Vancouver's participation in 2026 World Cup bid thrown into doubt
B.C. government says it's "exploring the opportunities and the risks," but bid deadline is this week
The Canadian government announced its support Tuesday for the North American bid for the 2026 World Cup, but it's unknown whether Vancouver will be a part of it.
"It's a great opportunity, as we know. But it also comes with potential risks, so we're looking at those risks and going to make a decision that's in the best interest of B.C. taxpayers," said Lisa Beare, minister of tourism, arts and culture.
The provincial government owns B.C. Place, the only site in Vancouver where potential World Cup games could be played.
The official deadline for the 2026 World Cup bid — jointly submitted by Canada, the United States and Mexico — is March 16, and Vancouver was short-listed as a host city last year, along with Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal.
FIFA will choose between the North American bid and Morocco this June. It's expected Canada would host 10 games, likely at two cities, if the bid was successful.
But B.C. Liberal MLA Jas Johal alleged in question period that an internal deadline to be part of the bid passed on Monday — something which Beare would neither confirm or deny.
"We're still in contact with the bid committee," she said.
"B.C. residents loves soccer, as do we at the province. This is of course something fans would be looking forward to, but we have to take a look at all the opportunities surrounding it and all the risks surrounding it."
Horgan: draft bid rejected
A spokesperson for Soccer Canada couldn't say whether B.C. had missed any internal deadline. They said the final list of potential host cities would be made public on Friday, when the final bid is submitted to FIFA
However, Premier John Horgan said the province's draft submission was rejected last week.
"It didn't meet their expectations, but I have a higher obligation than just being a soccer fan. I have a higher obligation than just wanting to see World Cup soccer in Vancouver. I have to make sure that taxpayers aren't on the hook for unknown costs at the whim of FIFA. I'm not prepared to sign off on that," he said.
Johal criticized the government for the uncertainty so close to the deadline.
"There's been many months, even years put into this proposal, and at the last second to pull out ... the government shouldn't have done that," he said.
But Horgan said the responsibility was on higher bodies to ensure that B.C. wouldn't be on the hook if the budget expanded.
"I think they have to be responsible as well, and understand that as much as we'd love to see world-class soccer come to B.C., it's not at any cost."
The City of Vancouver signed off on being part of the bid in January. In a statement, Mayor Gregor Robertson said "we've done our part to sign on to the bid and are hopeful the provincial and federal governments can find an arrangement to support the bid going forward."