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Calgary's 2026 Winter Games bid by the numbers: How the proposal adds up

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: Calgary's proposed Olympic budget; Orange County's new political landscape; Jean Chrétien's career reflections; voter-suppression in Georgia midterms; babies born hooked on opioids.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Fans cheer and wave flags as the Canadian delegation parades during the opening ceremony of the Calgary Winter Olympic Games in February of 1988. The group behind a bid for the Winter Games in 2026 pegs the cost at $5.23 billion — about a tenth of what the Russians are believed to have spent on Sochi. (File/AFP/Getty Images)

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  • Calgary has delivered a substantially slimmed-down budget for Calgary's proposed 2026 Winter Games bid, compared with the cost of other recent Games.
  • The changing political landscape of California's Orange County is a sign of what's been happening in affluent, educated communities across the U.S.
  • In Georgia, voter suppression is a big issue in the run-up to the U.S. midterms.
  • The night before Halloween, there were no ghouls or goblins, but more than a few ghosts of politics past at the Toronto launch party for Jean Chrétien's new memoir.
  • When a baby is born dependent on drugs, there are a lot of potential issues for everyone involved.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

Higher, faster, cheaper?

There's no such thing as a small Olympics.

There was a time, back when the Winter Games were held in sleepy resort towns like Lake Placid, N.Y., that you could make such an argument — but even in 1980 there were almost 1,100 athletes from 37 nations competing in 38 events.

By the time Calgary had its turn in 1988, there were 1,423 competitors from 57 nations and 46 medal events.

Vancouver 2010 attracted 2,566 athletes from 82 countries and boasted 86 events.

The Pyeongchang Games last winter were even more sprawling, with 92 nations and 2,922 Olympians competing in 102 events across 15 disciplines.

The Calgary proposal for a 2026 Winter Games bid includes refurbishing some of the venues from the 1988 Winter Olympics. (CBC)

And that's before one factors in the coaches, officials, journalists, police and workforce — tens of thousands more people — who need transport, places to eat, and often beds to sleep in.

It is therefore understandable that there is some skepticism about the budget for Calgary's proposed 2026 Winter Games bid.

At $5.23 billion — about a tenth of what the Russians are believed to have spent on Sochi — it's already a stripped-down Olympics, refurbishing and reusing most of the 1988 venues instead of building new ones.

Under a new cost-sharing agreement that Ottawa and Alberta struck last night, the bill for taxpayers is predicted to be $3 billion:

  • $1.423 billion coming from the feds
  • $700 million from the province
  • Calgary's kick-in is envisioned at $390 million (plus a healthy share of $150 million in "improvements" to some of the Olympic sites)

Calgary's city council will vote on whether it's willing to go ahead with the bid on that basis later today. And a non-binding plebiscite for Calgary residents is scheduled for Nov. 13.

Here's the rub: the original budget for Calgary 2026 called for $610 million in security costs. Vancouver ended up spending between $900 million and $1 billion on protection in 2010 — more than five times what was initially estimated.

In an interview last week, Calgary bid CEO Mary Moran told the National Today that the underlying assumption is that the 2026 Games will prove cheaper to police due to a "very integrated approach" and the city's more compact geography.

Calgary Winter Games bid CEO Mary Moran says security for the 2026 Games would be substantially cheaper than the Vancouver games, which had a bill for protection services in the range of $1 billion. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

But last night's agreement trims another $200 million off those already-reduced costs, with less spent on salaries and accommodations.

So now a two-week long Olympics, with venues in Calgary, Canmore, and some alpine events in Whistler, B.C., will have estimated security costs of roughly $400 million — almost exactly what Ottawa spent protecting foreign leaders and dignitaries at the 28-hour G7 Summit in remote, sparsely populated La Malbaie, Que., last June.

Then there's the issue of cost overruns.

The new deal will see Calgary pay a $20 million premium for an insurance policy that will cover up to $200 million in unforeseen expenses. After that, it's not clear exactly who will be on the hook.

It's something worth keeping in mind, since this 2016 University of Oxford study found that every single Olympics — summer and winter — since 1968 came in over budget, often costing more than twice as much as expected.

