Calgary City Council Tuesday voted to hold the 2026 Olympic bid plebiscite on November 13, a date considered early enough not to encroach on the holiday season but late enough to allow the BidCo time to negotiate a multiparty agreement between government stakeholders.
The plebiscite, which will cost almost CAD $2 million (USD $1.54 million), is not binding but will likely seal the fate of the potential Olympic bid and Calgary’s attempt to host its second edition of the Games.
The wording of the question was also approved.
Electors will be asked “Are you for or are you against Calgary hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games?”
On the ballot, a voter will mark an ‘X’ beside either “I am for Calgary hosting,” or “I am against Calgary hosting.”
The phrasing of the question, according to the city clerk, was designed to be as neutral as possible and to meet the criteria of offering a choice of either “yes or “no,” or “for” or “against.” The services of an external consultant were used to carefully word the question.
City Councillors also voted to hold a special meeting of council on August 27, a closed meeting for the purpose of discussing and getting updates on the Olympic bid during the Summer recess. The meeting has been arranged so that councilors can prepare for a later September 10 meeting where the potential bid will be debated – and a vote held to determine whether the project moves forward.
If the vote fails, the bid will be canceled.
Also Tuesday, Councillor Sean Chu raised a motion to have Calgary 2026 subject to Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) act. The act could force some of the confidential plans by the bid to be made public, something Chu says will increase the project’s transparency.
A vote sent the motion to the legal department for further review.
The City Solicitor informed that the BidCo is not considered a public body that would normally be covered by FOIP and further, bidding for the Olympics is a competition and certain information needs to be held confidential to maintain a competitive advantage over rival cities.
In order to meet the motion, the provincial legislation would need to be amended.
Councillor Jeromy Farkas maintained that a project of this magnitude needs to be more transparent, and arguments that it can’t be covered by FOIP are merely excuses. He called for Calgary to set an example for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of financial transparency.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi spoke strongly against any changes, maintaining that he believes what others have said, and Calgary 2026 has been “the most transparent bid in Olympic history.”
Earlier in the day, Calgary 2026 appointed its CEO, Mary Moran, who will begin duties August 13 and will work to change the minds of councilors who may be voting against the project in September.