Bread Not Circuses Coalition

Box 139, 365 Roncesvalles Ave.

Toronto, Ontario Canada, M6R 2M8

(416) 410-2267


Message to the Evaluation Commission of the International Olympic Committee reviewing the City of Toronto bid for the 2008 Summer Games

March 9, 2001

Key messages from Bread Not Circuses

  1. There is strong and growing opposition to Toronto’s Olympic bid.
  2. Toronto is suffering a homelessness disaster, rental housing crisis and other serious social problems in health and education caused by federal, provincial and municipal funding cuts.
  3. Toronto’s 2008 Olympic bid will make the homelessness disaster and other social crises worse.
  4. Toronto’s 2008 Olympic bid fails to incorporate even the most basic standards of social, financial and environmental responsibility.
  5. There has been no open and democratic process before municipal, provincial and federal governments decided to support the Toronto bid.
  6. So-called consultation by TO-Bid and the City of Toronto was designed to promote the bid, not provide a forum for democratic debate.
  7. A promise by the federal government to facilitate entry of the so-called Olympic family violates Canada’s Immigration Act. Several members of the Olympic family are "inadmissible persons" under s.19 of the act.
  8. TO-Bid and the City of Toronto have refused to release key bid documents. They have blamed the IOC for imposing restrictions.

Why we asked the IOC for this meeting

Bread Not Circuses and the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee wrote to the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland, on February 15, 2001, to request today’s meeting. There are important issues that the IOC Evaluation Commission must consider when reviewing Toronto’s 2008 Olympic bid. Many of these issues will be ignored or papered over by Toronto bid promoters, who are anxious to present a picture-postcard image of Toronto and the 2008 bid.

Our first observation to this committee:

Bread Not Circuses asks that the Evaluation Commission to carefully review our submission, incorporate these issues into your evaluation of the Toronto bid and circulate this material to all members of the International Olympic Committee.

Who is Bread Not Circuses

Bread Not Circuses (BnC) is a coalition of approximately 30 groups and hundreds of individuals. A number of our endorsing groups are, in turn, coalitions representing dozens of groups and thousands of individuals. BnC works closely with respected academics in various parts of the world who have done extensive research on the impact of hallmark events, such as the Olympics. We also maintain close contact with community-based groups in cities that have staged the Olympics and cities that have bid for the Games.

Bread Not Circuses was formed in 1988 to raise critical concerns about Toronto’s bid for the 1996 Games. After that bid committee refused to meet even the most basic standards for social, financial and environmental responsibility, our members voted to oppose the ’96 bid.

We have had meetings with Toronto 2008 bid promoters since soon after the bid was launched. Bread Not Circuses developed a series of social, financial and environmental standards for the bid. These were drawn from benchmarks established by the City of Toronto for the ’96 bid, from proposals developed for the Capetown bid and from our extensive international research.

Our second observation:

The Toronto 2008 Olympic bid fails to meet even the most basic standards for social, financial and environmental responsibility.

After polling our members and supporters, Bread Not Circuses Coalition has recently decided to oppose the Toronto 2008 Olympic bid. We are not the only group, nor are our supporters the only individuals, opposed to the Toronto bid.

The St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association, which represents thousands of owners of condominiums, tenants of non-profit housing, and members of housing co-ops, has voted to oppose the Toronto bid. This association represents the neighbourhood immediately adjacent to the main Olympic sites. The SLNA voted to oppose the Games because of the overwhelmingly negative social and financial impact, and also because of the lack of effective consultation and communication by the bid committee with neighbourhood groups. The St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association is not a member of BnC. Here is the text of the St. Lawrence resolution from its January meeting:

Because of its failure to demonstrate the net benefits to St. Lawrence and other downtown communities of the Games, the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association opposes TO-Bid’s request to host the 2008 Olympic Games in Toronto.

