Here's what hosting the Olympics will do to your taxes, according to an economist

While some on the "Yes" side will tell you there are many benefits, the "No" side has outlined a dreary scenario for the city's next generation of taxpayers.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the city might not need to take on debt to pay for the 2026 Winter Games

Calgary will vote on whether or not to host the 2026 Olympics in a plebiscite on November 13. (David Bell/CBC)

If Calgary decides to host the Olympics there's one certainty: barring any cost overruns or changes the city will pitch in $390 million toward hosting the Winter Games in 2026. 

But hosting the games is a bit of a political football. While some on the "Yes" side will tell you there are many social and economic benefits, the "No" side has outlined a dreary scenario for the city's next generation of taxpayers.

On November 7th, CBC hosted a town hall to help citizens decide.

The panel, hosted by the Calgary Eyeopener's David Gray, heard from people on both sides of the bid and took questions from the audience as well as viewers online.

Economist Trevor Tombe was part of that panel and he outlined what the city's Olympic-sized contribution will look like on an average tax bill for the next few decades. 

A recording of the town hall can be viewed below or on CBC Calgary's Facebook page.

Tallying up the numbers so far, here's how much public cash the games will gobble up:

  • Government of Canada, $1.45 billion.
  • Province of Alberta, $700 million.
  • City of Calgary, $390 million, plus $150 million credit for previous financial commitment to improve a downtown district that would be a Games hub.
  • Town of Canmore, $3 million.

Tombe said if the city takes on that Olympic contribution as debt over 20 to 25 years, taxes will have to cover the cost.

"We are looking at somewhere around one to one-and-a-half per cent increase in property taxes which ... for the median residential payer, that's about $25 per year," he said. "Although significantly more for non-residential payers."

If you're curious, Tombe suggested simply looking at your last property tax bill and add one to one-and-a-half per cent to the total. That's a "good ballpark." 

University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

He said the tax estimate could fluctuate depending on future council decisions

Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who was also part of the panel, offered a big "but" for citizens to consider. 

"That's if it all goes on the property tax, " he told the crowd. "What is really critical for us to understand is that we have got different funding sources."

Nenshi said the city already has a number of funds in place, like an infrastructure fund pool and some of cash needed for the Olympics could come from a variety of city sources. Nenshi also said the city is asking the province to put a hotel tax in place, similar to the one implemented in Canmore. 


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