Calgary Olympic bid report recommends release of funds in anticipation of support

City council voted Monday to fast track discussion of report into the city’s potential 2026 Winter Olympic bid after an incorrect version was released Friday.

City still hasn't secured funding from provincial and federal governments

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says Calgarians will get the information they need around any proposed bid. (CBC)

City council will talk Tuesday about the next steps needed for a possible Olympic bid — including putting in more money and forming a bid corporation (BidCo).

Both moves are contingent on the federal and provincial governments agreeing to share the expected $30 million cost of a bid.

Commitments haven't yet been received from the other orders of government, but a report to council says the city should be ready once that happens.

The report recommends releasing the remaining $1 million of a $2 million fund earmarked in November from the city's Fiscal Stability Reserve.

The report also calls for a "robust public engagement plan" to be presented to council at the April 7 meeting along with a proposed reporting structure from the BidCo to council.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says Calgarians will get the information they need around any proposed bid. 

"It has to be actually based on, this is how much the feds are going to give the city, this is how much the province is going to give the city, this is how much the IOC is going to give the city, this is what the city is in for, and this is what we think the benefit will be," he said.

Posted to the city's website late Monday afternoon, the report says the city is still working to secure bid financing from the federal and provincial governments. 

The BidCo will be made up of members from the city, province, and federal governments, along with the Town of Canmore and the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

"It is imperative to note that funding and incorporating a BidCo does not necessarily mean Calgary will formally bid for the 2026 OPWG but is a necessary step should the three orders of government and stakeholders decide to bid," reads the report.  

The cost of a bid is pegged at $30 million, with $10.5 million of that to come from the feds, $10 million from the province and $9.5 million from the city.

Council was scheduled to discuss the report during a strategic meeting on Wednesday but opted to move that to Monday's regular meeting. However, they won't get to that item on the agenda until Tuesday due to time constraints. 

Wrong report posted

An incorrect version of the report — which said the city had in fact secured funding from the provincial and federal governments and a bid committee should be formed — was posted to the city's website on Friday, but was removed a day later.

Coun. Jyoti Gondek said mistakes like releasing the wrong report can erode the public's trust in the process and more should be done to ensure transparency.

"That's why I'm saying, let's revisit the process, let's make sure we're giving support to the people working on this file," she said.

"Let's make sure we're not burning them out. Mistakes are happening."

Coun. Druh Farrell took to social media on Saturday to question whether the release of the wrong report was actually accidental.

On Monday, she apologized for the online outburst.

"In hindsight, I regret implying that and I don't believe that, I believe it was accidental," she said. "Whether or not I agree with it, and whether I'm still angry about that is another question, but I wanted to apologize for implying that that was released intentionally."

Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda said Monday the province continues to have talks with the city and the feds since a fact-finding delegation attended the Pyeongchang Games, and that no decisions have been made.

"The conversations that have evolved since then is whether we will put a bid together, which is not whether we will get an Olympics in Calgary. It is a discussion about the bid itself and the different organizations that would be put together, for example, a bid committee.

"Albertans expect us to have a very prudent discussion about how we spend that money and so, we're doing our due diligence. Part of that was going to the observer program and part of that is the ongoing discussions we've had with the city and the federal government."

Plebiscite question

Coun. Jeromy Farkas contends the public engagement piece was only added as a way to stop a plebiscite.

"It just seems like now more than ever we're barrelling down toward a pre-determined outcome and really getting railroaded down this path and I have to take exception with the fact that some members of council are being given more information, or less, than others," he said.

Whether there's enough time for a plebiscite on Calgary's bid depends on who you ask.

Farrell told reporters on Monday that city councillors  were informed over the weekend there won't be enough time to hold a public vote on the matter.

But minutes later, Nenshi insisted there actually is.

"The timing is very tight because you need… four to six months to really set up a plebiscite properly, which means honestly, the earliest we could do it would be around early October, and the latest we could do it would be around early October, because after that, you get into the IOC's decision-making process," he said.

"I think there are probably better ways of public engagement than that."

With files from Scott Dippel