Councillor Michael Walker has been a determined critic of the Olympic proposal for several years. He is a politically popular councillor. Walker was re-elected in the November 2000 municipal elections with 11,452 votes. His nearest rival had 4,822. Councillor Walker is not a member of Bread Not Circuses.

Morley Kells, an elected Member of Provincial Parliament and the Government of Ontario’s former Olympic Commissioner, resigned in April of 2000 saying that he had serious doubts about the Toronto 2008 Olympic bid. Kells said that he had concerns about everything from the government guarantees required to put on the Olympics to TO-Bid's plans for an Olympic village and stadium on polluted industrial port land along Toronto's waterfront. Kells is most deifinitely not a member of Bread Not Circuses. Kells told journalists:

I can't see how we're going to do it. I just don't want to finish my political days tied to a guarantee that's going to hurt the taxpayer down the road.

There are journalists with leading daily newspapers have been outspoken critics of Toronto’s Olympic bid. None of these journalists are members of Bread Not Circuses Coalition.

Dave Perkins, senior sports columnist with The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation daily, wrote on January 13, 2001:

You need to give credit to TO-Bid for pulling this off. . . . Our bid buddies sneaked through city council a budget that never - not once - has been officially vetted by an independent source. . .

The whole point of trotting out confusing and creative numbers, of course, is simply to avoid producing any kind of distasteful bottom line this early in the proceedings. That comes much later, once nobody can do anything except grin and pay. . .

The big wheels who run this bid behind the scenes - the hoteliers and restaurateurs and construction people and suppliers who use a few sincere and well-meaning former athletes as fronts - should be fitted with masks and guns as we speak. They obviously have the horses already; you can tell by the smell in the air. . .

These people, the ones who dominate the bid, are the ones who will make the enormous money that will go into this endeavour.

Stephen Brunt, senior sports columnist with the Globe and Mail, which calls itself Canada’s national daily newspaper, wrote on March 6, 2001:

Like every Olympic Games, these would involve a massive public works project backed by an enormous infusion of public money. Any accounting that shows the Games paying for themselves is phony, or so narrowly defined as to be irrelevant.

It would cost billions of dollars for Toronto to stage the 2008 Games, the blank cheque for which has already been written. . . But when the dust cleared, certain familiar realities would become apparent: a very small number of people would have made out like bandits; the trickle-down effect would be minimal; and bills would be left to be paid long after the flame is extinguished.

Plus, we would all have lain down, through our elected representatives, with an organization that remains imperious, unaccountable and shady. If, eyes wide open, you can live with those realities, on with the circus.

Diane Francis, business columnist with The National Post, which also calls itself a national daily newspaper, wrote on February 8, 2001:

Fortunately, the Olympic Games in 2008 will probably end up in Beijing, not Toronto. Last month, Ontario signed a blanket guarantee for these summer games, agreeing to underwrite any operating deficits. Bid booster Mel Lastman was relieved. Taxpayers should be mortified. "I’m sick and tired of hearing about all the negative aspects that some people perceive," said Mayor Lastman at a city committee. "This is not going to cost the city one cent. Not one penny." Oh yeah?

The bid, as drawn, would be ruinous -- not because it would run a deficit during the two weeks' worth of games, but because nobody understands the difference between income statements and balance sheets. For instance, the bid committee claims that the Games would make a profit because tourism and media rights (estimated to add up to $4 billion) would be much greater than the operating costs of running the two-week party. That's true.

But the bid promises billions of dollars worth of unnecessary construction, just so that a two-week profit can be realized. The profits would not cover the decades of debt repayments that the pledged construction would run up. . . The construction estimate does not include the cost of purchasing the land or the fact that the proposed site is polluted and has no roads, sewers or other services. Who's going to pay for the clean-up and services? Why aren't these costs included in the bid estimate for taxpayers to consider? What's the final cost of this stadium we don't need? Is it $500-million or $1-billion, and what are the estimated financing costs? Besides, governments cannot build anything on time or on budget. SkyDome was supposed to cost $225-million and ended up costing $600-million and went bust as an operation. . . .

