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Well, wasn’t that a party? It was a lot of fun watching Canadian hockey players win gold twice, giving our athletes a total of 25 medals. Not quite as many as the Own the Podium organization and the Canadian Olympic Committee had hoped, but still pretty good for a smallish country, right?

blog main article image template layersAnd now the party’s over, and am I the only one with a bit of a hangover and a few regrets? Those pretty medals cost upwards of $5 million apiece. $90 million from Own the Podium and another $27 million from the Canadian Olympic Committee, according to a CBC radio report this week. Of course not all that money came directly from government coffers. Both organizations are private non-profits that also receive private and corporate donations. But lots of the money did. The Minister of State for Sport boasted that the Canadian government spent over $153 million of tax dollars over the past four years on developing winter sports alone.  The party was great, especially when the Canadian women came from behind to beat the Americans. But now that the high’s worn off, I’m thinking about what else we could have done with that $117 million.

In Waterloo Region, we could have built 1,000 units of affordable housing, cutting our current wait list by a third. We could have created and subsidized 7,000 licensed child care spaces, doubling our current number. We could have provided low cost public transit to…well, to everybody! We could have gone a long way to ending poverty in our community.

Oh, I realize that we have about 5 million people in Canada who live in poverty, and $117 million wouldn’t begin to get them all into affordable housing, to support them all to be employed, to prepare them all to succeed at school. But how much of a difference in their lives did those 25 medals make?
Maybe Canada’s hockey success lifted their spirits for a moment, too. Just think, though, where we might have lifted them, had we made an Olympic effort to end poverty.

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