Kent Hehr as new federal sports minister could help Calgary in possible Olympic bid: analyst

Click to play video: 'Calgary’s Kent Hehr now federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities'
Calgary’s Kent Hehr now federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities
WATCH: Gary Bobrovitz takes a look at what impact Kent Hehr’s move to the new cabinet portfolio of sport and persons with disabilities may have on Calgary – Aug 28, 2017

Calgary’s decision on whether to bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games could be boosted by Calgary Center MP Kent Hehr’s appointment as minister of sport and persons with disabilities, according to one political analyst.

“If you wanted a sign about whether the federal government was interested in [a bid] or not, they have made a very direct connection by putting Kent Hehr in that position,” said Duane Bratt, a professor of political science at Mount Royal University.
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Bratt said he doesn’t think the bid is a “slam dunk,” as there are many issues still to be worked out, but he thinks Monday’s appointment is a step in the right direction.

“If the bid committee was looking for a sign of support, they just received it,” he said.

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READ MORE: Calgary city council turns down plebiscite on Olympic bid

In the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee’s (CBEC) final report, officials agreed hosting the games would be feasible, but more information is required before they determine whether council should make an official bid.

The CBEC estimates a cost of $4.6 billion to host the 2026 Games. When revenues are taken into account, the cost would drop to $2.4 billion.

City officials say the city should not go forward with a bid unless the following five conditions are met:

  1. Capital costs for facilities be covered by municipal, federal and provincial governments
  2. Security costs be covered by other orders of government and not the city
  3. Canadian taxpayers not cover the operating costs of hosting the 2026 games with the belief is that ticket sales, sponsorship, broadcast rights, International Olympic Committee (IOC) contributions and other earned revenues should cover operating costs
  4. The city has limited debt capacity and there must be a financial structure that accommodates cash flow and the debt level constraints of the city
  5. If the IOC wants financial guarantees from the host city, such guarantees must be provided by someone other than the city or be at a level deemed acceptable to the city

The committee is expected to present an updated report to city council next month.

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READ MORE: Calgary still interested in facilities partnership with Edmonton in event of Olympic bid

The deadline for a bid has been pushed to October 2018 by the IOC, which will select the winning city.

A Calgary organization that helps people with disabilities is also optimistic about Hehr’s new appointment, saying it’s looking forward to working with him.

The Calgary Scope Society says it has a long-running history with Hehr, who himself uses a wheelchair after he suffered a traumatic spinal injury in a drive-by shooting more than 20 years on Crowchild Trail.

“Kent Hehr has been a great ally to the disabled community here in Calgary,” executive director Ryan Geake said.

“The federal government has been working on some national polices on accessibility, making sure folks with disabilities can get in all the buildings we have.

“So I think, continue that work to make sure there’s appropriate housing for people and enough of it and appropriate employment so people have opportunities to get work,” he added.

READ MORE: Two-thirds of area residents support an Olympic bid by Calgary: survey

No one from the CBEC was available for comment Monday.

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— With files from NewsTalk 770’s Aurelio Perri

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