It’s Canada day here at Field of Schemes — no, not Canada Day, that was months ago, and we even missed Canadian Thanksgiving, but anyway — as in addition to the news from Halifax, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has threatened to withdraw his city’s bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics if the federal government doesn’t promise to cover more of the bill:
The letter was triggered by Friday’s Postmedia revelation that the federal cabinet had decided to fund up to $1.75 billion in 2026 dollars, but only if the province and city match the total.
“It is clear there has been a tremendous misunderstanding of the nature of the required funding amongst the three government partners and now we are in a position where we cannot show citizens how the required public contribution could be met,” Nenshi wrote.
Calgary and Alberta officials apparently thought they had an agreement in place where the city would put in $370 million, the province $700 million, and the federal government $1.75 billion plus any overruns. But it turns out the $1.75 billion is in 2026 dollars, which comes to more like $1.5 billion, and it’s contingent on the city and province matching that $1.5 billion, which is $430 million more than the two local governments had offered.
Negotiations are reportedly ongoing, but there isn’t much time left, as Nenshi said he needed a resolution by today or he’ll cancel a scheduled November 13 public vote on the plan. Polls have shown that the proposal is likely to pass, but Nenshi has previously reserved his right to pull out of the bid before or even after the public vote, so there could be much haggling yet to come. Which is good, because at $3 billion in public costs and a projected $200 million in new tax revenue, this sounds like a pretty awful deal, unless Calgary residents really think it’s worth $2.8 billion to have their lives turned upside down for three weeks in 2026 so people can come watch winter sports (doubtful, though Canadians do love their curling) or to put Calgary on the map as a tourist destination (um, maybe after global warming kicks in a few more degrees?).
We should find out more by end of day, or at least by Wednesday, when the Calgary council is set to meet to discuss the Olympic plan.