I'm rooting for Beijing on July 13 when the winner is selected.

And, finally, Rick Gibbons in the Ottawa Sun dated February 20, 2000:

Oh, this is beautiful. Hogtown [Toronto] wants to use our tax dollars to guarantee its ambitious $2.7-billion bid to host the summer Olympics. . . Mmmmm ... tax dollars to promote the interests of millionaire basketball players, tennis pros and other assorted athletes. Where have we heard this before? . . . No doubt, the Olympics are still the supreme athletic event for many an amateur, at least from Africa or Asia or Jamaica. But they're no longer the athletes who dominate the Games and they are most certainly not the athletes who attract the huge crowds and multi-billion-dollar TV broadcast rights.Let's face it: There's only one reason why taxpayers across this province, and maybe across this country, will be bullied into offering the required financial guarantees for this bid. And it's because it's Toronto. Period. When Hogtown demands money to develop its waterfront and to back its Games bid, governments will rush to sign on the dotted line. Which comes to the real reason cities like Toronto want the Olympics in the first place. It is because of the billions of dollars in facilities that are built to host them -- everything from that must-have velodrome to athlete villages, later transformed into comfy waterfront condos. . .

Not that we matter much, but here's a dissenting voice from outside the 416 area code: If Toronto really wants to host the Olympics, then it should be ready to pay for it, including any costly overruns. Just don't ask us to co-sign the bank loan.

Our third observation:

There is strong and determined opposition to Toronto’s Olympic bid, not just from Bread Not Circuses Coalition.

Why there is such strong opposition to the Toronto bid

Welcome to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. By now, you will have realized that Toronto is one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries of the world. We deeply regret that the members of the Evaluation Commission chose not to join Bread Not Circuses and the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee in our Tour of the Real Toronto yesterday.

You would have heard that last year in Toronto, more than 30 homeless people died on our streets. That, of course, is the officially confirmed number. In fact, the real number of homeless deaths is probably two or three times the official number. On our tour, you would have heard that, on a per capita basis, there are more homeless people in Toronto than anywhere else in North America, including New York City. You would have learned that there are more than 1,000 children in homeless shelters in this very rich city every night. There was a 130% increase in the number of homeless children in Toronto from 1998 to 1999.

Growing homelessness, and a growing number of homeless deaths, is only one of a growing number of social crises in our wealthy, world-class city. How can growing homelessness and extreme poverty exist alongside immense wealth? The answer is deliberate policy choices made by private corporations and politicians in all levels of government.

Since the early 1970s, private developers have cut their investment in affordable rental housing and invested, instead, in condominiums and commercial property. There simply is no profit to be made in building housing for poor people.

Since 1984, the federal government has steadily cut public investment in affordable housing. New development was cancelled entirely in 1993. In 1995, the provincial government cancelled 17,000 units of affordable rental housing that were under development, stopped new funding and, in 1998, downloaded the cost of housing programs to cash-strapped municipalities.

All of this is no mystery to the members of TO-Bid. The chair of Toronto’s bid committee, David Crombie, sat as a member of the federal cabinet in the 1980s that dismantled our national housing programs. Crombie points to the modest 1,000 rent-geared-to-income units that may be a side benefit of the Toronto Olympic bid.

If Crombie and his government had not cancelled the national housing program, then Toronto and Canada would have 200,000 or more additional units of affordable housing today.

A key member of TO-Bid, Paul Godfrey, is acknowledged as an important backroom player at both the municipal and provincial levels. As the former publisher of the tabloid The Toronto Sun, Godfrey cheered on the province as it slashed funding of housing programs.

Crombie, Godfrey and other members of TO-Bid, who cheered on government cuts to housing programs, now say that governments must invest massive amounts of government funds, public lands and other resources in a three-week sporting festival in the year 2008. And only then, will they will allow some meagre benefits - a tiny amount of affordable housing – to trickle down.

