Olympic Plebiscite: My Comment on the Results

Calgarians have voted, and the choice is clear. The Olympic Bid process ends tonight.

For months now, I have supported the public’s right to be polled on this issue. Given the tremendous benefits and risks associated with bidding and potentially hosting the Games, it only made sense that Calgarians chose what they thought was the best course of action for our City.

That choice is clear tonight. I cannot support moving the Olympic project further.

I thank the official yes and no sides for coming out and engaging Calgarians on this issue. Your commitment to the Calgary community has not gone unnoticed.

At times, this debate has been difficult. If there is one regret that I have, it is that this process had led to divisions among friends and neighbours. However, now is the time for us to come together and be Calgarians – for that, is democracy. The vote is done and the will of Calgarians is clear. Now, we must work to build a better future – together.

Remarks Defending the Olympic Bid Plebiscite - October 31, 2018

Council, what more is there for us to say? Right now, Calgarians need leadership. Real political leadership. Because, before us today, we have a decision that will shape our City’s story.

Before us today, we have a signed proposal on the funding arrangement. This was the missing piece required, that ensures Calgarians have all the answers they need, to make an educated vote.

The deal before us is a good deal. The City’s share is approximately $390 Million dollars.

On our share: the City has identified that it would be spending approximately $350 Million on legacy and infrastructure updates over the next two budget cycles anyway. We are talking about a capital increase of $40 million.

To be clear we would spend $390 Million dollars to leverage approximately $4.4 Billion dollars of investment in our City that is desperately needed.

A deal like this comes once in a generation. I have always said I would support the plebiscite as long as we had numbers that made sense, and that we could present to Calgarians.

Today, we’ve seen the numbers, and they do make sense. I am confident that the information required for plebiscite is now there.

I remind you, business deals are always fluid. However, today we’ve set the parameters in which the deal can be finalized. A deal that is in the best interest of Calgarians.

Should this fail at plebiscite, then so be it. I remain committed to supporting the will of Calgarians who vote on November 13, 2018. My conscious will be clear, knowing that Calgarians now have the numbers to make the choice, and that we did our best to ensure a good deal and good plan for all of Calgary.

But let me be clear. To abandon the plebiscite after the news of this deal is a slap in the face to the democratic process. Council, it’s time for us to finally follow up on what we promised Calgarians what we would do.

We promised Calgarians that we would provide them with the information and a funding agreement before the plebiscite. We’ve done that now. Are we really considering backing down on what we promised, at a critical time where we are rebuilding trust with the public?

As Council’s representative to Calgary Economic Development, I strongly urge you to vote against this reconsideration.

We all hold accountability as a virtue. Let’s prove it today and follow up on what we promised to do. It’s now time for Calgarians to make the final decision. Sign the agreement, let’s go vote.

Remaining Rational on the Olympic Discussion

Last month, City Council approved the question and the date of the Olympic Bid plebiscite. On November 13, Calgarians will be asked the question, “Are you for or are you against Calgary hosting the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games?”, and residents will have the option to choose either “I am for Calgary hosting” or “I am against Calgary hosting”.

As far as I am concerned, the question is fair, valid, and without bias. 

There has also been a discussion on whether the vote is binding or not. Under Alberta law, no plebiscite question is binding. Section 236(1) of the Municipal Governance Act currently reads “a council may provide for the submission of a question to be voted on by the electors on any matter over which the municipality has jurisdiction”, and Section 236(2) “A vote of the electors under subsection (1) does not bind council.”

However, to suggest that Council won’t accept the results of the votes is ridiculous. Personally, I will honour and respect the results of the plebiscite, regardless of what they are. As an elected official, it is my duty to do so.

On the question of the Bid Corporation and perceived biases. As many of you are aware, Mary Moran was named the CEO of Calgary 2026. I’ve had the pleasure of working directly with Mary through my time as a Council’s representative on Calgary Economic Development’s Board of Directors. Mary is one of the most trusted, capable and skilled Calgarians, and I know she will be able to deliver accountability and transparency to the Bid process and beyond.

Last week, a false claim was made by another Councillor in the Calgary Herald that Scott Hutcheson, the Chair of Calgary 2026 and Mary Moran served on the Board of Calgary Economic Development’s Board together. In fact, this was never the case, and the Calgary Herald pulled the story. But this incident highlights the banality and callousness of the tactics some opponents of the Bid have resorted to. Others have criticized the perceived “compensation” Moran is set to receive for leading the Bid. As of this moment, it is my understanding that no contract has been signed. Therefore, the details of Moran’s compensation are speculative. 

I will not allow Moran, one of the most capable and accomplished Calgarians, to be the victim of a character assassination by those who refuse to remain rational and fair on this debate. Furthermore, I caution those on Council to allow the Bid Corporation and our own Council committee to do their jobs, as we must trust they will do their jobs right. 

Finally, there are some rumours that certain Councillors want to kill the Bid before it goes to a public plebiscite in November. This a preposterous idea. Money has been spent on the process so far. To drop it all before the public is given the right to have a say reeks of cowardice and malpractice. Given the public interest on the topic, and the potential legacy a Bid (and successful Games) could give the City, I reject the very idea of dropping the plebiscite. At the end of the day, the plebiscite must go on. As I’ve said before - I will honour the results of the vote, regardless of what they are and I demand the same from my fellow Councillors - as should you.

An editorial in the Calgary Herald this week finished with the following quote: “There is no upside to small-mindedness and pettiness”. I couldn’t agree more.