And it's also worth noting that the current Calgary bid doesn't include a new, NHL-sized rink for the Calgary Flames — a matter of great civic debate over the past few years. The last project on the table called for a $450 million taxpayer contribution to a sports cluster that would include a 25,000-seat football stadium and a field house.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi isn't happy about the projected cost of a new rink for the Flames and potentially the Games. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Mayor Naheed Nenshi thinks that's way too much, but earlier this month city council voted 13-to-1 to restart arena talks with the club.

There's no debate that the public gets something in return for hosting an Olympics. Vancouver 2010 saw the construction of a new SkyTrain line, and the twinning of the Sea to Sky highway up to Whistler.

And of course, all Canadians got to revel in a 26-medal performance, including 14 golds.

But as always, the real question is the price.

The midterm battle for California

The remarkable political shift in California's Orange County is similar to a trend being seen in affluent neighbourhoods across the U.S. in recent years, Los Angeles bureau reporter Kim Brunhuber writes.

From within the basket of the Orange County Great Park Balloon, Lauren Younce searches for her house. She's from nearby Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., and has voted Republican all her life. But she acknowledges that the electoral landscape beneath her has changed.

"There's always concern with change," Younce says.

Especially when that change could end up reshaping the country's political balance.

The Orange County Great Park Balloon is a tethered ride that offers a spectacular view of California's 'The OC.' The region's political landscape, once a Republican stronghold, has been undergoing notable changes in recent years. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

In order to win the seats needed to control the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats are counting on flipping seven Republican districts in California that all voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Four of those seats are in staunchly conservative Orange County.

"There's more money being spent in a small geographic area than any other place in the country, and it's a knife fight in each of these campaigns," says Jim Brulte, chairman of the California Republican Party.

"Orange County is a transitioning county. This is not the Orange County that elected Ronald Reagan."

Orange County was once the bedrock of California conservatives like Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the popular image of "the OC" as an affluent conservative community is shifting, in part because of the region's growing population of Latinos and Asians.

Now, more than half of the county's population is non-white. And in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton actually beat Donald Trump in Orange County, the first time a Democrat has won here since the Great Depression.

It's a sign of what's happening at a national level. Across the country, for more than a decade, Republicans having been slowly losing ground in well-educated and relatively affluent suburban areas.

The popular image of 'The OC,' seen from the basket of the Orange County Great Park Balloon, is of an affluent and conservative community. But the population is slowly becoming more diverse - as is its politics. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

That's welcome news for Yesenia Astorga, the other passenger aboard the balloon with me floating over Orange County.

Astorga only moved to the area five years ago, and for her, change is hope.

"I think it's great," Astorga says. "I think it should be changing a little bit more."

Even so, with the midterms just around the corner, Republicans like Younce still have plenty of hope. After all, Younce and her neighbours have elected a Republican to Congress ever since the 45th District was created.

But if Democrats do win here on Nov. 6, she refuses to even contemplate what that might mean for the nation.

"Things go through changes all the time. They're going to go up and they're going to go down," Younce chuckles, "just like the balloon."

  • WATCH: Kim Brunhuber's story on California's changing political landscape tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

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    Voter suppression in Georgia

    New York bureau reporter Steven D'Souza travelled to Georgia to take a closer look at allegations of voter suppression in the run-up to the U.S. midterms.

    In a powder blue suit and standing well over six feet tall, 83-year-old Lou McClendon stood out amongst the college students at Valdosta State University waiting in the setting Georgia sun for a Stacey Abrams rally last week.

    Abrams is running for Governor in a hotly contested race, and voter suppression is a major issue.

    Lou McClendon at an Oct. 24 rally for Stacey Abrams, the Democrat candidate for governor of Georgia. He is outraged by voter suppression in the state: 'I think it is disgusting.' (Steven D'Souza/CBC)

    For the older folks in line like McClendon, who lived through the civil rights movement — and in his case, served in Vietnam — the issue brings up painful and conflicting feelings about duty and service to one's country.

    A lecturer and public speaker, McClendon spoke not in sound bites but as if delivering a sermon on Sunday. In a slow and deliberate cadence, he talked to me about the echoes of past injustice he hears in today's debate about voter suppression.

    "I think it is disgusting, I think there must be a better way," he said.