Homelessness is not an IOC problem

Of course, this is all domestic politics and beyond the scope of the Evaluation Commission of the International Olympic Committee. Whether there are three, thirty or three hundred homeless people dying on the streets of Toronto is not your concern.

You want to make sure that the yachting basin meets international standards and the hotel accommodation is appropriate for the stature of the respected members of the International Olympic Committee.

However, the Evaluation Commission is supposed to report on public opinions towards the bid. And, in Toronto, the opposition to the 2008 scheme is growing.

TO-Bid will tell you that there is majority support for the Olympic proposal. However, that support is paper-thin. And critical concern for the bid is growing as politicians and bid promoters cynically put the interests of the Olympic bid ahead of the needs of the people of Toronto.

Last fall, CF did a poll on the views of Torontonians. When asked the simple question of support for the Games, 60% of those polled said yes. But when asked about public funding for the Games, the numbers are reversed.

According to the pollsters: "50 per cent of those questioned thought ‘the money spent on hosting the Olympics would be better spent on social programs,’ compared with 37 per cent who disagreed".

No wonder bid promoters have refused to agree to an independent financial review of the proposed budget for the Games. No wonder Toronto City Council refuses to order such a review.

As Torontonians realize that the Olympic Games will mean massive infusion of public resources at the same time that governments continue to cut basic services, then opposition to the Olympic bid will grow beyond the 50% identified in the CF poll.

During the municipal election in October, Ipsos-Reid did a comprehensive review of the views of Torontonians. No doubt Bob Richardson, Chief Operating Officer of TO-Bid, can vouch for the rigorous accuracy of this poll, since he works for this polling company. Richardson’s company asked the people of Toronto: "Which issues do you feel should receive the greatest attention from the Mayor and City Council following the upcoming municipal election?"

Fully 24% - that’s one in every four Torontonians – identified homelessness. Another 5% said housing. Add the two together and it means that almost one in every three people in this city want the Mayor and City Council to devote their attention to housing and homelessness.

The Toronto Olympic bid was way down the list, favoured by only 10% of the people of Toronto.

Currently, City Council is considering budget plans that would cut:

Also at risk is:

Earlier this week, the City of Toronto cancelled a modestly-priced advertising campaign aimed at informing the 52% of Torontonians who rent their homes about their legal rights. A private developer objected to tiny amount of money dedicated to this public education campaign.

Mayor Lastman, who is the loudest supporter of Toronto’s Olympic bid, is also the strongest opponent of new hostel beds for the homeless.

Mayor Lastman and members of Toronto City Council are doing exactly the opposite of what the majority of Torontonians want them to do. Bid promoters are, of course, anxious to have Toronto committed to the bid before the people of this city realize what is going on. But the ongoing city cuts are guaranteed to keep the opposition to the Olympics growing.

Please mention this in your evaluation of "community support" for the Olympic bid.

Our fourth observation:

Opposition to the Toronto Olympic bid is already strong and is bound to increase.

No open and democratic bid process

The International Olympic Committee is an unelected private corporation based in Switzerland. You appoints your own members, who are not democratically accountable to the citizens of Toronto. The IOC is not democratically accountable to anyone, anywhere.

However, the City of Toronto as a bid city is democratically accountable to its citizens. In addition, Rule 40 of your Olympic Charter makes the host city, and municipal taxpayers, entirely liable for all the costs of the Games.

The Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada are also democratically responsible to their citizens. And the promises that have been made on behalf of those governments, which are binding on their citizens and taxpayers, are also substantial.

There is a huge democratic deficit regarding Toronto’s Olympic bid. The Games, if they are staged in Toronto, will be the biggest and most costly mega-project in the history of the city. Yet there was no public debate on whether Toronto should host the bid.

The City of Toronto and the Government of Ontario have rejected a public referendum on the Olympic proposal. They know that a fair vote would reveal the significant opposition to the bid. The City of Toronto and the Toronto bid committee have staged a so-called consultation process. But the process was designed to promote the bid, rather than seek informed public views on the costs and benefits, and the pros and cons, of the bid.

