‘Noth­ing to sneeze at’

Province: $700M for 2026 Games Must win plebiscite Trans­parency de­manded

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - Meghan Potkins mpotkins@post­media.com @mpotkins

CAL­GARY — 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.”

Post­media file Photo

The province an­nounced Fri­day it was will­ing to ear­mark $700 mil­lion for Cal­gary to host the 2026 Win­ter Olympic Games — al­though with con­di­tions at­tached.

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