Purple haze hangs over Calgary city council on Olympic funding questions

There is confusion on Calgary city council about where and when they might be required to hold a plebiscite by the province. Global News

As Calgary city council discussed just how tightly it wants to restrict the use and sale of marijuana, a haze lingered in the chamber over exactly what is going on with the Olympic bid process, the funding the city is supposed to be getting to set up a bid corporation (BidCo), and who knew what and when they knew it.

One week ago, the province and the federal government issued a late-day news release to announce they would each be funding their share of the $30 million required to establish the BidCo.

Speaking with 770 CHQR’s Danielle Smith on Wednesday, Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda said the province’s financial commitment to join the city and the federal government in the BidCo doesn’t require a plebiscite and there are no strings attached to the $10 million it is providing.

However, if the city decides to make a formal bid for the games, the Rachel Notley government would require Calgary voters to go to the polls.

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LISTEN: Culture and tourism minister Ricardo Miranda joins 770 CHQR’s Danielle Smith to discuss an Olympic plebiscite

“I have a letter saying it was attached to the BidCo money,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “I understand the premier’s press secretary, director of communications, is now saying it’s attached to the further money.”

Pressed by Coun. Sean Chu on whether the city has agreed to a plebiscite, Nenshi said no decision has been made.

“Certainly it is the case that the chiefs of staff have been talking about what conditions would be required,” he said. “Ultimately, the province can put whatever conditions they want and it’s up to council to determine whether you can live with those conditions.”

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READ MORE: Calgary city council chooses to delay decision on Olympic bid plebiscite to April

In a question to the deputy city manager, Chu revealed Thursday his pressure for a public vote on the games has been with the intent of killing a potential Olympic bid.

“For me to stop the Olympics from going any further, does that mean I have to vote no on a plebiscite?” Chu asked. “The people who wanted Olympics to go ahead [and they would have] voted no to a plebiscite, now they have to vote yes to a plebiscite?”

After the deputy city manager replied that voting down a plebiscite would likely kill the chance of funding from the province, Nenshi weighed in. The mayor took issue with Chu revealing his hand.

WATCH BELOW: Political analyst David Taras joins Global News Morning Calgary to discuss Calgary’s possible 2026 Winter Olympics bid and whether or not it should be decided by plebiscite.

Click to play video: 'Should Calgary’s 2026 Olympic bid be decided by plebiscite?' Should Calgary’s 2026 Olympic bid be decided by plebiscite?
Should Calgary’s 2026 Olympic bid be decided by plebiscite? – Apr 4, 2018

“I certainly hope those members of council who were supporting a plebiscite were doing so because they wanted to hear the public’s opinion,” Nenshi said. “If they had a particular side of the plebiscite they wanted to win; if they thought the plebiscite was simply a way to spend $2 million to end the Olympics, I certainly wish they had mentioned that.”

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Nenshi’s comment’s raised the ire of Coun. Jyoti Gondek who questioned the mayor’s words.

“I believe the question was posed to the deputy city manager,” she said. “You’ve had the opportunity to editorialize and give your opinion and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

“I know, but it’s so great being mayor, isn’t it? It’s being [the] chair,” Nenshi playfully retorted.

“Everybody knows you want an Olympics,” Chu shot back at Nenshi as the mayor shut down the conversation.

READ MORE: Here’s what Calgarians think about the costs of a 2026 Olympic bid: Ipsos poll

“You took the words right out of my mouth,” Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart said to Chu as she rose to address her concerns with the process so far.

The Ward 13 councillor wanted to know exactly who was speaking on the city’s behalf to commit to a plebiscite to get the BidCo funding secured.

“Who was at the meetings representing the City of Calgary and council, either in person or by teleconference … when this consensus was reached?” she asked.

Colley-Urquhart had told council earlier in the meeting she had been relying on Twitter to find out about what had been going on through the process to secure BidCo dollars.

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WATCH BELOW: Calgarians won’t find out until April whether they will have a say in a possible Calgary Olympic bid. Jill Croteau explains.

Click to play video: 'Calgary city council pushes Olympic debate to April' Calgary city council pushes Olympic debate to April
Calgary city council pushes Olympic debate to April – Mar 21, 2018

“I’m surprised,” Nenshi said defending the communication strategy of those working the Olympics file after the negotiations were finalized. “Mr. Hansen sent a note to all members of council long before anybody in any order of government tweeted. If members of council are spending more time on Twitter than on their personal email, that’s up to them.

Colley-Urquhart has asked for a list to be compiled of all meetings city administration has had with other levels of government on the Olympic matter.

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