Calgary

Calgary Olympic bid exploration committee hires lobbyist

A city councillor is raising concerns after learning that the city's Olympic bid exploration committee has hired a lobbying firm to work the corridors of power in Ottawa and Edmonton. The Calgary Bid Exploration Committee (CBEC) is examining whether the city should compete to host the 2026 winter Olympic and Paralympic games.

Councillor questions need for registered lobbyist, even if company is only offering insights

Coun. Druh Farrell is questioning the wisdom of spending $40,000 on a lobbyist for Calgary's Olympic Bid Exploration Committee. (CBC/AFP/Getty Images)

A Calgary city councillor is raising concerns after learning that the city's Olympic bid exploration committee has hired a lobbying firm to work the corridors of power in Ottawa and Edmonton. The Calgary Bid Exploration Committee (CBEC) is examining whether the city should compete to host the 2026 winter Olympic and Paralympic games.

Council gave $5 million to CBEC last year to do the work. The committee is scheduled to file its final report to city council in July.

CBEC tells CBC News it retained Global Public Affairs in April to help it understand government processes should a bid proceed.

Coun. Druh Farrell — who voted against funding an exploration committee — expressed surprise that CBEC had hired a lobbying firm.

"It would be my expectation​ that when we had a better idea of the details around a potential bid, the mayor and his chief of staff and perhaps the city manager would go around and talk to other orders of government," said Farrell.

As well, she said the bid exploration committee could tap into the city's intergovernmental affairs department if it had questions about how the federal or provincial governments operate or how they might handle requests about financial support should the city actually put in a bid.

"I didn't anticipate lobbying would be included in the $5 million," said Farrell.

Company registered to lobby

Global Public Affairs (GPA) has filed information with both the federal and the provincial lobbyist registries.

In its federal registration, GPA stated it is seeking the "views of the government of Canada as it relates to support for a potential bid by the City of Calgary" to host the Olympics.

The registration also states the lobbyist has arranged or intends to arrange meetings on behalf of its client with MPs, senators, as well as the prime minister's office and the departments of Finance and Canadian Heritage.

GPA's provincial lobbyist registration states it is seeking the views of the Rachel Notley government "as it relates to support, financial or otherwise, for a potential Olympic bid in Calgary that would inform" CBEC's recommendations to city council.

The registration states GPA will be arranging meetings and communicating with government on the matter.

Committee: Firm isn't lobbying

Sean Beardow, who speaks for the bid exploration committee, said there is no active lobbying going on.

"Ultimately, what we're trying to do with the assistance of Global Public Affairs, is better understand what information different levels of government would require and we'd need to know, once we've come forward with a recommendation," said Beardow.

"I do want to be very clear that the Calgary Bid Exploration Committee is not lobbying any level of government for funding or for formal support."

Beardow said GPA won the committee contract through a competitive bid process and he expects the full value of the contract will come in under $40,000 by the time the work finishes in July.

When asked why the committee decided to retain an outside contractor instead of relying on the intergovernmental expertise of the City of Calgary, Beardow said that CBEC operates as an arms-length organization. 

Top officials in Ottawa this week

The chair of CBEC's board, Rick Hanson, and general manager Brian Hahn have been in Ottawa the past couple of days. They were there to meet with federal sport minister Carla Qualtrough.

Beardow said GPA also helped them secure a meeting with an assistant deputy minister in the federal department of finance as well as with two Conservative MPs from the Calgary area.

If city council votes to go ahead with an Olympic bid, the Canadian Olympic Committee must submit Calgary's intention to the International Olympic Committee by September. 

The IOC is expected to announce in 2019 where the winter Olympic/Paralympic games will be held in 2026.

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