EDMONTON — Alberta’s finance minister accuses the federal government of negotiating in bad faith as numerous parties try to hammer out a funding arrangement for a proposed 2026 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary.
Joe Ceci responded on Saturday to a late Friday statement from a spokeswoman for Sport Minister Kirsty Duncan, which said Ottawa would contribute up to $1.75 billion to support core costs for the event if the Calgary 2026 bid is successful.
The statement said Ottawa would match the combined provincial and municipal investments, and the $1.75 billion figure would be based on 2026 dollars.
Ceci told reporters at the NDP convention in Edmonton that the province’s pledge of $700 million for the Olympics was based on a federal commitment of $1.75 billion in 2018 dollars, and followed weeks of negotiations with Ottawa and Calgary.
He says the commitment wasn’t contingent on a 50-50 matching arrangement.
Ceci says his government’s $700 million figure is firm because Alberta has other important priorities like hospitals, schools and roads.
“Yesterday, we found out through the media that the federal government is moving the goalpost in the fourth quarter and negotiating through the media,” Ceci said.
“If they put the goalposts back, we’re happy to keep talking, but we’re not going to engage in these kind of bad-faith tactics.”
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also appeared to have been caught off guard by the federal government’s announcement.
“We were surprised to see this number reported for a proposed federal contribution to a potential Calgary 2026 Olympics, as negotiations are still underway,” Nenshi said in an emailed statement.
The city has said it wouldn’t declare its share until the Canadian government made its number known.
Calgarians will be asked to vote in a plebiscite Nov. 13 on whether they want the games a second time after hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics with Canmore, Alta.
The International Olympic Committee has invited Calgary, Stockholm and a joint Italian bid from Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo to be candidates for 2026. The IOC will accept bids in January, followed by the election of the host city in June.
Ottawa had earlier said it wouldn’t provide more than $1.5 billion under a policy for hosting international sport events, and the statement Friday noted the commitment to match the combined provincial and municipal dollars was in compliance with the hosting policy.
The Calgary 2026 bid corporation estimates it would cost $5.2 billion to host the Olympics. The city, province and Canadian government have been asked for a combined public investment of $3 billion.
The IOC’s executive director of Olympic Games, Christophe Dubi, said Wednesday the organization has committed $925 million US dollars if Calgary wins the bid, which he said equates to $1.2 billion at the current exchange rate.