Many Torontonians were frustrated with the pro-Olympic bias of the consultation process. Not only was there no democratic public debate on whether to proceed with the bid, but the City of Toronto and TO-Bid have refused to release key documents. The decision to suppress important information makes it impossible for Torontonians to honestly evaluate the bid.

TO-Bid blames IOC for bid secrecy

TO-Bid has told Bread Not Circuses that it is the fault of the International Olympic Committee that they cannot release certain information, such as the Answers to the IOC Questionnaire for Bid Cities. These answers contain key pieces of information about the finances of the Toronto bid, along with plans for everything from new security laws to urban development plans.

The City of Toronto, which has a statutory responsibility under freedom of information laws to provide information to citizens, has also refused to release certain documents. In response to a freedom of information request from BnC regarding the IOC Questionnaire, the City of Toronto said that it doesn’t have a copy of this document, even though it was apparently signed by the Mayor. BnC is making a legal appeal of the City’s refusal to release this information.

Our fifth observation:

There has been no open and democratic process by municipal, provincial and federal governments before they make financial and other commitments to the Toronto Olympic bid. TO-Bid blames the IOC for making the democratic deficit worse by saying that IOC rules prevent it from releasing important documents.

Even though the International Olympic Committee is an unelected and undemocratic private corporation, it requires democratically elected governments to make significant financial and organizational commitments on behalf of their citizens. And it requires democratically elected governments to bear the entire financial risk for the Games from which the IOC, as a private corporation, receives hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits in every Olympic cycle.

The record of negative social impacts from Olympic Games is long and tragic. Members of this Evaluation Commission will be familiar with the forced eviction of hundreds of thousands of "room-renters" (poor tenants) to make way for the Seoul Games. They will be familiar with the mass arrest of almost 10,000 homeless people in the lead-up to the Atlanta Games. They will know about the economic dislocation of thousands of low-income households and small businesses to make way for the Barcelona Games. They will know about the targeting and harassment of Aborigine people before the Sydney Games, even as Games’ organizers cynically promoted the image of a single Aboriginal female.

And it’s not just in cities that host the Games. The bidding process causes social impacts. The Evaluation Committee visited Osaka, Japan, a few days ago. Here is a message that we received from homeless people in that city:

We are the group formed by the homeless living in Nagai Park in Osaka. In the vicinity of the park there are sports installations that may be used for the Olympic in the year 2008 (if Osaka is selected). Osaka City Authority began removing the homeless in the park by force. Whether having a job or not, we have the right to live. We also petitioned the UN and IOC committees to take immediate measures so that Osaka City and the Japanese Government will duly respect Human Rights and stop their immoral act.

There were 480 tents in Nagai Park when the removal began. Last November, Osaka City Authority opened a temporary shelter in the park and began removing the homeless by force. An IOC inspection team is expected to visit the park this February. The act of removal has been intensified. As a result, there are only 50 homeless people left in the park. Osaka City Authority claims that they are not forcing but persuading the homeless to move to the shelter. The Authority denies the connection between this act and the Olympic plan. But it is obvious to us that we have been evicted by force.

The 20 prefabricated shelters have been planned with no consultation with the homeless people involved, although the authority had been aiming at the forced eviction of the homeless in the park from the beginning. In fact, the shelter was built in the form that makes the homeless difficult to survive.

For example, if we stay in the center, we cannot continue collecting empty aluminum cans for survival. Initially, 90 % of the homeless people refused to move to the center.

Although 135 people have been forced to enter the center, there are at least 150 people trying to resettle in other parks in Osaka at the moment. Moreover, those who have decided to leave the center because of its poor conditions are now faced with serious problems. When they entered the center, they were forced to sign the agreement saying that they withdraw their tents in the park. So they have no means and places to resettle.

