Plebiscite more use­ful if de­fin­i­tive

Min­is­ter of cul­ture and tourism says clear re­sult makes de­ci­sion eas­ier

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - MEGHAN POTKINS [email protected]

On the heels of a de­ci­sion by city coun­cil to keep Cal­gary ’s Olympic bid process alive, Al­berta’s min­is­ter of cul­ture and tourism says he hopes a Novem­ber plebiscite on whether or not to host the Games will prove de­fin­i­tive.

“I hope that we get a clear de­ci­sion one way or an­other be­cause it would make the fi­nal de­ci­sion a lot eas­ier to make,” Ri­cardo Mi­randa said Wed­nes­day. “Hav­ing said that, we will re­spect what­ever num­bers come out and we will work with those.”

Mi­randa made the com­ments fol­low­ing the re­lease of a host­ing plan by bid cor­po­ra­tion Cal­gary 2026, and a de­ci­sion by coun­cil Tues­day to con­tinue work on an Olympic bid, at least un­til the plebiscite is held Nov. 13.

Though the plebiscite was a re­quire­ment of the prov­ince to sup­port fund­ing for the Cal­gary bid cor­po­ra­tion, Mi­randa would not com­ment on whether a sim­ple ma­jor­ity or some higher thresh­old would be re­quired for the prov­ince’s con­tin­ued sup­port.

“My pref­er­ence would be to see strong sup­port one way or the other be­cause at the very least you’d have a de­fin­i­tive an­swer of what the ma­jor­ity of Cal­gar­i­ans want,” Mi­randa said. “I don’t want to make any state­ment in terms of what I would con­sider the mag­i­cal num­ber be­cause there isn’t one.

“What I re­ally want to see is that the pub­lic is en­gaged. I hope that ev­ery sin­gle Cal­gar­ian takes the op­por­tu­nity and casts a bal­lot. Then, based on the re­sults we get, we will move for­ward.”

While a city-com­mis­sioned poll re­leased last month sug­gested the re­sults of a plebiscite could be close, one of the most im­por­tant as­pects will be voter turnout, said Mount Royal Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Duane Bratt.

“It will carry weight if the re­sult is de­fin­i­tive one way or an­other. If it’s nar­row, or voter turnout is very low, then gov­ern­ments are go­ing to have to make de­ci­sions,” Bratt said, not­ing that Cal­gary has seen low turnout in past mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions. “If there is a low voter turnout, who­ever is on the other side of the is­sue is go­ing to ar­gue it’s in­valid.”

Bratt said the plebiscite still has an ap­peal for politi­cians look­ing for po­lit­i­cal cover.

“But it’s go­ing to be in­ter­preted which­ever way peo­ple want, un­less it’s de­ci­sive,” he said. “Let’s say it’s 25-per-cent turnout with 51 per cent in favour of the Olympics, are you will­ing to bet $3 bil­lion or more on that sort of man­date?”

The city has com­mit­ted to car­ry­ing out a “neu­tral” pub­lic en­gage­ment cam­paign on the bid over the eight weeks un­til the plebiscite, to en­sure cit­i­zens have enough in­for­ma­tion to make a de­ci­sion. But re­gard­less of the out­come, city coun­cil will have fi­nal say on a bid since the plebiscite is non-bind­ing.

Some coun­cil­lors have sug­gested that while they will be pay­ing close at­ten­tion to the plebiscite, they won’t nec­es­sar­ily be guided by the out­come in their ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion.

Coun. Druh Far­rell said the city has com­mit­ted to killing the bid if a deal can’t be struck with the prov­ince and the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee that works for Cal­gary re­gard­less of the re­sult of the plebiscite. But Far­rell added that a nar­row mar­gin in a plebiscite wouldn’t be a sign of a “suc­cess­ful” vote.

“I would hope that the sup­port is more clear than 51-49. I would hope there is over­whelm­ing sup­port or op­po­si­tion,” she said. “If it’s a 50-50, it’s go­ing to be a re­ally in­ter­est­ing dis­cus­sion.”

Coun. Peter De­mong, who has voted with coun­cil’s Olympics skep­tics sev­eral times, has said he will be guided by vot­ers in just his own ward. “I in­tend to lis­ten to the peo­ple of Ward 14,” De­mong said. “I re­al­ize that it’s go­ing to be a city­wide plebiscite, but the city in gen­eral did not elect me.”


Guil­lian Foul­has, left, and Thomas Vincent, who are visit­ing from Paris, check out Olympic dis­plays at WinS­port Wed­nes­day. A plebiscite on whether or not to host the 2026 Games is set for Nov. 13.


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