By Matty Hume, November 12 2018 —
Approximately 54,000 Calgarians made their way to advance polling stations on Nov. 6 and 7 to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a plebiscite asking whether or not they think the City of Calgary should bid to host the 2026 Olympic Games.
Calgary 2026, the official Bid Corporation (BidCo) tasked with generating and promoting a bid to host the Games, hopes to put financial concerns at ease leading up to the Nov. 13 plebiscite date. According to BidCo spokesperson James Millar, city council’s Oct. 31 decision to move forward with the public plebiscite — which centres on a new provincial and federal funding agreement — was in the best interest of Calgarian democracy.
“[Oct. 31] was when our board chair Scott Hutchison and CEO Mary Moran were in front of council from probably 9:30 in the morning to about quarter after 5 in the afternoon, so it was a long session,” Millar said. “I think that day was healthy for democracy with a good question and answer session. At the end of the day the vote was positive in the sense that council agreed to allow the public to make a decision.”
Millar echoed Mayor Naheed Nenshi on the positive sentiment surrounding an Olympic bid and the new funding agreement.
“As the mayor has said, ‘This is a great deal for Calgarians.’ Why? Because it involves an investment of $390 million from the City of Calgary,” Millar said. “In return, $4.4 billion is injected into our economy. That’s a 10-to-one return.”
Millar said that positions against Olympic funding, specifically those that argue that government funding commitments should be injected into services without being tied to the Games, do not include all information regarding commitments.
“The federal government’s $1.455 billion is directly tied to a sporting event,” he said. “So if you’re not having the Olympics, Sport Canada is not investing $1.455 billion.”
Further, the argument that cost overruns at past Winter Games are a consistent reality is also simplified, according to Millar. He said cost overruns could be mitigated due to the BidCo’s focus on renovations over building new facilities.
“The difference with Calgary is we’re renovating 11 facilities and we’re building two, potentially one,” he said, referring to a fieldhouse and the possible construction of a mid-sized arena.
Millar said that voters can trust the City of Calgary with an Olympic bid.
“The city is a very good project manager and has not had a project go over budget in the last decade,” Millar said. “The 2026 Games is following a similar model so the public should have confidence that those projects will be managed well.”
The plebiscite takes place Nov. 13 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. across the city. Voting stations can be found on the Vote of the Electors website. Identification is required and may include a driver’s licence, a bank statement or a government benefits document.