Calgary inches closer to setting plebiscite date on 2026 Winter Olympics

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Calgary city council’s Olympics committee is getting closer to setting a date and question for a plebiscite but there are questions on whether there will be a public hearing.

The city’s returning officer, Laura Kennedy, told committee members Tuesday that the plebiscite should be held sometime in November. She also said there is work taking place to decide if the vote should happen on a Saturday or a Monday.

READ MORE: Calgary council votes to continue 2026 Olympic bid process

When it comes to the issue of the question, simple is better it seems.

The question in the report to committee was: “Do you support or do you oppose the city of Calgary’s participation in hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games?”

Voters would then pick one of the two choices: “Yes, I support the city of Calgary’s participation” or: “No, I oppose the city of Calgary’s participation.”

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi says while simplicity is key, he wants to see some more financial information.

“Whether it’s embedded in the question or it’s somehow in the ballot paper as an explanation or if it’s just something made really public, I’d like people to be voting not just on the abstract on: ‘Do I love the Olympics?’ but on that: ‘On this project, that costs this much?’ makes sense.”

Committee members have asked the returning officer to come back to a meeting next month with potential questions and recommendations after talking with committee members and asking the province for input. It was the government of Alberta that tied a plebiscite to any future funding for an Olympic bid.

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

There was some controversy when it comes to a public hearing, with the mayor questioning its value.

“If we’re doing the plebiscite, the public hearing is just window dressing. It’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of money to organize that.

“It’s very difficult for people who are working to come down to the city so you never get a full cross-section of people,” Nenshi said.

However, other members of the committee disagreed.

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“I think providing Calgarians with an opportunity to come before this committee to speak on a range of issues, impacts, concerns opportunities related to the Olympics is something that would be helpful,” said Evan Woolley, the chair of council’s 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter games committee.

“We have had a number of important committee meetings — whether we were talking about cycle tracks, SW BRT and before my time, fluoridation — this is a great opportunity for Calgarians in a public setting to be able to voice their concerns, ideas, thoughts.”

READ MORE: Athletes tell Calgary not to bail on 2026 Olympic bid

Councillor Druh Farrell also wants to give the public a chance to come before council or committee members.

“I don’t think hearing from the public is ever window dressing. We have an opportunity to communicate a lot of information to the public.

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“We also need to take that opportunity to hear from them and a public hearing, in my view, is the best way to do that.”

The committee has not decided to hold a public hearing until learning what other options are available for public input on the issue..

On the issue of financing, the committee was told that a multi-party agreement between the city, federal government, the province and the Canadian Olympic committee, that was expected in late June, likely won’t be ready until September.

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