Smith says hosting a Commonwealth Games other than the Olympics will not involve a plebiscite

Premier Daniel Smith said Alberta’s joint bid to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games would be cheaper and riskier than Calgary’s previous bid to host the Olympics.

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Speaking of the QR770 Your Province Your Prime Minister radio show Saturday morning, Smith said he understands people’s wariness about hosting international events like these, especially after watching the costly Tokyo Olympics delayed by the pandemic.

“The Commonwealth is a bit different because it’s a summer games and it’s less expensive, less risky, I think. But it also goes through more jurisdictions,” the Prime Minister said.

The potential joint bid, which was announced on March 8, would see Calgary, Edmonton and the Tsuut’ina Nation host the event. The bid study has received $4 million in funding support from the two cities and the province.

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The Commonwealth Games will be an 11-day affair in August 2030 that will bring 4,500 athletes and para-sports to Alberta to compete in 20 sports.

Smith said Saturday there may also be an opportunity to include the Enoch Cree Nation and Canmore in the bid.

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“I felt we should at least see what the pitch is and what the plan is. That’s part of the reason we agreed to at least go to that next step and see what kind of package they can put together,” she said.

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Smith was asked specifically by a listener if the province would make funding for the Commonwealth Games bid contingent on a successful plebiscite. The premier said it was easier to make the plebiscite just for Calgary in 2018 on the potential bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics than for the people involved in that decision.

“We’re going to have a full public conversation,” Smith said. “I don’t think the report will be available or the final decision should be made until August. So there will still be plenty of opportunities to contribute.”

Chris Dornan, spokesman for the Alberta 2030 Commonwealth Games Corp., said the uniqueness of a province-wide bid like this makes it very different from Calgary’s failed plan to host the 2026 Olympics.

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“It’s focused on strategic partnerships with municipalities and cost-sharing options,” Dornan said. “The scope of the Games is completely different.”

From left: Pistol shooter Linda Kieyko, track and field athlete Sam Effa, gymnast Kyle Shufelt, Chief Roy Whitney of the Tsuut’ina Nation and wrestler Erika Wiebe pose for a photo after a media event where Alberta Community Builders gathered , to announce the launch of the Commonwealth Games bidding inquiry on Wednesday 8 March 2023. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

Plebiscites are black and white, Dornan explained, but the ongoing consultation process is meant to give people a space to have a conversation and contribute to the dialogue.

“This will help people potentially see themselves at the Games and better understand the widespread positive impacts that multi-sport games can have on communities across the province far beyond sport,” he said. “The plebiscites don’t allow people to really understand the project.”

Peter McCaffrey, president of the Alberta Institute, said the nominating committee did not allow enough time for a plebiscite.

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“We would prefer a referendum rather than it just being an automatic ‘yes’ because our time is up,” he said. “The public consultation and referendum killed the bid for the Olympics after people learned what the real costs were.”

A less expensive and less risky event means it will also bring fewer benefits, McCaffrey explained.

“That doesn’t mean it’s automatically a good thing,” McCaffrey said. “To determine whether an event is worthwhile, we need to weigh the costs against the benefits. Unfortunately, academic literature and economic experience show that these types of events do not bring more benefits than they cost.

The Alberta Institute opposes the use of government funding for the potential bid and has launched an online petition against taxpayer funding.

“No one is denying that there are benefits to running events, the question is do the benefits outweigh the costs?” he said.

McCaffrey said they will mount a campaign to pressure the governments of Calgary, Edmonton and Alberta to say no to the Commonwealth’s bid, while informing the public about the costs.

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