Calgary 2026 Olympic bid still alive after city council vote
Calgary city council has voted against recommendations to stop work on a 2026 Olympic bid.
The decision means Calgarians will head to the polls to vote in the Nov. 13 plebiscite.
Councillor Evan Woolley made recommendations before a committee meeting Tuesday afternoon saying “the clock has run out.” He suggested it wasn’t fair to ask Calgarians to vote in two weeks without a financial agreement in place.
WATCH: Calgary City Council has voted to continue pursuing a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics and hold a plebiscite on Nov. 13. Lauren Pullen reports.
Late Tuesday night, the Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation (BidCo) released a statement saying the federal and provincial governments had signed an agreement to reconsider an Olympic funding proposal which pegs the public funding total at $2.875 billion — down from the previously proposed $3 billion.
In the new proposal, the City of Calgary would contribute $370 million in cash, $150 million in pre-authorized Victoria Park and Stampede access improvements, and an insurance redemption amount of $200 million to cover a “defined contingency.”
The Alberta government maintained its original offer of $700 million.
The federal government would provide $1.423 billion, matching financial commitments to event costs made by the province, the City of Calgary and the Town of Canmore. A letter that BidCo sent to the premier, the feds and to Calgary’s mayor also mentioned $30 million in “leveraging initiatives” that have been identified in the hosting plan.
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Following Wednesday’s vote, Nenshi called the deal “amazing” for Calgary, adding that he voted against reconsidering the bid because he felt Calgarians should be given the opportunity to vote.
“This is an incredibly good deal – after all that sausage making, the sausage that came out of it is amazing,” Nenshi said, referencing the plans to build a new field house and renovate McMahon Stadium.
“We put in $390 million of which $40 million is net new, and in return for that $40 million net new, we get $4 billion of investment in Calgary – that’s 100 times return.”
He went on to take responsibility for the “messy” negotiations that took place in the public arena.
“I’ve always said that we want to be open and we want to be transparent and many people criticize me for that because it makes the sausage in public,” he said. “I think it was the right thing to do.
“Ultimately, this past weekend, that was way too much sausage making. It was super messy. Certainly, there were points where I felt very betrayed by stuff coming out publicly without context. But that said, ultimately I got a look at the deal and I think Calgarians got a look at the deal as well.”
WATCH: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi breaks down the 2026 Olympic funding proposal between the city, province and federal government.
The BidCo — which had criticized city council earlier in the day, saying cancelling the bid would undermine three years of work — said it was pleased to see council forging ahead.
“I think this is onward and upward,” CEO Mary Moran said. “This is a great opportunity for Calgarians and now it’s important for them to get informed and understand that this is a good deal.
“This is $4.4 billion of investment coming into our community that should be taken very seriously, so they should get informed and they should get out to vote.”
The Candian Taxpayers Federation, however, called Wednesday’s vote a “smoke and mirrors show.”
“We don’t even have a real deal between all levels of government, we have a deal to start negotiating a deal,” Alberta CTF director Franco Terrazzano said.
“There is not enough information. We heard today that the full amount of costs will be listed next Tuesday – well that’s when Calgarians are going to be heading to the advanced polls. Many Calgarians have already sent in mail-in ballots and we don’t have all the information on the table.”
WATCH: Calgary Olympic BidCo CEO Mary Moran responds after city council voted to continue the process with a plebiscite on Nov. 13.
Councillor Woolley said in his closing remarks to council it was “interesting” that the new proposal was being called a “good deal.”
“I don’t know many business leaders in this city that would only look at a deal for 12 hours before making a $400-million decision,” he said.
Woolley also suggested all previous public engagement that’s been done on the bid process was based on a funding proposal that is now outdated.
“We do not have an understanding from our city manager, our city solicitor, if this insurance can even work for us,” he said. “We’ve cut 10 per cent off of the budget without seeing a line item of how that’s going to work and we’ve reduced our investments in legacy, particularly important for me.”
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–With files from Global News’ Kaylen Small
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