City of Whitehorse says yes to bidding for the 2027 Canada Winter Games
The motion passes with one objection at Monday night council meeting
The City of Whitehorse has agreed to support a bid to co-host the Canada Winter Games in 2027.
If the bid is successful, the city will need to enter into an agreement with the Canada Games Council to co-host the Games with the Yukon Government.
The decision to support the bid passed at last night's city council meeting, but it was not unanimous. After a two-hour discussion on the topic, the motion passed with six votes in favour and one against, by Coun. Ted Laking.
Laking's reservations were mostly about finances. More specifically, where the money will be coming from and what it will be used for.
"There's all sorts of numbers flying around here and we are expected to make a big decision in a very short period of time without all the facts in front of us," he said.
City could contribute around $17M
The bid, as presented to council, stated the Yukon Government estimated an appropriate contribution by the city "would be in the neighbourhood of $17 million." The money would be used to hold the games and help contribute to the infrastructure that would go with them, including a new sports complex with two hockey arenas and an athletes' village.
During the meeting, council voted to add an amendment that specifies an initial maximum contribution of $11 million through the city's capital budget process.
However, Coun. Michelle Friesen was still concerned about the potential for a higher financial contribution.
"When the higher costs come, which I think they will because they've been coming on everything that we've been working on, what's stopping our partners from asking for more?" she asked.
Monday's decision gives Mayor Laura Cabott the authority to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to co-host the Games with the territorial government.
According to City Manager Jeff O'Farrell, this is the first-ever bid partnership between the municipality and the territorial government. There have also been conversations with the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Ta'an Kwach'an Council, and the Council of Yukon First Nations, said Megan Cromarty, the territorial government's acting director of sports and recreation.
The draft MOU states that the Yukon Government will assume responsibility for managing any necessary capital projects. At council, delegates of the territorial government also confirmed the Yukon Government will cover unforeseen increases in infrastructure cost.
This eased Coun. Dan Boyd's financial concerns.
"The City of Whitehorse does not bear the risk of these projects and costs changing," he said. "The Yukon government has agreed to do that. If they had not agreed to do that, I would be with my colleague, like, that's a problem."
'A legacy opportunity'
While most councillors expressed at least some concerns around the cost, others think hosting the games is a great opportunity.
Coun. Kirk Cameron said it's a small investment for a long-term gain.
"This is ... a legacy opportunity for the city like none other that we've seen since the last Canada Winter Games," he said.
"To my way of thinking, this elevates the level of status of our community."
Cameron pointed out the long-term benefits of the possible new infrastructure. Yukon University will be the potential site of the Games Village in 2027, as it was two decades earlier when Whitehorse hosted the Canada Winter Games in 2007.
The construction of the new athlete accommodations could then be used post-Games as affordable housing, council noted.
Cabott reiterated that this does not mean the city will stop addressing the housing crisis until then, but instead, that Games infrastructure could be an additional support for the city.
The territorial government already submitted the bid before the official deadline on Sep. 23, 2022.
The Canada Games Council is expected to visit Whitehorse on Oct. 11 to assess the city's infrastructure and potential to host the Games.
If Whitehorse is selected as the host city, city council will then have another vote to establish the specific financial contribution.
The Games Council will announce the successful host in mid-November.
The national sporting event would see athletes compete in 22 winter sports in February 2027.