City should have control of Olympic bid exploration, Calgary councillors say
Worried about ending up on the 'sidelines,' some wary of 50-50 partnership with Tourism Calgary
Worried about handing over too much money and authority too quickly, city councillors stopped short Monday of taking a proposed next step in Calgary's potential Olympic bid.
Council voted to put off a decision on a funding arrangement that would have seen a 50-50 partnership between the city and Tourism Calgary.
Several councillors said the city, itself, should have a controlling interest in the non-profit corporation being created with up to $5 million in civic funds to explore the viability of bidding on the 2026 Winter Games.
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"I don't want to see the position of the city be on the sidelines," said Coun. Richard Pootmans
"Since the beginning, the city's role, I think, has been minimized and I don't like to see that further enshrined in what we're doing today."
The city has already named a 17-member committee, chaired by former police chief Rick Hanson, to look into the viability of an Olympic bid.
At issue now is the exact mandate and governance structure of a non-profit company that will carry out the work.
"I certainly believe we need a stronger governance position," said Pootmans, who called for the city to have a 51-per-cent stake, which he said would ensure accountability for taxpayers and have the added benefit of making decisions easier than in an equally split partnership with Tourism Calgary.
Coun. Evan Woolley agreed, saying there are a lot of "great people" on the committee but the city needs to maintain an active role as the viability of an Olympic bid is explored.
"This obviously has really, really big implications for us as a city," Woolley said.
"We have to be walked along throughout this process."
Short time frames
Kurt Hanson, the city's general manger of community services, said the he appreciated councillors' concerns and noted the proposed corporate structure was put together quickly, given how rapidly things have developed since council took the first step in June toward exploring an Olympic bid.
That said, he also told councillors the non-profit corporation would need to be granted the mandate — and agility — to act quickly in order provide a meaningful interim report by January 2017 and a final report in July 2017.
"If we want to get this done, we're going to have to be able to give them the wheels to do it," Hanson said.
Council voted to put off deciding on the corporate structure until it receives more "rationale" for the proposed 50-50 split as well as "potential alternative structures that would secure a controlling interest for the City of Calgary."
City staff are to report back by Oct. 3.