TAXPAYERS DESERVE OLYMPIC BID FACTS ASAP
Say what you will about the recent citysponsored poll of Calgarians on their level of support for bidding on the 2026 Winter Olympics, it did confirm once again that the most important issue for all taxpayers is financial. How many billions of dollars will the Games cost, and who will pay for it?
Whether you’re for it or against it, the bottom line is about the bottom line. Among the 33 per cent opposed to a bid, 73 per cent cited cost or taxes as their reason. For the 13 per cent who are undecided, 25 per cent say they want a “clear outline” of the cost of the bid and 24 per cent say they want a “clear outline” of the cost of hosting before they can make up their minds.
Even among the 53 per cent already in favour of the bid, the top reasons for their support are money: benefit to the economy (39 per cent), increase in tourism (31 per cent) and the opportunity to reinvigorate Calgary (23 per cent).
Yet, we were told this week that a crucial element for figuring out answers to some of those questions won’t be known when councillors vote on Sept. 10 to give the thumbs up or down to continue investigating a potential bid. By that date, we’ll get capital budgets, operating costs, venue proposals and research on the economic benefits of the Olympics — all very important.
However, we won’t have details of a costsharing deal among all levels of government. We won’t know how much the Alberta and federal governments will contribute, and how much the City of Calgary will have to pay, and therefore how much individual taxpayers will have to pay.
We won’t know how much ... individual taxpayers will have to pay.
This is unsettling. The lack of concrete information and full transparency is an issue that continues to frustrate many Calgarians.
Mary Moran, newly installed as CEO of the Calgary 2026 bid corporation, told councillors that “significant progress” was being made with the other governments.
“I’m really comfortable and confident with how negotiations, (and) most importantly, the collaboration that’s going on with all of the partners,” she said. “I think that we’ll be in good shape for Sept. 10 to give an indication of where we are.”
With all due respect to Moran, taxpayers won’t be happy with an “indication.” They won’t be satisfied until they have all the hard numbers to evaluate the proposal ahead of the fast approaching Nov. 13 plebiscite.
At first glance, one would think the age-old one-third, one-third and one-third deal would be quick to execute. But clearly, there are complexities and possible complications — and politics, especially if the Games are split among Edmonton and B.C. venues.
It appears the province is most responsible for dragging out the deal. According to the press secretary for Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda, the Notley government is still weighing the economic benefits against the potential financial hit.
With Alberta billions in debt and an election looming, there is much to ponder behind closed doors. The NDP is sensitive to how financing the games will play out in Calgary and across the province. It was the NDP who insisted on a plebiscite before freeing up cash for a bid.
Whatever they decide, the province insists all will be revealed at least 30 days before the plebiscite.
Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.