Calgary is asking the federal government to provide some of the funds it had committed to a 2026 Winter Olympic/Paralympic bid even though the city abandoned plans to compete for the Games.
City politicians say they still need a portion of the $1.45-billion Ottawa would have spent helping upgrade Calgary’s aging sports facilities, building new housing and other projects in preparation for the Olympics. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday to discuss the city’s position.
Both the federal and provincial governments said their combined $2.1-billion in promised funding for the city was tied to holding the Games, which the city decided not to bid for after voters rejected the proposal last week.
Mr. Trudeau, who spoke to Calgary business leaders at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, was asked if he would allow the city to use some of the Olympic money but said only that he was looking forward to “sitting down with [the mayor’s] priorities and listening to them.”
Councillor Druh Farrell insisted this wasn’t “a shot in the dark” but rather the city’s duty to explore all options and what’s best for its citizens.
“We heard an announcement today for affordable housing, Ms. Farrell said, referring to a middle-class Calgary housing unit being built with $31-million from the National Housing Strategy. “We anticipated that the federal government would support affordable housing with or without the Olympics and this proves that they’re continuing with that commitment.”
On Monday, after council chose to end its Olympic pursuit, Mr. Nenshi suggested Calgary should be allowed to keep much of the $20.5-million promised by the provincial and federal governments to cover the cost of bidding for the Games.
Council went a step further and voted in favour of Mr. Nenshi asking the two higher levels of government to still commit much of the $2.1-billion that was earmarked for Calgary to stage the Olympics.
“Do our government partners agree with the desperate need to work on these facilities, most of which they built, and rejuvenate them? I think they do,” Mr. Nenshi told reporters. “But I think we’ve got to figure out a plan that makes sense for them and for us, understanding that we have no choice but to do this stuff."
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said earlier this week that the province’s promised funding was only for the Olympics and the city will have to go through the usual process for their other projects.
Ms. Farrell agreed the city would have to follow the proper application procedures for assistance, which could mean starting from scratch.
“We need to do our homework. The [Light Rail Transit] Green Line is a perfect example,” she said. “We put together a proposal that hit on so many common goals – affordability, accessibility and green environmental goals – that they joined in us in supporting a significant investment in our community.”