CANMORE – Things got heated over the weekend between all three levels of government after news broke on Friday (Oct. 26) that the federal government would provide $1.5 billion in 2018 dollars to support Calgary’s 2026 Olympic bid.
The funding amount is in compliance with the federal government’s hosting policy, which states the government will fund between 35 to 50 per cent of the public investment into a mega-sporting event every 10 years.
The catch, however, was in the policy’s requirement to garner matching funds from the other two levels of government, which means the province and municipalities would be on the hook for $1.5 billion as well.
The news did not sit well with Finance Minister Joe Ceci after he announced earlier this month the Government of Alberta would provide $700 million and not a penny more.
In a press conference on Saturday (Oct. 27), Ceci was critical of the federal government’s matching fund requirement given that all levels of government have been negotiating in good faith.
“We have long committed to fiscal responsibility when it comes to potential provincial support for an Olympic bid,” Ceci said. “For the past number of weeks, along with the City of Calgary, we have been negotiating with the federal government in what we thought was in good faith.”
Ceci reiterated that the provincial government has other priorities in its future budgets, along with a plan to return to a balanced budget by 2023.
“There is no more money to dedicate to this … this is not the only priority and we are going to stay firm at $700 million and they can count on that,” he said.
On Saturday (Oct. 27), Postmedia reported on a letter it obtained from Mayor Naheed Nenshi to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that gave the federal government until Monday (Oct. 28) to come to a consensus on the funding formula. That letter has not been made publicly available by the City of Calgary or Postmedia.
Calgary city council’s 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Assessment Committee will meet on Tuesday (Oct. 30) at 1 p.m.
Federal Minster of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan appeared on CBC morning radio to comment on the situation. She said the federal government has been clear it will fund up to 50 per cent of the public contribution to the Games.
“We will match dollar for dollar what the city and province contribute,” Duncan said. “Negotiations are ongoing and I remain optimistic. Calgary hosted a wonderful Games in 1988 and it galvanized the city and galvanized our country.”
Calgary 2026 BidCo CEO Mary Moran was in Canmore Sunday afternoon (Oct. 27) at an information session for the community and was asked about the news over the weekend.
Moran tried to quell the storm around the news since Friday and said as a person with a front row seat to the negotiations between the three levels of government she finds the situation a bit confusing.
“We had a really good conversation with all orders of government on Friday, so we were a bit surprised by the leaked documents as it felt like old information, but I can’t really comment on it because I don’t know who leaked it and why they did it,” she said. “The reality is we have all three parties at the table still having a conversation and we will continue to do that.
“There is no question we are running out of runway here, but all three parties are willing and they are negotiating in good faith so we hope to have an answer in the next couple of days.”