Yellowknife city council to grill Canada Winter Games boosters

The committee of volunteers that said Yellowknife can host the 2023 Canada Winter Games is expected to take questions from councillors today at city hall. CBC North's Guy Quenneville tweeted live from the session.

Councillors expected to be skeptical of multi-million-dollar bid

City councillors will today question a committee that suggested Yellowknife should host the 2023 Canada Winter Games. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

The committee of volunteers that said Yellowknife can host the 2023 Canada Winter Games is expected to take questions from councillors today at city hall.

They'll be facing scrutiny from councillors armed with a number of lingering concerns.

"The fact that there are these major risks that haven't been addressed at this point – it does make the decision more difficult," said Coun. Julian Morse of this month's upcoming vote on whether to host the games.

High on the list of concerns is the lack of certainty over whether the N.W.T. government will provide the majority of funds for an athletes village, estimated to cost $37.8 million. That cost is on top of the games' estimated $50.3 million budget.

"Just not having a commitment, it not currently being in the capital plan – it just seems like a long shot," said Coun. Adrian Bell.

"Why we would be further expected to go down this path, without having those types of assurances -- I don't think that's a reasonable risk to... expect of people."

The minutes of the committee's last meeting, held in December, said "if the city were to make a bid for the games, the housing project would be presented to the new cabinet."

Robert C. McLeod, the minister of Municipal and Community Affairs and a member of the committee, could not be reached for comment on the new, financially-challenged government's outlook on the issue.   

Games' spinoffs unclear

Councillors are also disagreeing with some conclusions of the working committee. For example, the committee has said that if Yellowknife turns down the 2023 games, the city may not be in a position to host the games until 2049.

"That's not actually true," said Morse. "There's several scenarios in which Yellowknife could host the games earlier. If another jurisdiction wanted to trade dates, we could end up with a date that was allotted to a different jurisdiction."

Despite his concern about the two-week event's short-term economic impact on Yellowknife, Morse said he's still keeping an open mind heading into the vote, which needs to happen before the end of this month.

Bell said he'll need some tough convincing.

"It's possible that I could be persuaded to vote for the games if some really compelling information is brought to light," said Bell. "But with any expenditure like this, I start from a position of skepticism.

"I need to be persuaded that it's an incredibly valuable investment and that it's something that Yellowknifers want."

The results of a small City of Yellowknife online poll released last week found that 63 per cent of people don't think Yellowknife should host the games.

"I've received more emails on the Canada Winter Games than I did during the budget deliberations," said Morse. "I'd estimate one in 10, or one in 20, people who've emailed me are for the games."

Councillor Shauna Morgan said she's still sifting through the considerable amount of public feedback.

"Honestly I am finding a lot of good points in the input," she said. "I still have not yet made up my mind."

Today's city hall session with councillors and the committee is open to the public and starts at 12:05 p.m. The vote on whether Yellowknife should bid to host the games has been tentatively set for next Monday.


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