Calgary City Council voted by a wide margin Monday to hold a city-wide plebiscite later this year to determine if taxpayers want to bid for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games. Additionally, Council voted to approve a public engagement plan.
Councilors also agreed to approve the formation of an oversight committee that will facilitate better engagement between Council members and a potential bid Calgary 2026 bid committee. Councillors Diane Colley-Urquhart, Evan Woolley, Ray Jones and Peter Demong will sit on the subcommittee, along with Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
The details of the plebiscite, including the date and the wording of the question to be asked, will be discussed at meetings of the new committee and should be arranged by June. A window of between October and January 2019 has been identified as the target of the city-wide vote.
Councilors also discussed the possibility of including voters as young as 14 in a modified plebiscite – legally, electors in a plebiscite would be at least 18.
The plebiscite will be a non-binding vote and will only move forward should the Council agree to continue pursuing the Olympics in June, after viewing more detailed Games financials.
Earlier this month the Province of Alberta made its financial funding of the Games contingent on the city holding a plebiscite on the bid, forcing Calgary to seriously consider the vote. Last year, City Council voted against holding a similar plebiscite.
Councillors also voted to have the oversight committee consider holding a public hearing to gather feedback from the constituents about the bid.
Recent polls have shown Calgarians generally support moving forward with a bid. Results released last week indicated 55 percent in Calgary and 64 percent across Alberta support the project.
Last week a fledgling Bid Organizing Committee published a job search listing for the Chair and Chief Executive Officer of a Calgary 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid with a May 30 start date.
Calgary is competing among six other bidders including Erzurum in Turkey, Graz in Austria, Sapporo in Japan, Sion in Switzerland, Stockholm in Sweden and either Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan or Turin in Italy.
Sion is set to face a June 10 binding referendum across the canton of Valais, and may also need to secure further support through a national vote. The KPO party in Austria is two-thirds of the way to collecting 10,000 signatures that could trigger a referendum over the Graz bid.
Supporters in Stockholm and Italy are working on gaining government support for their projects.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will invite qualified cities to bid during an October meeting in Buenos Aires, and the final election will take place September 2019.