2 out of 3 people say 'no' to Yellowknife Canada Winter Games bid

Roughly two out of three people don't think Yellowknife should host the 2023 Canada Winter Games, according to the results of a City of Yellowknife online survey released Thursday.

City of Yellowknife online survey asked residents if they support a bid to host 2023 games

Team Northwest Territories arrives for the closing ceremony at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C. Roughly two out of three people don't think Yellowknife should host the 2023 games, according to the results of a City survey. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Roughly two out of three people don't think Yellowknife should host the 2023 Canada Winter Games, according to the results of a City of Yellowknife online survey released Thursday.

Out of 335 people, 211 answered "No" to the question "Should the city host the Games?" — an opportunity that may not come around again until the year 2049.

A working committee recently estimated it would cost $50.3 million to host the games.

That figure doesn't include the $37.8 million cost of new housing for athletes (with one proposal seeing the financially-challenged N.W.T. government put up 70 per cent of that budget) or the $30 to $40 million needed to build a new pool (a project the City of Yellowknife has already included in its 10-year capital plan).

"In these economic times the risk is too great for the taxpayer of Yellowknife," wrote one survey respondent.

Skeptics cited concerns with everything from the massive need for volunteers — 3,000 locally, plus 500 from outside Yellowknife — to the prospect of increased taxes.

But the city says it's not proposing to raise property taxes to help pay for the games. It is suggesting a three per cent tax on visitors starting in 2017, with half of the proceeds going to the games.

"The pride in the community and the rallying effect of hosting such an event could play a major role in retention and recruitment of N.W.T. residents," wrote one supporter who cast a "Yes" vote.  

"I think it is also important to take into consideration that improved sport facilities will help recruit families to come live and work in the North."

'A choice between great and good enough'

John Stephenson is the president of the Yellowknife Ski Club, which has backed the games. 

"Hosting the games is about a choice between great and good enough; can-do and can't-do; excellence and mediocrity," he said. "The survey is evidence that the lead up to this decision has been missing the important ingredient of leadership to champion the enormous potential and benefits that the games will bring to our community in 2023."

The 2015 Canada Winter Games in B.C. gave that province a $123.4 million economic boost, according to the Canada Games Council.

City councillors are expected to decide once and for all whether Yellowknife will bid to host the 2023 games in a vote by the end of the month.

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