From the beginning I have tried to ensure Calgarians get the facts, and have their voices heard, about the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic bid. During the 2017 Civic election, in order to minimize cost and enhance process efficiency, I tried to have a plebiscite added to the ballot. I believed that the $390,000 cost to add this to the ballot, with the simple question, modeled after Vancouver’s 2003 vote on the same issue would once and for all give a clear direction to what Calgarians want. The question was:
Do you support or do you oppose the City of Calgary’s participation in hosting the 2026 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games?
___ YES, I support the City of Calgary’s participation.
___ NO, I oppose the City of Calgary’s participation.
I was frustrated that some on Council said that by doing a plebiscite was ignoring our duty as elected officials to vote yes or no, as if we are the only ones allowed to have a say, and that the timeframe for one was too early. This is not a vote on overpass, or a pilot project – this is a vote on whether Calgarians, and indeed Canadians should spend Billions on a 1-month sporting event. The Vancouver 2008 Games was over $8B, London 2012 was over $12B, South Korea 2018 was $12B – and Tokyo 2020 is already at $20B, does anyone seriously believe that Calgary can do this for $4.6B? This number does not include a new arena, or an LRT connection to the Airport.
I also disagree with the premise that Calgarians do not need a vote on whether we want to continue a bid for the Olympics, when the majority of cities who have shown interest in hosting the Games have done so also. Switzerland voted no a few weeks ago, Boston voted no last year, and Budapest ended its 2024 bid when 250,000 residents signed a petition calling for a referendum. So why not Calgary?
This straight forward question, would give City Council, the Provincial and Federal Governments the clear direction on whether Calgarians, and not interest groups, want to continue seeking the 2026 Winter Olympics. However, council voted 13 to 2 against this initiative, saying that it was too early, and too expensive.
Then, again, this spring, along with Councillor Farkas and Councillor Magliocca, we tried to pass a Motion Arising in Council, asking our colleagues one more time to provide Calgarians with a plebiscite to find out whether they want to bid for the 2026 Olympics or not. That Motion failed 10-3. This time, the argument was that there was not enough time. The Province came in shortly after, and made it clear that for their share of funding for an Olympic bid, rests on a plebiscite. Now at a cost of $2.1 million, the target for the vote is November 2018.
Now, as we continue to explore a 2026 bid, and spend a lot of money in the process, with the addition of another $5.1 million last week, I am wanting to ensure this process remains as open to public scrutiny as possible. Taxpayers deserve transparency and accountability when it comes to the expenditure of public funds. That is why I am bringing forward a Notice of Motion on July 30th asking for ways to make sure this bid process, and those tasked with running it, are working in the best interests of Calgarians.
However, unfortunately, the tools we have available for this are limited. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act is an important piece of legislation that allows journalists, taxpayer watchdog groups and the general public to hold government bodies accountable. But, due to composition, the Olympic Bidco will not be subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Technically, even though the Olympic Bidco is being used, and funded, by a government body, it is not itself a government body so it does not fall under the purview of this vital legislation that ensures transparency.
That is why, again with the support of Councillor Magliocca and Councillor Farkas, I am asking Council to direct administration to explore the options available to ensure all government spending related to exploring, pursuing, and hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games be subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. And, that the options, which may include, but not limited to, making Olympic Bidco a City of Calgary entity and/or approaching the Federal and Provincial governments to table legislation requiring Olympic Bidco to be covered through the Act. I am also asking that when administration does this work that all options are listed in terms of feasibility and cost.
I keep hearing from my constituents that the 2026 Olympic Bid is not a good fit for Calgary. So I want to do my part to ensure we know just how right they are.