As many Calgarians know, City Council has approved a bid exploration for hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics. A short time ago, the International Olympic Committee met with city officials to tour some of the proposed facilities and discuss some general ideas about having the games in Calgary. Last summer, I put forward a Notice of Motion to have a plebiscite so that Calgarians would be able to submit their opinion on the Olympics in an organized and palpable way. Unfortunately, my motion lost. Even so, I still believe it is of the upmost importance for the citizens of Calgary to have their opinions heard on this huge financial decision that will effect generations of Calgarians to come.
That is why I, along with Cllr. Farkas put a Motion Arising in Council today asking my colleagues to once again seek a plebiscite to answer once and for all what Calgarians want to do. That Motion failed 10-3. When I brought my Motion in the Summer, I was told it was too early, and we didn’t have enough information for the public to make an informed choice. I was also attacked for the cost at $390,000.00. Now, with my second attempt, I am told it’s too late, and there still not enough information for the public to make an informed vote. The cost to do it now is $1.96 million.
I wanted this due to the massive costs associated with this sporting event, and its huge ramifications for a Calgary’s direction over the next 30 years. This is not just a sporting event, this will reshape our City’s priorities, our infrastructure needs will change, and how we are financing all of it still has not been answered. I heard from many of you that you want a say in this, because of these above issues. Other cities across Europe have had vote on this very issue. Vancouver residents had a plebiscite, but Calgarians are being told no, that we just are not informed well enough to have this. So, instead, we are full speed ahead, on a race track, running out of asphalt and without a map!
I have been criticized today on a few things. One of which is that by asking for a plebiscite I am negating my responsibility as an elected official. However, I am not, in fact I am doing what every politician on such a massive choice should do, ask the voters. It is your money, with huge consequences if we get this wrong. Every politician in every City that has done a vote on the Olympics, is not negating their responsibility but are doing their due diligence! It is your money.
I have also been criticized on how this plebiscite would work. I believe if other cities can do it so can we. It is clear that only City of Calgary Electors should vote, 18 years of age and older. And, the question asked is already available to us when Vancouver residents were asked:
Do you support or do you oppose the City of Vancouver’s participation in hosting the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games?
Their choices were:
Yes, I support the City of Vancouver’s participation.
No, I oppose the City of Vancouver’s participation.
It is a non-biased question, and is straight forward. The public can look at the facts presented to them and make a choice. It is not that hard. I am sure if Vancouver can do it, so can Calgarians. In fact, I am sure that if Elections Calgary, can work with the City to find a date, and locations for the vote, this matter can be handled quickly. If we wanted to give Calgarians a voice, we can find a way.
I urge anybody with opinions on the Olympics or Olympic bid process to contact their Ward office or talk to their other elected officials. The more feedback we receive from the communities we represent the better we can convey their message to other members of Council.
My motion failed, and instead Council has asked administration to share engagement plans for Calgarians on this important issue. Thank you to my Ward 2, and Ward 11 colleagues who supported me in trying to give you a vote on this massive decision.
Calgary City Council voted to support the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee with an initial $5 Million in the summer of 2017, and an additional $2 Million in November 2017. Both times, I have been opposed to contributing your taxpayer dollars when the CBEC has come to council. I have done this because the City of Calgary has much larger and more important priorities than spending an exorbitant amount of taxpayer money on a legacy project. Another reason that I have opposed is because the inconsistency displayed by the IOC in their requirements and budget estimates. I also voted no because it is far more important to improve facilities and infrastructure in and around Calgary before Olympic Bid’s enter the conversation. Nothing about anything that has happened since the initial quantitative survey was completed has made me feel any different about Calgary’s ability to feasibly and prudently host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games. With new information that has been available, I have more questions about how and why Council, The CBEC, and the citizens of the Calgary area believe it is a good use of time, money, and resources to move forward with this project.
Questions We Need to Ask
As citizens of Calgary, these are the questions I believe need to be asked when confronting the Idea of Olympics in light of recent discussions and conclusions made by parties involved.
- In the beginning of this process, the demands by the IOC for venues, capacities, and logistics for hosting the games were much different than the compromises they have made now. The IOC has said they want to start enabling past hosts to reuse old facilities, but why was that not the narrative from the beginning? It has been noted that the IOC would be open to using venues in Edmonton and BC in the games, but what is the contribution from those areas to mitigate the huge financial burden on Calgarians?
- Recent discussions about having Olympic events in other areas of Alberta or in neighboring provinces raises a whole new issue of financial responsibility. How do we proportionally distribute the costs of the games and how do we proportionally realize the revenue from them? Is it possible to navigate this in a way that all parties are not only equal but satisfied with the results?
- Budget estimates for the Olympics have never been very good at accounting for the entire costs of an Olympics. Although Calgary does have some potential resources that could cut some costs, there are other issues that could prove to be largely underestimated in the budget. For example, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver cost 1 Billion for security and over 2.5 Billion for transportation enhancements. Vancouver is a city that has much more established transportation than Calgary, seeing as we do not even have LRT to our airport.
- The amount of infrastructure around Calgary is inadequate to support the periodic increase of population that an Olympic Games would bring. There are major issues especially with housing and transportation involving the games. In order to alleviate some of these issues, the IOC proposed hosting events in other cities. This creates even more of a budget issue because of the increased cost and time of travel.
- Transportation infrastructure is one of the most concerning factors when analyzing the prudence and feasibility of an Olympics here in Calgary. We do not have the type of roadways or transit to facilitate the transportation needs of the people that would come to our city. First of all, there is no transit from the airport to the downtown core. Secondly, there is no transit other than charter busses that go to the mountains. Third, the sheer amount of transportation required would create major delays for both those involved and not involved in the games.
- The IOC funding model is such that it would remove one of the largest sources of revenue from the games. The media and advertising revenues from the games are all for the IOC, which makes host cities reliable on less consistent revenues to budget with. This creates an even larger amount of uncertainty and risk when assessing the estimated budget.
- Those who are the main engines behind this Olympic bid, what are their motives? Is this really being promoted because it will provide economic stimulus and increased competencies for the City of Calgary? I believe that this project is a potential legacy builder being sold as snake oil. Do you believe it is worth Billions for certain individuals to bask in the limelight and cut a ribbon?
How You Can Be Heard
One thing that makes me very upset about this process has been the amount or lack thereof invested in public engagement. In May 2017, the CBEC released the summary of their Public Engagement Survey. As I looked through the information, I was surprised not only by the results but mostly by the sample size. CBEC only interviewed 1223 Calgarians in this study, this is not enough. I find it very interesting that Council is willing to invest 7 Million into the CBEC but unwilling to invest a fraction of that to better organize and record public opinions. The best possible way to voice an opinion or create a discussion about this issue is to contact your local MLA or Councillor.
While Council has already voted 8-6 to continue for further funding of the exploratory bid, this is not the final say, and we will need you to contact your Councillor to let them know where you stand – yes or no, just make your voice heard! The more feedback that the residents and communities of Calgary provide, the more informed each Councillors decisions will be. If you would like to learn more about the Olympic Bid Process or the current status of Calgary’s Bid, please visit the labelled links below.
2026 Olympic Bid Info
Public Engagement Survey May 2017
CBEC Reccomendations July 2017
Olympic Bid Update November 2017