There are now at least 30 thousands homeless people in Japan. There is an increasing number of the forced removal of the homeless by authorities. The Japanese Government should be condemned for the serious violation of human rights, especially in the light of the Habitat Agenda signed by many countries in 1996 in Istanbul. The government of Japan will be asked to present their performance reports on the implementation of their commitments to Habitat II in the Istanbul + 5 Conference, which will be held in New York City in June 2001. We are afraid, that the Japanese government could get embarrassed in this forum on the issue of the right to adequate housing and forced evictions, including the issue of the Nagai Park homeless people vis-a-vis Japan's bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

IOC, Olympic family, Toronto ’96 bid are all stained

The International Olympic Committee and members of the so-called Olympic family have been implicated in a series of criminal actions, including bribery and corruption. The IOC investigated itself and, not surprisingly, has pronounced that the scandals were over. Criminal investigations are continuing regarding the Salt Lake City Games.

Toronto is not immune from the massive corruption of the IOC. Paul Henderson, head of Toronto’s 1996 Olympic bid, has admitted to $800,000 in "inappropriate spending" relating to that bid. There have also been credible reports of a job, van, rent, furnishings and other favours being offered as part of the ’96 bid. The IOC has not investigated the ’96 bid, the City of Toronto refused to order a forensic audit to determine the full nature of the corrupt practices and Henderson has been promoted to become a member of the International Olympic Committee.

We don’t believe that the IOC has the capacity to reform itself. The attempts in the past two years to address these issues amount to small gestures set against a major series of accusations regarding the Toronto, Nagano, Sydney, Salt Lake City and Atlanta bids. But one important step that the IOC can make is to open the bid process to public scrutiny.

Our sixth observation:

The International Olympic Committee should require all bid cities to publicly release all bid documents, including bid budgets, throughout the bidding process. The IOC should require all bids to be developed in an open and democratic manner and should evaluate bids on key democratic standards.

The IOC, notwithstanding its own tainted image, should also require bid committees to operate on an ethical basis, with a clear set of ethical standards. TO-Bid falls short on this count, as well. Slightly more than one week ago, Tony Dionisio, a director of TO-Bid, led a number of his colleagues to a public forum sponsored by Bread Not Circuses. They engaged in extreme verbal harassment and abusive behaviour and attempted to shut down the meeting by rudely and repeatedly interrupting speakers. Bullying and attempting to silence critical voices should have no place in the Olympic movement. TO-Bid, despite our written request, has refused to apologize for the incident or take actions to prevent it from happening in the future.

Our seventh observation:

The International Olympic Committee should require bid committees to operate according to ethical standards.

Social impact assessment and mitigation strategies

Toronto is facing a homelessness disaster that is growing worse. In recent years, hospitals have closed, forcing back-ups in emergency rooms. The Ontario government is now considering closing another three hospitals in the northern part of Toronto (what used to be called North York). Some schools have been closed. Others are forced to accommodate students in inadequate, portable classrooms. There have been massive cuts in public spending on education. For the 52% of the Toronto population that rent their homes, the rental housing sector has been in crisis for a number of years.

These are just a few of the critical issues in the eroding social fabric of Toronto.

As visitors to our city staying in a luxury hotel in a rich neighbourhood, you may believe that the city has few social problems. But others have pointed to growing social problems. In the past two years, two committees of the United Nations have condemned the homelessness disaster and housing crisis. For instance, in 1998, the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, concluded that:

The Committee is gravely concerned that such a wealthy country as Canada has allowed the problem of homelessness and inadequate housing to grow to such proportions that the mayors of Canada's 10 largest cities [including Toronto] have now declared homelessness a national disaster.

A key reason for growing social problems has been the decisions by federal, provincial and municipal governments to cut funding to health, education and social programs over the past ten years. The cuts in public investment in public needs comes at the same time that governments, and Olympic promoters, are calling for massive public investment in sports festivals.

