Kenney wants ‘hard numbers’ on potential Olympic bid
UCP leader skeptical about estimates, worries about adding to Alberta’s red ink
United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney urged Olympic proponents to “treat Calgarians like grown-ups” when it comes to transparency surrounding a potential 2026 bid, calling himself skeptical of the idea without further information on costs.
“It would be a great moment of civic boosterism. The question is, ‘can we afford it?’ I still don’t know,” Kenney said Tuesday following a lunchtime speaking engagement put on by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m the leader of the Opposition and nobody has sent me anything resembling a cost estimate of how much this would cost taxpayers. I would think that if the proponents are serious about this, including the mayor of Calgary, maybe they could actually present some hard numbers so that Albertans can make an assessment.”
Calgarians will have the opportunity to vote in a Nov. 13 plebiscite on whether to proceed with a bid for the Games.
But key details about a cost-sharing agreement to fund the Games remain uncertain. The provincial NDP government has promised to release its commitment to the Olympic tab at least 30 days before the plebiscite, but the federal government has so far been mum on the details of its contribution.
“I’m not going to tell people how to vote in the plebiscite one way or another, but I, for one, am undecided right now. I’d love to see the Olympics but I don’t know if we can afford it with our huge debt and deficit right now,” Kenney said.
“We’re broke. We’re hearing now the provincial share would be at least $1 billion. I share the skepticism of many people about these kinds of initial estimates on major projects like Olympics always being very conservative. I suspect the number will grow and grow and grow from there.”
During the event at a downtown Calgary hotel, Kenney invited chamber members and the public to help inform the UCP’s platform by submitting their input in the months to come.
He positioned himself as a champion of Alberta’s energy sector and said it’s time for the province to “move from being on the defence, from being apologetic about our largest industry.”
“I would implement what I call a fight-back strategy,” said Kenney, adding that Alberta faces a “campaign of defamation” when it comes to public discourse surrounding the oil and gas industry.
If elected, he said his government would be “aggressive” in its campaign to stand up for workers in the energy sector.
“We’ll begin with establishing a well-resourced war room in the Ministry of Energy to respond in real time to every lie and myth told about our energy industry here in Canada or around the world. We’ll set up satellite offices if necessary to do so,” he said.
Kenney said he intends to release a costed vision of the party platform before next year’s election. He said the UCP’s “basic commitments,” should it get elected, include calling a summer session “that begins the work of undoing so many of the policies that have done damage to investor confidence.”
He reiterated that repealing the provincial carbon tax implemented by the NDP would be one of his first acts as premier.
“It is our view that this tax is all economic pain and no environmental gain,” Kenney said.
“It punishes people for — not doing something that’s a vice — driving people to work, living normal lives, running small businesses.”
I’d love to see the Olympics but I don’t know if we can afford it with our huge debt and deficit right now.