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Nenshi criticizes province, feds over perceived Calgary Olympic bid silence

Premier Rachel Notley said she didn't think it was appropriate for the province to weigh in.
Premier Rachel Notley said she didn't think it was appropriate for the province to weigh in. Adam MacVicar / Global News

The Olympic plebiscite has come and gone with Calgarians voting against moving forward with a bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. And according to Mayor Naheed Nenshi, he still hasn’t heard from either the provincial or federal government since before the Nov. 13 vote.

“It’s a fair question for Calgarians to ask, ‘Where were the other orders of government in all this?’” Nenshi said at a transit event on Thursday.

Nenshi spent the final two weeks before the plebiscite touting the 2026 Olympic bid and the approximately $4 billion a successful Games would bring to the city.

During that same time, neither the provincial nor the federal governments voiced publicly whether they were for or against the Calgary bidding on the games.

READ MORE: Calgary businesses respond to reality of Olympic bid dreams ending

“Whether you’re the provincial or the federal government, you shouldn’t leave your other partner to carry all the water on this,” Nenshi said. “If you’re going to make a $700 million commitment to something, that’s a big, meaningful commitment; you should own it.”

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Premier Rachel Notley defended her government’s handling of the Olympic bid file and why it didn’t weigh in on either side of the debate.

Notley said there were three principles that needed to be met prior to investing $700 million into the potential bid: fiscal prudence, transparency in the process and accountability through a plebiscite.

“We made it very clear that we wanted to hear from the people of Calgary in terms of where they wanted to go with [the bid],” Notley said in Calgary on Thursday. “I don’t think it was appropriate for the Government of Alberta to weigh in from one side or the other, I think it was appropriate for Calgarians to have a robust discussion.”

READ MORE: Canmore mayor let down by vote to end Olympic bid

Notley did acknowledge that while many Calgarians are disappointed in the outcome of the Olympic bid vote, there are other tools to help grow the city.

Meanwhile, Nenshi remains hopeful that some of the $700 million the province committed to the potential bid may still come Calgary’s way.

According to the mayor, Calgary should be the economic engine of the country, and he feels both orders of government should have a strategy to help re-energize the city.

“Given that we won’t be having the Olympic conversation anymore, it’s time to have the Calgary conversation,” he said.

A field house and renewals to Calgary’s Olympic facilities are just some of the projects Nenshi is hopeful will receive support from other levels of government, even without an Olympic bid.

Notley told reporters Thursday that she’s waiting to see what comes forward, but is expecting to have ongoing discussions with the city about funding priorities.

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