City councillor Michael Walters thinks Edmonton needs to consider how Calgary hosting a huge event like the Olympics would affect government funding for other municipalities.
“Notwithstanding that I think the Olympics are an exciting event and would actually offer a lot to the city of Calgary and to the province — my concerns are the costs,” Walters said Tuesday.
“When you have an event that relies so heavily on provincial and federal funding from provincial and federal governments that are currently running significant deficits, that’s going to have a pretty negative impact on the amount of money that comes to other municipalities for important infrastructure,” he said.
On Tuesday, Calgarians were voting in a plebiscite on the issue. While the vote is officially non-binding, it will provide Calgary City Council insight on whether citizens support or oppose Calgary hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“Knowing that money is not limitless and knowing that we all have priorities, an event of that scale can eat most of the pie,” Walters said.
The Government of Alberta announced it would provide $700 million towards Calgary hosting the Games if its bid is successful. The federal government would provide $1.423 billion.
Calgary, Stockholm, Sweden and a joint bid from Milan and Cortina d’Amprezzo, Italy, were named by the International Olympic Committee as candidate cities to bid for the 2026 Games.
No matter the result of the plebiscite Tuesday night, Calgary City Council will still have to vote on how it will move forward — whether it continues to pursue a bid or chooses to put an end to the years-long process.
The IOC will select its winning city in June.
Walters says he doesn’t want to encourage an us-versus-them situation but the reality is money is tight.
“We all have ambitions in our municipalities, we all have dreams — some I think are maybe more realistic than others — and those need ongoing support of the federal and provincial governments.
“We all have to be mindful that an event of this scale — with that kind of security bill — potentially makes it challenging to provide sufficient funding to other municipalities in the future,” Walters said.
The revised security budget for a potential 2026 Calgary Olympic Games was pegged at $495 million. According to the 2026 Bid Corporation (BidCo), the RCMP’s national and Alberta headquarters, Calgary Police Service and the Calgary Emergency Management Agency are among the 20 agencies responsible for security.
Walters says he hasn’t heard anything concrete about potential sacrifices Edmonton might have to make if Calgary ends up hosting, but he thinks it’s a crucial question.
“I can’t say that there wouldn’t be any benefit to the city of Edmonton,” he added. “All I’m saying is we should be cautious about what this actually means.”
“An event of the magnitude of the Olympics may in fact jeopardize funding for us in the future. We have to raise that question.”