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Calgary earmarks millions to host September World Petroleum Congress

The event will go from Sept. 17 to 21, hosted at Stampede Park.

Calgary has budgeted $11.625 million in related services to host this year’s World Petroleum Congress, with the majority destined for safety and security at the fall event.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek, however, said it’s an investment worth making given the global positioning and economic impact on Calgary.

Last week, the Calgary Police Commission was presented a preliminary report on Calgary Police Service (CPS) plans for the Sept. 17 to 21 event at Stampede Park. It’s expected more than 5,000 domestic and international delegates will attend, along with 700 speakers, 800 media, and will be host to 15,000 unique visitors.

The political nature of the event and its ties to climate policy worldwide could make it a hotbed for protests and other potential security risks, CPS said. They’re working with other law enforcement agencies to assess the available intelligence and plan an operational response.

“We have reviewed a number of previous similar events, and they have shown us that there are operational risks out there,” said CPS business strategist, Jason Archibald.

“So, we’re aware of those risks and we are taking steps to address those risks.”

Archibald said they’re looking to city partners and external police agencies to help reduce the impact on frontline police resources. They also want to ensure officer well-being and safety, he said.

Over the next couple of months, CPS said they would be working out planning details, including staffing. One commissioner noted CPS officers had been blocked from taking vacation or training during this time. They will have mutual aid members (RCMP, EPS, Sheriffs) that can provide assistance when necessary.  

CPS will operate a command centre that will liaise with the security details of specific delegations, monitoring the whereabouts of specific individuals. They won’t be providing specific protection to dignitaries, CPS said.

A revised plan is expected to come before CPC in June.

City contribution for economic impact

According to the city, their $11.625 million will show up as a variety of services during the five-day gathering.

Eighty per cent of the commitment will be allocated to safety and security, read a statement from the City of Calgary.  The remaining 20 per cent is “earmarked to support City services and programming such as transit, parking, road closures and tourism programming to showcase Calgary as a global destination.”

The city indicated it was a “one-time budget” amount but was unclear if it was allocated under the prior four-year budget (2019-2022) when the bid was awarded, or in the most current four-year budget (2023-2026).

LWC asked, but the city wasn’t immediately able to say, how it was represented on their budget documents – a set budget line amount or if it was built into the respective business unit service lines, or if it was awarded through a Civic Partner.

Still, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the costs were contemplated when the original bid was submitted and are worth it on a number of levels.

“The thing that’s as important for me is knowing that we’re hosting 100 different countries, that we stand to generate, I believe, about $65 million of economic value to the city,” she said.

Denis Painchaud, President and CEO of the 24th World Petroleum Congress, told LWC via email the best estimate they have comes from prior “normal” sized congress events. The World Petroleum Council estimates the local economic impact is $65 million USD, he said.  

A variety of things including the location and who supports the event (an enterprise or a state) influence the broader economic impact, he said.

Calgary was awarded the 2023 event back in 2019. They were awarded it in a close vote, according to an article from the CBC from that time.

Mayor Gondek surmised the budget allocation would have fallen under the prior four-year budget as an event hosting request from Tourism Calgary. They would have had to ensure a financial or service commitment at that time, she said.

Reputation as an energy leader: Gondek

The 2023 event theme is Energy Transition: The Path to Net Zero.

Given that the city recently declared a climate emergency – and a Net Zero path itself – along with pushing Calgary and Alberta as a cleantech hub and sustainable source for energy, Mayor Gondek said there’s a global reputation gain here, too.

“We really need the world to know that transition is something that the sector has been doing for decades,” she said.  

“Transformation of this nature is something that Calgary, frankly, is leading the way on, and we couldn’t have asked for a better time to profile our city, to show the leadership that we have demonstrated in the sector towards cleaner, more sustainable models and to hear it directly from the companies involved I think is going to be pretty significant.”

Both the province and the federal government were contacted to confirm if they were supporting the event (financial or in-kind), and while the province acknowledged the request, they haven’t yet responded.

The federal government will contribute $500,000 to hosting costs, they said. The support will come through the Community Economic Development and Diversification program. The project aligns with their goals of clean resources and clean technology, they said.

“PrairiesCan funding will specifically support costs associated with preparation and hosting of the event – including event management, venue rentals, and activities to ensure the delivery of the Congress,” read a statement from the federal government. 

“The City of Calgary will see economic benefits both from hosting this event and over the long-term by showcasing the Canadian energy industry’s leading role in developing clean energy and emission reduction solutions on a global stage.”

In June 2000, Calgary hosted the 16th World Petroleum Congress and there were several protests that snarled the downtown.