Darrell Davis: Congratulations for nixing Olympics, Calgary

Darrell Davis: Congratulations for nixing Olympics, Calgary
Olympic proponents dont expect to see another Calgary bid for 2030
CANMORE – Canmore and Banffs quest to gain resort municipality status from the provincial government to help pay for critical infrastructure and services may have suffered a major blow after Calgarians voted no to pursue the 2026 Winter Olympics on Tuesday night (Nov. 13).

When the unofficial results were tallied 171,170 people voted no, taking 56.4 per cent of the final vote, while 132,832 people voted in favour of the bid. A total of 304,774 ballots were cast.

It effectively put an end to the bid for the 2026 Winter and Paralympic Games for Calgary and Canmore.

As part of the bid, the Town of Canmores Chief Administrative Officer Lisa de Soto was trying to negotiate resort municipality status for Canmore similar to what was done for Whistler in advance of the 2010 Vancouver Games.

She said Canmore wanted a two per cent additional levy on hotel rooms in the community to fund essential services and infrastructure needed to host the Olympics.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci was in the Bow Valley on Friday (Nov. 9) consulting with communities on the upcoming 2019 provincial budget.

Most of the No people cited higher taxes, a poor economy, and a reluctance to risk what the Olympic context would be in 2026. In essence, their no to the Olympics was a yes for getting the economy moving. Here is the irony. Getting the economy going is all about taking and managing risk — just as a winning yes vote would have been.

Asked about resort municipality status for Canmore and Banff, Ceci said both Mayor John Borrowman and Karen Sorensen have been really good advocates.

Both mayors have put their oar in the water around that and we are really focused on seeing how Calgary goes on the Olympic plebiscite next week, so it may be premature to make promises around anything, Ceci said. But we are always open to listening and understanding how mountain communities, or resort communities, or tourism communities can sustain themselves, though we are not prepared to make those decisions at this point in time.

Calgary taxpayers at all levels were being asked to commit to a multibillion dollar venture with no assurance of the final cost. Common business due diligence applied to the IOC would not justify such a sizable commitment so far into the future.

That being said, Ceci made it clear that his government is not interested in establishing any new taxes at this time – effectively ending the conversation on the additional two per cent hotel tax.

Our task now is to get past the disappointment on the Yes side and learn the lessons of the No vote. What I’m concerned about is that the “no” energy will prevail and affect other decisions.

I certainly was open to listening to people, he said. I shared with all the folks I heard from that at this point in time we are not thinking about new taxes.

It is hard to imagine common sense taking over from governments and the IOC with its insatiable appetite for taxpayers money, but this is the new reality.

That money used to be funnelled to Travel Alberta, the provincial destination marketing organization, to support its efforts to drive visitation with a target of reaching $10 billion in visitor spending by 2020.

However, the Outlook learned that in 2015 the NDP government eliminated that funding connection, and instead the hotel levy now goes directly into the bank account of the province.

Minister of Tourism Ricardo Miranda confirmed the change at the Travel Alberta conference in Banff in October.

We must come together, refocus and keep going. We must shift our focus and positive energy to other game-changers.

That was changed in 2015 and again it is not necessarily a correlation of how much the tourism levy is allocated to Travel Alberta, when you look at all the other things we do to help support the tourism industry … we are actually trying to resolve that larger provincial impact, Miranda said.

The Olympic cauldron lit up at the Olympic Oval in Calgary on Tuesday Nov. 13, 2018. DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

Asked about resort municipality status, Miranda was also hesitant to the idea of creating an additional tax.

Now more than ever, the IOC and involved countries have to come to their senses and realize that in this new world of terrorism and extremists, the cost of security is driving the engine of the Olympics. The time has come when the IOC must make the decision to work with the rest of the world and pick two countries to host the Winter and Summer Olympics on a continuous basis. By doing this, the IOC can build an infrastructure of game sites, residences, media access and a security force that would be the best in the world. With this all in place, the countries that are involved in the Olympics would then pay the cost of upkeep of these facilities on a per capita basis, bringing an end to taxpayers being saddled with cost overruns, security bills that are skyrocketing and endless pain for the population once the Games have left town.  

That is another option that has been explored, he said. What we are looking at is a combined approach and vision going forward that doesnt tax for the sake of taxing, but actually understands where the money would go and be utilized.

Asked if a portion of the already established hotel tax could fund resort municipalities, Ceci said he is open to listening to the needs of the community and that kind of feedback can be brought back to cabinet.

Do not close the Gord Edgar Downie Pier at night. Lifeguards on summer weekends would help with safety. More security during the school year, provided by Queens University, is a good idea.

Canmore, Banff and Jasper have been pushing for resort municipality status for years as a way to support the additional infrastructure and services needed to support their tourism-based communities.

I know it is hard to imagine common sense taking over from governments and the IOC, which has an insatiable appetite for taxpayer money, but really this is a new reality.

The three towns have even quantified how much more their taxpayers spend on tourism-based infrastructure and services than other communities in the province for successive ministers in cabinet.

The fact that municipalities can only generate revenue through property taxes and fees means property owners in each community are subsidizing the local tourism-based economy, while provincial and federal levels of government take 97 per cent of the revenues generated by visitor spending.

Even as Canmore council debated supporting the Olympic bid, Coun. Joanna McCallum put forward several unsuccessful motions that made it clear local politicians want resort municipality status now, with or without the Olympic Games.

This was one of the reasons we went down this road to consider the Olympics – the ability to leverage this tool, McCallum said. This is the end goal in my mind.

Tanya Foubert has been a news reporter at the Rocky Mountain Outlook since 2006, with a brief foray as editor of a weekly newspaper in Whistler in 2012. She won national and provincial news-writing awards for her coverage of the 2013 flood in Canmore.

Alberta culture and tourism minister Ricardo Miranda said Calgarians know about the success of the 88 games

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – The Alberta government won’t commit any money to a Calgary Olympic bid after the no side prevailed in Tuesday’s plebiscite.

Alberta culture and tourism minister Ricardo Miranda said Calgarians know about the great success of the 1988 games, but this is a different world.

“Based on the unofficial results for this, I do not believe that the test for community support has been met, our government respects the decision made by a majority of Calgarians,” said Miranda.

The results on the plebiscite won’t be declared official until Friday and council is expected to address the results on Monday.

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