COR­BELLA: WHERE’S THE VI­SION?

Calgary Sun - - FRONT PAGE - lcor­bella@post­media.com @Li­ci­aCor­bella

Where there is no vi­sion, the (Olympics) per­ish. With my apolo­gies for tweak­ing that Old Tes­ta­ment Bi­ble verse from Proverbs, that pretty much sums up what’s hap­pen­ing at Cal­gary City

Hall with its tor­tu­ous process on whether to bid on the 2026 Win­ter Olympics or not.

While there were in­deed plenty of words spo­ken Mon­day about the Olympics at

City Hall — blath­er­ing on about geishas, process, fund­ing, process, death threats, process, pros­ti­tutes, process, plebiscites, process, bid com­mit­tees, process — there were no words I heard about a vi­sion for the Games — what it would do for Cal­gary, its cit­i­zens and our young peo­ple.

Ward 13 Coun. Diane Col­ley-Uquhart came the clos­est with a state­ment she ac­tu­ally typed up and read. “Can coun­cil over­come this fal­ter­ing process over the past eight weeks?” she asked.

“Can we even pro­duce a bid with our part­ners that will en­tice the world to see Cal­gary as we see the fu­ture of our what city could be?” she added.

A scrum out­side coun­cil cham­bers may pro­vide an an­swer to that ques­tion, but take heed: It’s ugly. Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi was asked by yours truly what is the vi­sion for this Olympics, what are we ac­tu­ally bid­ding on?

“Well, the Olympic Win­ter Games have about 16 sports in them, they hap­pen ev­ery four years in the win­ter,” Nen­shi sniped, with a snicker. Can you hear the snark in that com­ment?

I con­tin­ued un­de­terred. Does the bid still in­clude shar­ing the games with Ed­mon­ton and Whistler, as he has pre­vi­ously mused?

“All of that is to be de­cided,” he an­swered.

Well, as a cit­i­zen, I am in favour of con­tin­u­ing down the road of an Olympic bid, but not if it means hold­ing ei­ther Olympic hockey or Olympic skat­ing in Ed­mon­ton as part of His Wor­ship’s grand vi­sion. Cal­gary should ei­ther host these Games and build a new arena (which will have the added ben­e­fit of en­sur­ing the Cal­gary Flames stay in Cal­gary) or stop this id­iocy now.

In short, there’s no one lead­ing the pa­rade. No, scrap that. Nen­shi is sort of lead­ing the pa­rade but he’s just stum­bling about lis­ten­ing to his own voice on a record­ing while wear­ing noise-can­celling head­phones. As a re­sult, the band is out of tune and is march­ing out of step right into a squalid dead-end al­ley.

Lis­ten to this fol­low­ing pearl of no wis­dom from Nen­shi:

“I think it’s ex­tremely im­por­tant that the city re­main neu­tral,” he said. “Only be­cause if the city is run­ning the elec­tion (plebiscite), you have to stay neu­tral. Whether that means in­di­vid­ual politi­cians could take sides or not, that’s yet to be de­ter­mined.”

What a bunch of hooey. So, dur­ing the last mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion, should the mayor have re­mained neu­tral about his own can­di­dacy? Nen­shi’s just mak­ing this up as he goes along. He voted Yes to con­tinue the process Mon­day but one has to wonder why. He has no grand vi­sion for this city, no dream of the beau­ti­ful things we can build and the legacy that will be born of a new Olympic bid.

It’s bru­tally sad. We can’t even get a deal to use the old sci­ence cen­tre for a con­tem­po­rary art gallery under this mayor and coun­cil.

On Mon­day coun­cil voted 9-6 in favour of sup­port­ing “the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a bid by Cal­gary for the 2026 Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games.”

Coun­cil also passed an amend­ment to es­tab­lish a sub­com­mit­tee, made up of the mayor and four coun­cil­lors, which would over­see the Olympic process. The com­mit­tee would be chaired by a coun­cil­lor. Sounds like a recipe for a con­tin­ued gong show, if you ask me. This process should go to a stand-alone bid com­mit­tee made up of peo­ple from ev­ery level of gov­ern­ment and busi­ness, arts and Indige­nous peo­ple.

Nen­shi and coun­cil­lors Shane Keat­ing, Ge­orge Cha­hal, Jeff Dav­i­son, Evan Wool­ley, Gian-Carlo Carra, Ray Jones, Diane Col­ley-Urquhart and Ward Suther­land voted in favour of the mo­tion. Coun­cil­lors Joe Magliocca, Jy­oti Gon­dek, Sean Chu, Druh Far­rell, Jeromy Farkas and Peter De­mong voted against.

Af­ter coun­cil voted, WinS­port’s pres­i­dent and CEO, Barry Heck, left the coun­cil cham­bers re­lieved but frus­trated. Why?

“We’re not hear­ing any vi­sion from in there,” he said.

Com­men­tary about the money that would be spent on Olympic in­fras­truc­ture be­ing bet­ter spent on “more im­por­tant things” is just non­sense, points out Heck, whose or­ga­ni­za­tion, for­merly known as Canada Olympic Park, con­trib­utes $120 mil­lion an­nu­ally to Cal­gary’s GDP and em­ploys some 1,200 peo­ple.

“The fed­eral gov­ern­ment will be a big con­trib­u­tor to­ward build­ing in­fras­truc­ture, so think of this as a one­time op­por­tu­nity for Cal­gary to get a mas­sive infusion of in­fras­truc­ture money,” said Heck.

In other words, it’s an op­por­tu­nity for Cal­gary to get some of our money back from the feds in­stead of it all go­ing to Que­bec and Bom­bardier. Sounds right­eous, doesn’t it?

“So peo­ple who say ‘Let’s spend the money on other things’ should un­der­stand there will be no other money. It won’t hap­pen. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has host­ing strate­gies of ma­jor events — one ev­ery 10 years — or some­thing, but we’re fool­ish to think we can take this $2 bil­lion and spend it on some­thing else, be­cause it won’t be there,” said Heck, who points out WinS­port’s fa­cil­i­ties are 30 years old and need up­grad­ing.

“What will re­main,” he adds, “are the city’s un­funded in­fras­truc­ture needs and the city will have to de­cide, how are we go­ing to fund this?

How are we go­ing to re­cap­i­tal­ize this? How are we go­ing to fix the Olympic Oval? How are we go­ing to build the low-cost hous­ing that will even­tu­ally be used? If we don’t ex­plore this with the im­pe­tus of fed­eral fund­ing in a Games, then we’re on our own.”

Our mayor and coun­cil need a vi­sion of what can be — an LRT line to the air­port, a new hockey arena, half-pipe and other snow-board­ing in­fras­truc­ture, a field house ... When it comes to the Olympic ques­tion about pro­ceed­ing with a bid, the time for sal­va­tion from this end­less lack of vi­sion is now.

We’re not hear­ing any vi­sion from in there.” Barry Heck, Wins­port pres­i­dent/CeO

Li­cia COR­BELLA

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