Calgary councillor, mayor calls Olympic plebiscite without cost-sharing details ‘unfair’

Time running out for Olympic cost-sharing info ahead of plebiscite
WATCH: With no firm numbers from the provincial or federal governments on how much they'll kick in for a possible 2026 Calgary Winter Games, concern is growing for some as the date for an Olympic plebiscite draws near. Blake Lough reports.

The mayor of Calgary and the chair of the city’s Olympic assessment committee said they are becoming increasingly concerned about the timing of a cost-sharing agreement with the federal and provincial government.

This comes on the same day the International Olympic Committee officially confirmed Calgary as one of three candidate cities and moved up the host announcement by three months.

“It is unfair to expect Calgarians to have to go to a plebiscite without having that cost share [information],” Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley said.

“I know that there are processes with our other orders of government that need to be met but we are running out of runway in terms of timing with the cost share.”

READ MORE: Calgary named one of three candidate cities for 2026 Olympics

Woolley said negotiations are ongoing with the provincial and federal governments but it’s hard to expect Calgarians to vote in a plebiscite without having a chance to digest the financials of any deal.

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“I do not think it’s fair to not have a sense of when Calgarians can do that and I’ll be expressing that to our partners in the federal and provincial governments. My support is dependent on it.”

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the plan has always been to allow for citizens to digest all of the relevant information before casting a vote.

“That’s always been the goal. I don’t think it’s fair to ask people to vote without the information, but we really do need to make sure that our partners at the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada are ready to have that information with plenty of time before the plebiscite.”

The province is expected to release its numbers by this Saturday. However, there is a concern the federal government numbers may not be available until November and the plebiscite is set for Nov. 13.

Calgary Olympic bid funding questions and concerns
Calgary Olympic bid funding questions and concerns

WATCH: Global News Morning Calgary’s Doug Vaessen talks about the mayor and the city council’s call for confirmation on federal and provincial Olympic funding information before the plebiscite this November.

READ MORE: Some councillors concerned Olympic funding details won’t meet timelines

“Well, I would love to have it today,” Woolley said. “But, to be honest, I don’t even have an exact sense.

“There are cabinet approvals and treasury board approvals that they have to go through — I appreciate that. I appreciate that they have their processes.

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“A reasonable amount of time is as soon as possible, aka: yesterday.”

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When asked about when the provincial government would provide their proposed funding for an Olympic games in 2026, Premier Rachel Notley said, “Very soon. Very, very soon.”

READ MORE: Calgary 2026 Olympic bid public engagement process starts Monday

When asked if the city would consider postponing the public vote, Woolley and Nenshi didn’t feel the plebiscite can be delayed.

Nenshi noted that a million ballots have already been printed and any delays could create complications.

“You get much later than the middle of November and it’s hard to get people’s attention in the Christmas season. And if you get into January, you’re get really close to the deadline for the bid book to be submitted. I’d just hate spending all that money before we have a sense of what the public’s view is.”

READ MORE: Calgary council approves mail-in ballots for Olympic plebiscite

Woolley said he doesn’t have an exact sense of when the financial numbers might be available.

“I feel strongly — and this is my opinion in my role as chair — that if we do not have a commitment on when that cost share is public, I would have a hard time asking Calgarians to go to a plebiscite.”

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During a general session in Buenos Aires on Tuesday, the IOC formally added Calgary to the list of three candidate cities, including Stockholm and the Milan-Cortina bid. The IOC also moved up the date to announce the host of the 2026 Winter Games to June 2019 from September 2019.

Bid books are due from those cities in January 2019. An IOC-appointed evaluation commission will travel to the prospective hosts in March and April 2019, and the IOC will announce the host for the 2026 Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland.