Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Wednesday that even with a no vote on the plebiscite, council still has to vote to stop continuing work on the games bid.
“Council will then vote on whether to continue or suspend. So if there’s a no vote, I imagine that council will vote to stop the work,” he said to reporters on Wednesday.
In the event of a yes vote, Nenshi said that’s not necessarily a guarantee a games bid would go ahead, either.
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“If there’s a yes vote, that doesn’t necessarily mean yes at all costs. …It allows the work to continue,” he said. “The council still reserves the right, if there’s not a good deal there or if it doesn’t work for the city of Calgary, to pull out of the process.”
“Assuming all goes well, if the plebiscite passes and council moves forward with the bid, then the bid is due to the IOC in January and the IOC will make their decision in June. Pretty quick progress,” he added.
The idea of a host city pulling out after a plebiscite isn’t new. Sion, Switzerland, voted to pull out earlier this year.
Duane Bratt, a professor of political science at Mount Royal University, said he doubts the city would continue to push for a bid in the wake of a no vote.
“Both the province and the feds have said that their contribution was contingent on a yes vote,” he said.
“So, if there is a no vote, I doubt that the city would pursue unilaterally. It would be on the hook for $3 billion.”
Bratt adds that even if the yes side were to win, an official bid isn’t guaranteed.
“While I think no means no, yes does not mean yes. There is a possibility (because the plebiscite is nonbinding) that a narrow yes with a small turnout could still lead to the cancellation of the bid,” he said.
Jason Ribeiro with the Yes Calgary campaign said his group is focused on its campaign and winning the Games bid in June 2019.
That aside, should the no vote come through, he said his group would respect the will of the people.
“If, on Nov. 13, the answer is no, Yes Calgary 2026 will respect the will of the voters, as the provincial funding offer is contingent on a yes vote. However, it’s not up to us to determine what happens between November and when a bid book is due in January.”
“I will not encourage a city official to pursue this hosting plan if the answer on Nov. 13 is no,” he added. “We respect the democratic process.”
A no vote would be a victory for Erin Waite and her group, No Calgary Olympics. Months of campaigning would have paid off.
“If we won the plebiscite, it would be a victory for Calgarians,” she said. “[It would] signal to me that they did their homework and they saw through the advertising and found real information about the costs and the risks.”
Waite said that should there be pressure to continue with the bid in the event of a no vote, there’s the issue of the province pulling the money.
“The feds, the province, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) … adding all that info up together, I think the council would continue to say no even though there’s pressure to keep going,” she said.
Waite said the benefits of a no vote would be greater support for Canadian athletes, as those resources that would have been spent on hosting could be used to help them abroad at other Games.
“Most of us are happy to cheer on our own athletes,” she said. “I think we can give them better support if we weren’t hosting.”
“We could support them better without the cost,” she added. “Let’s skip that cost and put that money back into our athletes.”
To learn more about how you can cast a vote in the plebiscite on Nov. 13, visit our Calgary Olympic Vote page.
City council will take the plebiscite results and consider whether to move forward with hosting the 2026 Olympics on Nov. 19.
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