Government of Alberta to pledge $700M for potential Calgary Olympic Bid
If Calgary moves forward with a bid to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Government of Alberta says it will give $700 million to help.
The government released its portion of the cost-sharing agreement on Friday, honouring its commitment to release the information within 30 days of the Nov. 13 plebiscite.
In a letter to Mayor Naheed Nenshi, ministers Kristy Duncan and Joe Ceci said the Alberta government would pitch in $700 million.
WATCH: The maximum amount the province will kick in if Calgary goes ahead with a bid for the 2026 Olympic Games is $700 million. As Jill Croteau reports, the money comes with strings attached.
Scroll down to read the letter.
The government said its support is contingent on the result of the plebiscite vote as well as the IOC awarding the Games to the city and the “The Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation and/or any successor corporation or organizing committee being subject to increased transparency requirements.”
WATCH: ‘We believe that is in the best interest’: Joe Ceci on asking for transparent Olympic bid process
“Transparency is an important principle for our government,” the letter reads. “As the Games will cost $3 billion of public funds, we will make a funding requirement that Calgary 2026 become subject to provincial transparency and freedom of information laws, or other equivalent rules or regulations.”
A draft plan for Calgary to potentially host the 2026 Games pegs the cost at $5.2 billion.
It suggests the city, provincial and federal governments should contribute $3 billion of that. The provincial government’s funding announcement falls about $300 million short of what the city was hoping to get.
When asked Friday afternoon about why the investment would be less than what was asked, Ceci said he wouldn’t comment on the original request, but said “$700 million is a significant amount of money” that “gets us a lot of the way there.”
Ceci also defended the government’s position not to guarantee any additional money should overrun costs crop up during the bidding process.
“We want the Games to be on time and on budget and to do really, really well,” he said. “There are two other orders of government and I understand that the IOC is looking at other ways that the Games can be guaranteed… so we’re looking to those other orders of government… to address that.”
Ceci added the $700 million would be a one-time commitment that would be spread out over several fiscal years. He added it was a guaranteed investment that would not change pending the outcome of the 2019 provincial election.
WATCH: Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci says his government is comfortable with providing $700 million for a possible Calgary Olympic bid.
Ceci called on the municipal and federal governments to release the details of their shares of the $3 billion so Calgarians have time to consider all the information before heading to the polls next month.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll get to the end of the road on the other numbers very quickly so that Calgarians can knowledgeably assess everything,” he said.
“A decision to host the Games will impact Calgary for years to come, and there are passionate voices on each side of the issue,” the letter reads. “While the plebiscite may be non-binding from a legal perspective, a positive vote is a requirement for the Government of Alberta’s financial support.”
In a statement, Nenshi and Councillor Evan Wooley — the chair of the city’s Olympic assessment committee — said they were “pleased” the government released its investment plan.
“We have to analyze this announcement while continuing our conversations with the Government of Canada,” they said. “We imagine there will be more to say about the city and federal government contributions in the next few days.”
In an emailed statement, the Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation said the investment “demonstrates solid progress and support.”
“We remain focused on informing and engaging with Calgarians and many others as we answer questions and concerns, and talk about how the community can help us shape the Games together,” BidCo chair Scott Hutcheson said.
The founder of the No Calgary Olympics initiative expressed an opposite view of the money, suggesting the government is sending the message “they don’t want to do this.”
“It’s their responsibility to be a cheerleader for our economy, so they don’t want to say no either,” Daniel Gauld said.
“Their prolonged negotiations, to begin with, signaled they had no interest, and this number seems low. I think this is probably close to being a nail in the coffin [for the bid].”
The federal government has not yet said how much it will contribute to the bid. In a statement from the office of the federal Minister of Science and Sport, a spokesperson said the feds are “aware of the deadlines.”
“Like our provincial and municipal counterparts, we respect that the citizens of Calgary need to be informed before they vote,” Nyree St-Denis said.
“We are working to accommodate the needs of Calgarians before the plebiscite.”
Calgary 2026, the corporation leading bid efforts, has forecast $2.2 billion in direct private sector investment, a $2-billion boost to Alberta’s GDP and $200 million in provincial and municipal tax revenue if the Games were to go ahead.
The plan calls for $400 million to be spent on two new venues — a fieldhouse and mid-sized arena — and $500 million to refurbish old ones that would be included in a bid, many of which date back to when Calgary held the 1988 Winter Games.
Some events would be held west of Calgary in the Rocky Mountain town of Canmore, at the Nakiska ski resort in what is known as Kananaskis Country and as far away as Whistler, B.C.
The plan includes $583 million for temporary accommodations for athletes, media and officials that would be converted into mostly affordable housing in the long term.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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