TORONTO -- The head of the 2015 Pan American Games has been fired a year and a half before thousands of athletes converge in Toronto for one of the largest sporting events in the world -- a sign, sources said, that changes are needed to make sure the Games are an operational and financial success.
TO2015, the organizing committee of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Games, announced Friday that CEO Ian Troop was leaving the organization and will be replaced by Saad Rafi, a former Ontario deputy minister of health.
Sources within TO2015 said Troop's departure was not unexpected. There have been ongoing tensions between the Games organization and the province, which is responsible for the operational costs of the multi-sport competition that will bring about 10,000 athletes from the Americas to compete in 36 Pan Am and 15 Parapan sports.
"With just under two years left until the Games, TO2015 is transitioning into the operational phase of Games planning that will greatly benefit from Saad's experience and expertise," TO2015 board chairman and former Ontario premier David Peterson said in an internal email to staff.
The board gave no reason for Troop's departure, but sources said there have been key operational issues that aren't being decided, creating a real schism between the organizers and the Ontario government. Organizers are frustrated about a lack of decision making by the province, while the province had concerns about Troop's leadership.
The Ontario government came under criticism from the opposition parties this fall when it was disclosed there was a $7-million bonus package for TO2015 executives, including Troop, who was eligible for a $780,000 premium if the Games came in on budget.
The opposition parties were also up in arms after the province announced the total budget for the Toronto 2015 Games, including transportation and security, would be at least $2.5 billion -- far above the $1.4 billion the province originally stated.
The province has said the transportation budget alone would be up to $90 million to shuttle athletes and officials to the various venues, which stretch from Niagara in the west to the Orillia area in the north, and as far east as Oshawa.
Troop, who was paid $477,000 last year, billed taxpayers 91 cents for parking and $8,561.19 for a Mexican hotel and cocktail party, while other expenses included $1.89 for a cup of tea.
Peterson, who replaced Roger Garland as the chair of the Games organizing committee in September, said Troop's removal had nothing to do with lavish bonuses and salaries that prompted the organization to changes its policies.
"This is a super-charged political atmosphere in a minority house and we're going to get beaten up no matter what we do," he said. "We needed to get the right person at the right time in the right place, and that was Saad."
Progressive Conservative Pan Am critic Rod Jackson said he's been hearing concerns about poor oversight by the province and said it was a positive move to dismiss Troop, that Tourism and Sport Minister Michael Chan should be fired too.
"I think it's shameful that the minister will slash and burn everyone underneath him, without taking any responsibly for himself," said Jackson.
"Until the minister is gone, I think we're going to see the same missteps over and over again.
The New Democrats also accused the Liberals of "throwing Troop under the bus" after defending his salary and bonus packages for months.
"Families are feeling squeezed like never before and every day they hear of another public sector CEO or Liberal insider getting rich on the public dime," said NDP sports critic Paul Miller.
"The Liberals are desperately trying to sweep this under the carpet, but people aren't going to forget the Liberals lack of respect for public money."
Chan told The Canadian Press that it would be up to the TO2015 board to decide how much Troop would be paid in severance, and said Rafi will be compensated at a level "consistent with what he made at the Ministry of Health," which was $428,000 a year.
"Having Rafi's tremendous experience in handling a big file and also in addressing transportation and security, I think is a very, very good choice," said Chan.
The federal government is paying for the cost of new facilities, including a new cycling velodrome in the Toronto suburb of Milton, a new aquatic facility at the University of Toronto and a new stadium in Hamilton. But sources say there are concerns about the cost of running the Games and the province will be on the hook for any overruns.