Earlier this month, the province announced it would chip in $700 million for Calgary’s efforts to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. Now, the pressure is on to come up with more cash.
A statement released Friday night shows the federal government will commit up to $1.75 billion should the city win its bid to host the Games — but there are a few strings attached. A yes vote will be required in the November plebiscite, and the province and the city will have to cough up matching funds. But in Edmonton on Saturday, Alberta’s finance minister said the number is final.
“We have been clear: our amount is $700 million. We were the first ones to come out with it, and frankly, there is no more money in the cookie jar. We have a number of other priorities we have to address,” Joe Ceci said, citing infrastructure, hospitals and schools.
“We care about being fiscally responsible in this province,” he added.
The city’s contribution is expected to be less than $500 million. The federal announcement would mean coming up with several hundred million more. That is out of the question for some Calgary city councilors.
“In my opinion, not doable whatsoever,” said Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu. “Unless the citizens of Calgary would like to see property tax increases through the roof and service cuts.”
Ward 1 Coun. Ward Sutherland won’t support any deal that is not a good financial decision and he’s frustrated with the lack of firm numbers he’s seen from the city.
“Even if the plebiscite went forward as a yes, if we still don’t get the right deal there’s no way we could support it. It’s what we can afford and what is right to do. And we’re running out of time,” Sutherland said.
“It’s not fair that we don’t have a number,” Sutherland added. “We’re getting close to the plebiscite. It’s not fair for Calgarians. I’m frustrated by that. Many of the councillors are. I think ultimately some kind of decision has to be made this weekend in negotiations.”
Groups opposing the Olympic bid said the federal government money comes with crucial concerns including who will cover cost overruns.
“It was leaked information so I presume it’s not the complete announcement,” said Erin Waite, spokesperson for No Calgary Olympics. “If cost overruns are not in there, city council has committed to not letting cost overruns fall on the shoulders of Calgarians. So right now it is sitting squarely on Calgarians and that’s a no.”
A spokesperson for Yes Calgary 2026 called the federal cash positive news but the group plans to wait for an official announcement before weighing in.
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