Smith said she understands the caution people have about hosting events like these, especially after the delay of the Tokyo Olympics
Premier Danielle Smith said a joint bid for Alberta to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games would be less costly and risky than Calgary’s previous pursuit of a bid to host the Olympics.
Speaking on QR770’s Your Province Your Premier radio show on Saturday morning, Smith said she understands the caution people have about hosting international events like these, especially after watching the delay of the pricey Tokyo Olympics due to the pandemic.
“The Commonwealth is a little bit different because it’s summer games and is less costly, less risky, I think. But it’s also going across more jurisdictions,” said the premier.
Smith’s comments come days after it was announced that Alberta is exploring a plan to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games.
The potential joint bid, which was announced March 8, would see Calgary, Edmonton and the Tsuut’ina Nation host the event. The bid exploration has received $4 million in financial backing from the two cities and the province.
The Commonwealth Games would be an 11-day affair in August 2030 that would bring 4,500 athletes and para-sport athletes to Alberta to compete in 20 sports.
Smith said on Saturday there might also be an opportunity to include Enoch Cree Nation and Canmore in the bid.
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“I felt like we needed to at least see what the pitch was and what the plan is. That’s part of the reason we’ve agreed to at least go to this next step and see what kind of package they can put together,” she said.
Smith was asked specifically by a listener if the province will make funding for the Commonwealth Games bid conditional on a successful plebiscite vote. The premier said it was easier to do the plebiscite for Calgary alone in 2018 for the potential 2026 Winter Olympic Games bid than it would be for those involved in this decision.
“We’ll have a full public conversation,” said Smith. “I don’t think the report is going to be available or the final decision needs to be made until August. So, there will still be lots of opportunity to have input.”
Chris Dornan, a spokesperson for the Alberta 2030 Commonwealth Games Corp., said the uniqueness of a provincewide bid like this makes it a very different bid than Calgary’s unsuccessful plan to host the 2026 Olympics.
“It’s focused on strategic partnerships with municipalities and cost-sharing options,” said Dornan. “The scope of the Games is just completely different.”
Plebiscites are black and white, Dornan explained, but the consultation process underway is meant to provide people with the space to have a conversation and contribute to the dialogue.
“This will help people potentially see themselves within the Games and better understand the widespread positive impacts a multi-sport Games can have on communities across the province far beyond sport,” he said. “Plebiscites don’t allow people to really understand the project.”
Peter McCaffrey, president of the Alberta Institute, said the bid committee hasn’t left enough time for a plebiscite.
“We would prefer a referendum over it just being an automatic yes because we ran out of time,” he said. “It was the public consultation and referendum that killed the Olympics bid once people learned what the true costs were.”
A less costly and less risky event means it will also bring fewer benefits, McCaffrey explained.
“That doesn’t mean it’s automatically a good thing,” said McCaffrey. “To determine if the event is worthwhile, we have to compare the costs with the benefits. Unfortunately, academic literature and economic experience show that these kinds of events do not produce more benefits than they cost.”
The Alberta Institute is opposing the use of government funding for the potential bid and has started an online petition against taxpayer funding.
“No one is denying there are benefits to holding events, the point is, do the benefits outweigh the costs?” he said.
McCaffrey said they’ll be putting together a campaign to pressure Calgary, Edmonton and the Alberta governments to say no to the Commonwealth bid while educating the public about the costs.
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