City should repay Olympic bid cash
There’s something faintly seedy about this civic grasping for those remaining few crumbs from what was supposed to be a small starter course before a more sumptuous taxpayer-funded feast.
This arises because the Alberta government wants some money returned to its coffers from cash committed for that potential Calgary bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.
But in a sweet slice of irony, the provincial bean-counters in Edmonton are learning the same hard lesson that local ratepayers did long ago: when the City of Calgary gets its sweaty hands on your cash, good luck getting it back.
Apparently, the Alberta government kicked in about $7 million for Calgary’s bid corporation, in addition to the $2 million it came up with to fund the eventual death-knell for the entire boondoggle: November’s citywide plebiscite.
After a majority of Calgarians showed they weren’t infected with the same financial illiteracy and gung-ho gullibility as many of our civic movers and shakers, the whole campaign came to a final, shuddering halt.
So, not unnaturally, the province now expects to get a few bucks back. (Whatever the financial sins of this NDP government, give it credit for demanding to see if Calgarians themselves wanted the Olympics before committing $700 million of taxpayers’ cash.)
Cheryl Oates, spokeswoman for Premier Rachel Notley, said the province agreed to pick up a third of the bid corporation costs, and as that project was subsequently curtailed, it expects a share of whatever’s left in the kitty.
“We hope to receive a partial refund over the next couple of months, and a final payment after the audit is finished in the spring,” she said.
Well, that cheque might get lost in the mail, it seems. That’s if it even reaches a postbox.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said he’ll advocate for the city to retain the provincial and federal contributions to the fund created to pursue the bid.
“That was money for the City of Calgary, for sports work and sports planning, and we should keep it,” he said, after citizens deep-sixed the Olympic bid.
“I will continue to advocate for that. I do not anticipate the bid corporation or the city writing a cheque back to the province and the federal government for a refund.”
Now some naive folk might have thought that, once citizens voted not to proceed with an Olympic bid, then the committee put together for exactly that purpose would have had a final group hug before returning to the real world.
Not so. In the strange universe that goes hand-in-hand with spending other people’s money, the group’s not dead at all. In fact, it’s now busy producing a report on the costs of legacy winter sports infrastructure.
Chief executive Mary Moran said this is so Calgary can “protect its sport-related tourism and its position as winter sport centre of excellence.”
OK, so here’s a question. Isn’t this the very same group that was supposed to have all this pertinent information before they came up with a price tag for hosting the 2026 event? Certainly, that was the impression given before the plebiscite. Yet, they’re still investigating the cost of maintaining those same facilities? So they didn’t really know the costs back in November?
And beyond that rather pertinent issue, there remains the fact this wasn’t their mandate. You strike a committee to investigate one thing, ask other levels of government to help fund it, then when that singular exercise ends, you shouldn’t arrogantly divert remaining funds into another affiliated project.
But here, in this last-gasp grab for a few dollars more of taxpayers’ money, is the final example of why a majority of ordinary Calgarians stuck a spike through the heart of this monster. Please, repay the province — it’s our money too, remember.
When the City of Calgary gets its sweaty hands on your cash, good luck getting it back.