TAX­PAY­ERS DE­SERVE OLYMPIC BID FACTS ASAP

Calgary Herald - - EDITORIAL -

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.

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