NDP’S 2026 OFFER LESS THAN EXPECTED
Province won’t give additional funds to cover shortfalls, cost overruns
The Alberta government has pledged $700 million toward the cost of Calgary hosting the 2026 Winter Games — short of the $1 billion hoped for by the city.
Calgary 2026’s current plan pegs the total public investment required to host the Games at $3 billion.
Previous cost projections have suggested the provincial contribution needed to be closer to $1 billion to meet the costs outlined in the draft host plan presented last month.
Finance Minister Joe Ceci said some conditions need to be met for provincial funding to go to the Games.
The province’s money is contingent upon Calgarians voting in favour of hosting the Olympics in the Nov. 13 plebiscite. At a press conference Friday, Ceci clarified the province is looking for a simple majority — 50 per cent plus one.
He also fended off questions about whether the provincial funding amount is an impediment to Calgary’s bid proceeding.
“It was a number we felt comfortable putting in, relative to the situation we’re in at the provincial government level,” he said.
“I would say that $700 million is not anything to sneeze at. It is first out of the gate. We’re committing to that amount of money, we’re hopeful that the other orders of government will assess that and see the relative value of that contribution.”
In an open letter to the City of Calgary and the Government of Canada, Ceci laid out some other conditions of the province’s support.
The province won’t provide additional funds to cover revenue shortfalls or cost overruns, Ceci wrote. He also said the province isn’t willing to provide any form of financial guarantee to backstop Games-related costs, as B.C. did for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
Ceci’s letter also touched on one of the more contentious criticisms made of Calgary’s bid to date.
The province says it will require Calgary 2026 become subject to provincial transparency and freedom of information laws, “or other equivalent rules or regulations.”
“This is not an unsubstantial amount of money and Albertans should know where it goes and how it is dealt with,” Ceci said Friday.
With the province’s financial commitment made public, all eyes now turn to the city and the federal government.
While Ottawa’s financial commitment has not yet been announced, its policy on hosting international sporting events is that it will cover as much as 50 per cent of the public portion of the bill.
The City of Calgary’s contribution has not yet been made public.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi and council’s Olympic committee chair Evan Woolley issued a joint statement Friday in response to the province’s financial contribution.
“We’re pleased that the Province has come forward with their investment. We have to analyze this announcement, while continuing our conversations with the Government of Canada,” the statement read.
“We imagine there will be more to say about The City and Federal government contributions in the next few days.”
Calgary 2026 chair Scott Hutcheson issued a statement Friday expressing gratitude.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates solid progress and support from the Government of Alberta and we are thankful for that,” Hutcheson said.
“We are also pleased our other government partners — the City of Calgary and the Federal Government — continue to move forward with their discussions and negotiations. We will continue to offer out support, where needed.”
Bid proponents say they’re frustrated by the uncertainty created by the various governments in announcing their contributions separately.
“Not having all three levels of government on the same day was relatively frustrating, but getting a step towards having a resolution is really good — the province came in, that’s good,” said Yes campaigner Stephen Carter.
City councillors were notified only Friday morning of the province’s number, not long before Ceci’s announcement went out.
Coun. Jyoti Gondek, who has so far been on the fence when it comes to a bid, said she’s been frustrated before by a lack of communication from other governments on the Olympic file. She also called the province’s decision to refuse responsibility for any cost overruns “disappointing.”
“They’re asking us to shoulder the burden of the risk so it doesn’t feel like a partnership to me,” Gondek said Friday. “It doesn’t look like there’s any appetite to work with us if there’s any overages, so that’s a little disappointing.”
One person who was feeling quite cheerful about the news Friday was Coun. Sean Chu.
One of the staunchest opponents of the bid on council, Chu had previously introduced motions seeking a plebiscite on the Olympics and to make the bid corporation subject to freedom of information laws.
Each time his council colleagues shot down his proposals. But Friday’s announcement saw the provincial government embracing both ideas.
“That’s called real transparency. I’ve been asking for that,” Chu said.
“I was laughed at, I was belittled. Now, thank goodness — I can’t believe I’m saying this, but thank you to the NDP.”
“You’ve got to give credit where credit’s due.”
Finance Minister Joe Ceci says Alberta will require Calgary 2026 to become subject to provincial transparency and freedom of information laws. “I would say that $700 million is not anything to sneeze at,” he said.