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Politics

Olympics file has Calgary council at a crossroads on plebiscite

WATCH: A false report about government funding for Calgary’s Olympic bid went public over the weekend before being corrected. A lot of Calgarians are now left wondering how a mix-up on a billion-dollar project could happen in the first place. Lisa MacGregor reports.

Is there or isn’t there enough time to take the question of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics to Calgarians? It depends on who you talk to at city hall.

“We still have a commitment to go to Calgarians and ask them their perspective and we haven’t done that yet,” said Councillor Druh Farrell, talking to reporters during a lunch break at Monday’s city council meeting. “That concerns me more than anything.”

But she says council was informed on the weekend that there just wasn’t enough time to put the question of the Games to a vote.

“We’ve run out of the runway for a proper plebiscite,” she told reporters.

“Says who?” asked Councillor Jeromy Farkas when told of Farrell’s comments. “I haven’t been told that.”

READ MORE: City of Calgary apologizes for posting incorrect Olympic bid information

Farkas has been vocal on the idea of putting the Games to a public vote.

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“I have to insist that my constituents need to be represented on this,” he said. “If we are to host the Games, that needs to be a decision made by Calgarians and not by a few people — I don’t know who — making this decision in a dark room somewhere.

“I’m sick and tired of being misled. I’m sick and tired of being managed.”

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi also disagreed with what Farrell had told reporters moments earlier.

“That’s not right,” he said. “Um…the timing on a plebiscite is very, very tight.”

Nenshi said he felt a number of conditions would need to be met in order to put the question to Calgarians, including shaping a question which would outline the cost of the Games and the benefits which could come from hosting.

“It can’t just be: ‘Do you love the Olympics?'”

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But Farkas rejects the idea that it has to be complicated.

“The question is pretty simple,” he said. “Do you want to host the Games or not?”

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READ MORE: Councillors react to city’s Olympic bid funding error

The process to date has left Farrell torn on how she would respond if council was asked to vote on whether to hold a plebiscite.

“I don’t like plebiscites. I think they’re not the best way to arrive at a conclusion,” she said. “But if we don’t have a commitment to public consultation, then I will support – reluctantly – a plebiscite.”

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