Canmore’s Olympic public hearing going ahead tonight

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Breakdown between City of Calgary, province of Alberta and federal government on funding could kill bid tomorrow

CANMORE – Canmore town council intends to move forward with a public hearing tonight (Oct. 30) at 5 p.m. at the Civic Centre even though it appears the City of Calgary is poised to kill the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bid.

Chief Administrative Officer Lisa de Soto said the municipality intends to continue as planned with the non-statutory public hearing.

“Currently we are proceeding as planned,” de Soto said. “We have had an agenda review and we will proceed with the public hearing.”

While de Soto sits on the BidCo board of directors, she said Canmore has not been involved directly with the funding negotiations between the city, province and federal governments.

“My understanding is negotiations are happening at the highest levels of government,” she said. “Canmore is not part of that because we are not a funding partner for the $3 billion.”

The breakdown in discussions between the three orders of government became apparent on Friday (Oct. 26) when the federal government announced it would fund $1.5 billion, or $1.75 billion in 2026 dollars, for the mega-sporting event on the condition the province and city would match those dollars 50/50. The province of Alberta previously announced it would fund $700 million, leaving the City of Calgary on the hook for $800 million.

Federal and provincial funding would be contingent upon a positive outcome of a plebiscite for Calgary citizens on Nov. 13.

Calgary council’s Olympic bid assessment committee meets today at 9:30 a.m. and a recommendation is expected to cancel the bid process and plebiscite. City council meets on Wednesday (Oct. 31) and would then be expected to vote officially to kill the bid.

Mayor John Borrowman said while it is disappointing to be at point in the conversation where it appears that Calgary council will abandon the effort to hold a plebiscite to determine if the bid should move forward.

“I am feeling a deflated and disappointed if the bid discussion ends this way, however the Town will continue to work on livability, issues of sustainability and economic diversification in a fiscally responsible manner,” Borrowman said. “We have been working on those issues for a long time before the Olympic bid, but this was an opportunity to move those issues forward more quickly.”

The total cost to run the Olympic events for 50 days in 2026 was estimated at $2.45 billion with operational revenue expected to total $2.23 billion. BidCo CEO Mary Moran said the three orders of government would also contribute $220 million to the Paralympic Games operations.

The total cost for the capital plan to hold the Games was estimated at $3 billion and would come from the three levels of government. The federal government’s policy for funding sporting events indicates it could contribute 35 to 50 per cent of the total costs in a 50/50 matching formula with the other levels of government.

That $3 billion breaks down to $1.6 billion for development, including $116 million for an athletes village in Canmore, $910 million for essential services and security, $120 million in unrestricted Games contingency funds, $180 million legacy fund and the $220 million for the Paralympics.

The bid’s strength, according to BidCo officials, is the fact that 85 per cent of the venues already exist and would only require upgrades for 2026.

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Tanya Foubert

Tanya Foubert has been a news reporter at the Rocky Mountain Outlook since 2006, with a brief foray as editor of a weekly newspaper in Whistler in 2012. She won national and provincial news-writing awards for her coverage of the 2013 flood in Canmore.