    "It's a strange thing, they don't have any problems calling minorities when there's gunfighting and we have to go into a foreign country and maybe even lay our life on the line in a foreign country. But now when you come back, they say 'You did all you can do, boy, go on back in the dog house'. That is horrible. And it not only says something about the country, it says something about the leadership."

    McClendon told me that while America has come a long way since the civil rights movement, the country can't rest on its laurels and must be constantly moving forward. He says the effort to suppress the vote in Georgia is a step in the opposite direction.

    Supporters of Stacey Abrams, the Democrat candidate for governor of Georgia, rally at Valdosta State University on Oct. 24. (Steven D'Souza/CBC)

    "I think our parents would not believe the luxury that we are currently living in. At the same time, I owe it to my children and my grandchildren and the little kid in the street that I don't even know,  I owe it to them to have conditions right for them so that he or she can step on my shoulders and go a little further."

    He added that anything less than that is a failure, and said efforts should be made to ensure voting is easier, not harder.

    "For him to get as far as I have gotten, I would consider that a failure. Because we have the tools. We have given him the tools. We have learned through trial and error that there is a better way."

    • WATCH: Steven D'Souza's story on voter suppression in Georgia tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

    Babies and opioids

    When a baby is born dependent on drugs, there are a lot of potential issues for everyone involved, reporter Kas Roussy writes.

    It's not often that news reporters have the luxury of following a person's story over the course of several months. But a news release from the Canadian Paediatric Society back in January seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do just that.

    It announced new recommendations for hospitals caring for babies born exposed to opioids.

    We've given the opioid crisis a lot of coverage, but often overlooked are the youngest and most vulnerable victims — the babies who go through withdrawal symptoms after being exposed to their mother's drug use while still in the womb.

    The Canadian Institute for Health Information statistics for 2016-17 show that 1,850 babies were born addicted to drugs in Canada, a condition called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

    Christina is a 29-year-old Hamilton woman who'd given up using oxycontin, percocet and crystal meth, and was on a methadone maintenance program to treat her addiction. I first met her in January at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton about a week after she'd given birth to Kobie.

    Kobie Casey was born exposed to his mother's methadone. He was weaned off in hospital with tiny amounts of morphine. (Kas Roussy/CBC)

    Kobie had started displaying withdrawal symptoms by day three of his life.

    The focus of our news story was the program at the hospital that encourages mom and baby to room together. In our first interview Christina seemed subdued, telling us she felt guilty that her newborn was going through this because of her past dependence.

    We visited again with mother and son two months later in March, for Kobie's first medical checkup at the hospital. Babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome can start showing signs of development delays. So when doctors said Kobie was doing well, it was hard not to notice the relief on Christina's face.

    Christina Casey with her son Kobie, who doctors say was doing well nine months after being born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. (Kas Roussy/CBC)

    Our last visit was just a few weeks ago, in early October. The pumpkins were already displayed in the front yard of Christina's new apartment in Hamilton, and Kobie was in an upstairs room waking up from a nap. In the final interview, Christina was chatty, happy, positive and excited for whatever comes next for Kobie.

    We had followed her for the first nine months of Kobie's life and it was telling to see the changes in Christina's personality and demeanor, and in Kobie himself — something we don't always get to see in daily news coverage.

    • WATCH: Kas Roussy's story about Kobie and Christina tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

    Spectres of politics past

    The night before Halloween there were no ghouls or goblins, but more than a few ghosts of politics past.

    The Toronto launch party for Jean Chrétien's new memoir had been going for about half an hour before the guest of honour showed up at Bay Street's Ben McNally Books. But the former prime minister made short work of the crowd, greeting each guest and shaking every hand in the store in under five minutes.

    His speech was short, just a couple of self-deprecating anecdotes.

    One centered on his reluctance to write his first book, the 1985 best-seller Straight From the Heart, and how it disappeared when the publisher wrote him a nice cheque.

    The other began with a jibe at Conrad Black's Lordly pretensions and finished with Chrétien's hopes for this new trip down memory lane, My Stories, My Times — that readers will fall asleep with a smile on their faces.

    Then he quickly got down to the business of signing copies.

    Former prime minister Jean Chrétien signs copies of his book, 'My Stories, My Times,' at an event in Toronto on Oct. 30, 2018. (Jonathon Gatehouse/CBC)

    The old hands standing in the wings were asked for their best tales about the Little Guy from Shawinigan.