Olympics will make bad social problems even worse

Bread Not Circuses does not expect the 2008 Olympics to solve Toronto’s homelessness disaster or other social problems. Nor do we expect the International Olympic Committee to take over the role of democratically elected governments in Canada in addressing these issues. But the Olympics should not make these massive social problems worse, and the Toronto bid will surely do just that.

Our eighth observation:

The International Olympic Committee should require all bidding cities to conduct independent social impact assessments to identify social issues related to the bid. Bidding cities, and senior levels of governments, should also be required to make specific commitments to mitigate negative social impacts. Bids should be evaluated on their assessment and mitigation strategies.

Bread Not Circuses joins with many others in urging the International Olympic Committee to incorporate human rights considerations into their evaluation of bids for the Games. There are a number of covenants, declarations and other legal instruments that set out an internationally-accepted list of human rights.



Our ninth observation:

The International Olympic Committee should use internationally-accepted human rights standards to assess the fitness of bid cities to host the Games.

Canada has been cited twice in the past two years by United Nations’ committees for serious human rights violations. Canada (and Toronto) have clearly violated the standards set by the Habitat Agenda, the international declaration on housing and human settlements, adopted at the United Nations’ global housing summit in 1996.

National, regional and candidate city characteristics

The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee is the leading homeless and housing advocacy group in Toronto. It is supported by hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals. TDRC recently voted to oppose the Toronto 2008 Olympic bid because of its huge negative social and financial impact.

The TDRC has prepared extensive background material on Toronto’s homelessness disaster. We urge the Evaluation Commission to carefully study this material as they evaluate the national, regional and candidate city characteristics.

We want to underline two key points:

First, the homelessness disaster, which lead to more than 30 confirmed deaths in the year 2000, is growing worse. A news story in June of 2000 found that Toronto has a higher per capita homeless population than New York City:

TORONTO (CP) -- Tonight, more homeless people per capita will sleep on the streets and in the shelters of Toronto than in several major U.S. cities. In fact, statistics show that homelessness in Canada's largest urban centre is comparable to levels in New York City, long considered the homeless capital of North America. About 75,000 people used municipal shelters last year in the Big Apple, an analysis of data provided by the city reveals. By contrast, 28,800 people used emergency shelters in Toronto in 1998, the city's current Report Card on Homelessness shows. Once population differences are taken into account, the percentage of people in Toronto using shelters is actually 15.8 per cent higher than in New York.

CANADIAN PRESS, Sunday, June 11, 2000

Second, the homeless disaster has been caused by deliberate policy decisions of federal, provincial and municipal governments, including massive cuts or cancellation of social housing, social assistance and other social programs.

Toronto bid promoters, while demanding hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds for Olympic-related projects and calling for Olympic priorities to take precedence over the real needs of Toronto, have refused to take any action or offer any supportive comment in the face of the growing homeless disaster.

Government funds could build new housing and renew Portlands

Federal, provincial and municipal governments have promised $1.5 billion to renew Toronto’s Portlands in anticipation of an Olympic Games. All of that money, plus billions more required in public investment, will only produce 1,000 desperately needed subsidized units.

The Toronto Mayor’s Homelessness Action Task Force called for 2,000 new units annually. From 1999, when the task force issued its final report, to 2008, that would amount to 20,000 units. Capital grants to support those units would be about $800 million. Government’s could commit all of that money using the existing promises of the three levels of government, and still have $700 million left over to renew the Portlands.

Governments have choices: Housing or yachting basins

Toronto, Ontario and Canadian politicians have choices. They can choose to invest billions of dollars in mega-projects like the Olympics, and leave a few benefits to trickle down to those who most need it. Or they can take those same billions of dollars and invest them in the real needs of the people of Toronto, Ontario and Canada.

Staging the Olympic Games in Toronto will not only make our social problems worse, but it will also take us farther away from the real solutions, which are direct public investment in the real needs of the city. The massive financial and other demands of the Olympics will elbow everything else off the table.

