The never-ending saga of the Calgary 2026 Winter Olympic bid came to a screeching halt on Tuesday night. Voters cast their ballots in a non-binding plebiscite and voted to halt the bidding process.
Unofficial #yycvote results for Vote 2018:
304,774 Ballots Cast
132,832 FOR Calgary hosting (43.6%)
171,750 AGAINST Calgary hosting (56.4%)
— City of Calgary (@cityofcalgary) November 14, 2018
It’s worth noting that the “No” tabulation is the third-most votes for any candidate/stance in a municipal election over the past decade, trailing behind mayor Naheed Nenshi’s re-elections in 2013 and 2017. It wasn’t a win by a nose, it was fairly definitive.
The plebiscite was held as a condition of the provincial government’s $700 million commitment to the potential bid. (The federal government also tied their contribution to a “Yes” vote.) Now that the results are in, Calgary City Council will vote on the future of the bid. Unless they have a ton of cash burning a hole in their pocket – and they don’t – they’ll vote to formally exit the bidding process. Considering a majority of council voted to end the bidding process a few weeks ago (they needed a super-majority to end it) – before the provincial money disappeared due to the voting results – it’s a virtual certainty that the bid will die in short order. The vote on the bid’s future is expected to hit Monday’s council meeting.
Does this impact the path forward in the arena negotiations? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that the Olympics could’ve provided some funding that would’ve helped offset the City’s financial investment in the arena and the proposed cultural and entertainment district in East Victoria Park. No, in the sense that the City and the Flames both have needs in the negotiations that are completely independent of the Olympic bidding process and they don’t necessarily need a cash injection of outside money to get a deal done.
That said, several individuals on Calgary City Council have spent a lot of time, energy and political clout on a bid that died on the vine. For a group that just took a big, public L, getting shovels in the ground on a new arena in the near future – with a deal that works for the Calgary taxpayer – could be seen as a very big political win.