    Bruce Hartley, a former executive assistant who still helps Chrétien with the media 15 years on, recalled a trip to the UN General Assembly in September 1995. Ottawa called to let him know that there was something that the prime minister had to read immediately, and Hartley set off in search of a fax machine. It turned out to be the latest poll on the Quebec referendum.

    The prime minister took one look at the "No" side's sorry numbers and announced that Canada's delegation was returning home right that minute. He then spent the next six weeks fighting tooth-and-nail for what turned out to be a razor-thin victory.

    Peter Donolo, Chrétien's former director of communications, remembered being inside the study at 24 Sussex Drive the morning after the prime minister reached out and throttled a protestor who got in his face at a Flag Day event. Mrs. Chrétien was livid at her husband, convinced that he would have to resign. The boss wanted to know what the press was saying.

    Donolo had a quickie poll that the Toronto Star had done, which showed something like 85 per cent of respondents approved of the political violence, but he was reluctant to share it. "I'm not going to tell you because you'll just go out and slug somebody else," he told the prime minister.

    Chrétien addresses well-wishers at a reception in Ottawa on Oct. 25 celebrating 25 years since he was elected in his first term as prime minister. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

    Charlie Angelakos is still scarred by an early adventure as Chrétien's advance man. On July 1, 1998, there was a ceremony honouring Wilfrid Laurier and the prime minister had agreed to speak. But when they arrived, they found that organizers had failed to live up to their promise to fill all the seats, and the assembled media got plenty of images of Chrétien talking at empty chairs. In the limo on the way back to Parliament Hill it was made clear that the prime minister had noticed. "These are the little things that sometimes preoccupy me," he said.

    Angelakos also shared a happier memory about taking Chrétien to lunch at a downtown Toronto dive bar a few years after he had left office. The crowd was lined up three deep around the table as they munched on their burgers, and the ex-PM spent three hours chatting, posing for pictures, and even pulled some pints behind the bar. "Not bad, eh?," he said as they finally worked their way free of the crowd.

    A few feet away at last night's launch, Chrétien was busily signing books, an hour after he started. And the lineup still stretched down the aisle.

    A few words on ... 

    Why Pittsburgh has no time for politics.

    Quote of the moment

    "Migration is not and cannot become a human right. It cannot be that someone receives a right to migration because of the climate or poverty."

    - Heinz-Christian Strache, Austria's Vice-Chancellor and leader of the far-right Freedom party, on his country's decision to follow the United States and Hungary in backing out of a non-binding UN pact on migration.

    Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache. (Michael Gruber/Getty Images)

    What The National is reading

    • Canadian expected to be on first manned Soyuz mission since rocket failure (CBC)
    • EU prepares for no-deal Brexit as talks falter (Guardian)
    • Former GG Adrienne Clarkson still bills $100K a year in expenses (National Post)
    • Florida pipe bomb suspect searched targets, photos online: prosecutors (CBC)
    • Thousands of Venezuelans head to Peru to beat residency deadline (Reuters)
    • Pakistan Supreme Court overturns Christian's blasphemy death sentence (CNN)
    • Can artificial intelligence help stop religious violence? (BBC)
    • Oprah Winfrey to hit the campaign trail in Georgia (Washington Post)

    Today in history

    Oct. 31, 1995: Jacques Parizeau - How I became a separatist

    One day after a narrow defeat in Quebec's second sovereignty referendum — and his infamous "money and the ethnic vote" concession speech — Jacques Parizeau resigns as Premier and leader of the Parti-Québécois. This Terence McKenna profile captures the complexity of the fusty, Anglophile technocrat who found himself trying to lead a modern generation of sovereigntists to their promised land. He cheerfully admits to not having the charisma or charm of René Lévesque, and the reasons he gives for wanting an independent Quebec are more logical than passionate. But his dancing did have some echoes of Zorba the Greek.

    Jacques Parizeau: how I became a separatist

    27 years ago
    Duration 7:43
    In 1995 the controversial former Quebec premier looks back at the day he decided to be a separatist.

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    Jonathon Gatehouse

    CBC Investigative Journalist

    Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.