Toronto’s World Cup budget has ballooned again. Will B.C.’s follow?

Click to play video: 'B.C. hasn’t released budget for hosting 2026 FIFA World Cup matches'
B.C. hasn’t released budget for hosting 2026 FIFA World Cup matches
Just over two years from kickoff at the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the B.C. government still hasn't released a budget for hosting the seven matches at BC Place. Richard Zussman reports. – Feb 27, 2024

The clock is ticking down to Vancouver’s turn to host part of the FIFA 2026 World Cup, but with just over two years to go, taxpayers still don’t have a clear picture of what the event will cost.

Vancouver has been tapped to host seven matches in the soon-to-be-renovated BC Place, while Toronto will host six games.

On Monday, the City of Toronto released a report showing the cost of hosting those games has ballooned to $380 million, including tournament operations and capital upgrades.

Click to play video: 'What is the true cost of hosting 7 FIFA World Cup games in Vancouver?'
What is the true cost of hosting 7 FIFA World Cup games in Vancouver?

The B.C. government, however, has yet to release a similar budget estimate.

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On Tuesday Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Minister Lana Popham wouldn’t say whether the government expected overruns to mirror the Toronto experience, but acknowledged costs had risen on major projects across the province. The province, she acknowledged, does not have a hard cap on spending for the event.

Popham added that the province was still waiting on numbers from the federal government before sharing any estimates.

“Our commitment is to be completely transparent along the way, so we’ll be able to put out some numbers in the coming months, but we have been waiting for some concrete numbers to work with,” she said.

“It’s really hard to make those estimates when we don’t know where we are, but I think we’re in a really good place.”

The province is hoping for federal help with tournament costs that include major upgrades to BC Place Stadium, security costs, along with a number of details that have not been made public.

If Toronto’s experience is any guide, the final tab could be significant. The Ontario city had initially estimated hosting the tournament would cost between $30 million and $45 million. In 2022 that estimate grew to $300 million, before climbing again to Monday’s $380 million.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver’s countdown to FIFA 2026 World Cup as a host city'
Vancouver’s countdown to FIFA 2026 World Cup as a host city

“Credit where it is due, at least Toronto City Hall is being open and transparent with taxpayers about what this will cost — in B.C. we have seen just the opposite,” said Carson Binda, B.C. director with the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.

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“As recently as today, Lana Popham said she wasn’t prepared to share with taxpayers how much we are going to spend to host these soccer games. That kind of accountability is unacceptable.”

Vancouver won the right to host World Cup games over Edmonton, but it remains unclear what B.C. promised the bid committee or FIFA for the opportunity.

Click to play video: 'FIFA expands 2026 World Cup'
FIFA expands 2026 World Cup

Popham said Tuesday she was slated to meet with FIFA executives in the coming weeks to refine details.

“We have seen other host cities like Seattle… release those contracts, show at least that basic level of transparency and openness, ” Binda said.

“There is no way of telling whether or not this is a good deal at the end of the day.”

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B.C.’s 2024 budget contains just one reference to the World Cup, where it is mentioned in relation to a $3.9 billion contingency fund meant to offset emergencies like floods and wildfires.

In 2022, the province pegged its estimate for hosting the event at between $240 million and $260 million.

The B.C. government estimates hosting the tournament will draw 300,000 visitors, and generate about $1 billion in economic activity.

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