Our tenth observation:

Toronto has a massive and growing homelessness disaster, along with many other growing social problems. Not only will the Olympic Games bring negative social impacts that will make these issues worse, but the Games will divert public funds from necessary spending and take the city farther away from long-term solutions to these social issues. Investing the billions in public funds promised for Olympic-related projects in housing and other basic needs instead would generate more housing and jobs than the Olympic scheme.

The root cause of homelessness is a severe rental housing crisis in Toronto, and in most places across Canada. The majority of Torontonians – 52% - live in rental housing. They face a dwindling supply of affordable rental housing at the same time that the need for rental housing is increasing. At the same time, rents in Toronto are rising faster than the rate of inflation even as tenant household incomes are falling.

The Olympic Games will make the crisis worse for Toronto tenants due to the inevitable inflation in rents generated by Olympic-related speculation. TO-Bid officials will privately acknowledge this problem, and they will acknowledge that the provincial government decision in 1998 to gut tenant protection and rent regulation laws make the situation even more dangerous. Their solution is to ask City Council to pass a "Tenant’s Bill of Rights". However, the City has no legislative authority for such a declaration and landlords would not be legally bound. The only level of government that can take meaningful action to protect tenants is the provincial government and it has made no commitments.

Our eleventh observation:

An Olympic Games in Toronto put at risk the homes and rents of the majority of Torontonians who live in rental housing. The Bill of Rights proposed by TO-Bid will have no legal or practical value in mitigating the negative social impact of the Games.

The Toronto bid committee has promised 1,000 "affordable" rental units as a legacy from the Games. However, the projected rents for these units are 10% to 20% above current average rents in Toronto, and almost three times the "affordable rents" that can be paid by the one-in-four tenant households in Toronto that are on the brink of homelessness.

As with the subsidized units, the promised rental units are far less than what the city needs. While the City of Toronto is spending an estimated $120 million in the coming year in Olympic-related spending, it is considering selling off land that was designated for affordable rental housing and making cuts to housing grants programs.

Cancel the Olympics, invest public funds in housing and other needs

Bread Not Circuses believes that the City, province and federal government should cancel Olympic-related spending and invest instead in long-term housing and other real needs of people.

Our twelfth observation:

The Toronto Olympic scheme is already consuming substantial amounts of public funds at the same time that public funding for housing and other human needs is being cut.

Customs and immigration

The federal government has promised to facilitate entry to Canada of the so-called Olympic "family". This commitment is a violation of the federal Immigration Act and outside the legal authority of the Government of Canada.

Bread Not Circuses has written to federal Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan seeking her undertaking that all Olympic "family" members are properly and fully screened.

Section 19 of the Immigration Act sets out several classes of "inadmissible persons" that are banned from entry to Canada. In addition, subsection 7(3.76) of the Criminal Code prohibits entry to Canada of persons who there are reasonable grounds to believe have committed a war crime or crimes against humanity.

Olympic "family" members we don’t want in Canada

We have drawn to the attention of Minister Caplan four members in good standing of the Olympic "family" who clearly are inadmissible under federal law:

Our thirteenth observation:

The federal government does not have the legal authority to make a "deal" with the International Olympic Committee regarding entry of persons to Canada. Bread Not Circuses intends to obtain an undertaking from the federal government that all relevant provisions of the Immigration Act and Criminal Code will be applied to every Olympic visitor, including IOC members. We will work to make sure that the federal government exercises its legal power to keep out inadmissible persons, including members of the Olympic "family".

Environmental protection

The Toronto Olympic proposal will not enhance Toronto’s deteriorating air, soil and water environments. In fact, if the Olympics are held in Toronto, environmental standards could be made worse. The Government of Ontario, in order to speed along development on soil-contaminated Olympic sites, has said that it will lower environmental standards on those sites to reduce the financial costs of environmental remediation. It has also said that it will create legislation to waive the legal liability of land owners regarding previous environmental contamination.

Our fourteenth observation:

The Toronto Olympic bid will lower environmental standards in Toronto’s heavily contaminated Portlands.