Calgary

If the province wants a Calgary Olympic bid plebiscite, it should pay: Nenshi

The province has clarified that while it has committed $10 million in funds to Calgary's Olympic bid, any further money that would go toward the cost of hosting the 2026 Olympic Winter Games would be contingent on the city first hosting a plebiscite to suss out public opinion on the issue.

Province said any funding past the already committed $10M would require a plebiscite

A young girl learns to skate on the ice at the 1988 Calgary Olympic Plaza on a warm day in Calgary in 2014. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The province has clarified that while it has committed $10 million in funds to Calgary's Olympic bid, any further money that would go toward the cost of hosting the 2026 Olympic Winter Games would be contingent on the city first holding a plebiscite to suss out public opinion on the issue.

Members of city council have expressed confusion over the bid process, and there has been contradictory information floating around since the provincial and federal governments announced that they would share the $30-million cost of preparing an Olympic bid.

Alberta Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda said the province has been clear from the start that any additional funding would require a plebiscite.

"Not a single dollar will go out in addition to the $10 million if there isn't a plebiscite confirming that Calgarians approve of hosting the Games in 2026," Miranda said. 

The province's plebiscite requirement was also confirmed by the premier's director of communications on Twitter.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was initially informed in a letter that the plebiscite was a condition attached to the bid corporation's funding, not additional money.

"It is still a bit frustrating. This condition was added in by the province and its clear from their own communications that they themselves were not entirely clear on what they wanted," he said.

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart said the province indicated it was told that unnamed city officials had agreed to that condition.

Nenshi said not only has the city not yet agreed to hold a plebiscite, but that if the province wants a public vote, they should pony up the cash for it.

"If that's your condition you should put money on the table," Nenshi said.

Nenshi on plebiscite

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Nenshi on plebiscite 0:30

"I'm not at all opposed to a plebiscite; however, I do think we have to figure out how to pay for it — and the party requesting it should pay for it — that the timing has to make sense, that citizens have enough information to make an informed decision but we haven't wasted a lot of time and money on stuff that would be irrelevant if the plebiscite answer was no."

Coun. Sean Chu, who has spoken out against the Olympic bid and requested a plebiscite on the matter, shared concerns on social media that it now seems a vote against the plebiscite is the easiest way to prevent the bid from going forward.

In March, Calgary's city clerk said it would take six months to organize a non-binding public vote, and that it would cost approximately $2 million.

The $30 million in funds would cover all expenses for a bid until September 2019, when the International Olympic Committee is expected to award the Games. 

Council is set to meet next week on city administration's plan for consulting with Calgarians on a bid.

With files from Scott Dippel, Michelle Bellefontaine

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