies are a common practice to entice officials and athletic governing bodies during the host city selection process.

The money is given directly to a sport’s organizing committee, which is not required to provide accounting about how the money is spent. NDP critic Paul Miller suggested Monday there should have been more accountability in how the money was spent.

“Does the money get to the actual athletes? That’s the question. This money was sent to the Olympic committees and they dole it out accordingly,” he said. “There’s not really a lot of information other than the fact that we’re asked to trust what Mr. Peterson says.”

He also questioned whether Canadian taxpayers should be subsidizing the travel of athletes from the United States, where he suggested, athletes or Olympic committees likely have the money themselves.

“Certainly there’s countries that may be struggling that may need some help. If it’s reasonable, if it’s accountable, and the money is actually going to the athletes and bringing them to compete, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.

“But I do have a problem with large countries like the states that certainly aren’t hurting for money, why can’t they finance their athletes?”

Canadian athletes have benefitted from the travel grant in past multi-sport games.

Anthony Haines, the CEO of Toronto Hydro and a member of the games’ finance committee, said in an interview Monday morning that organizers are “rigorous” about how money is spent, but they have to make concessions.

“There are of course tradeoffs to be made and everybody has a long list about what they would like, but it’s really been our job to say yes to the things that are really necessary and unfortunately say no to some of the other things,” he said.

Toronto won the rights to host the 2015 Pan Am Games in 2009, beating out Lima, Peru and Bogotá, Colombia.

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