Canmore town council voted 6-1 Tuesday night in favour of supporting a Calgary bid for the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
The support, however, is conditional on the town’s ability to secure satisfactory funding to cover operational costs of the Games’ delivery.
Mayor John Borrowman said he was happy council voted in favour of the Games.
“I’m quite happy because I’ve been in support of this potential bid for a long time,” he said.
“I’m strongly motivated by the housing that will be provided through the athletes’ village — 242 units of affordable housing are more than we have accomplished through close to 20 years of effort.
“I believe hosting the Games clearly fits the spirit of the town of Canmore. Our character as a mountain sports community was moulded by the ’88 Games . . . I will recall how excited and involved we all were in 1988 — almost everyone in town was engaged and caught up in the spirit of what was here.”
Calgary’s bid corporation is thrilled with the results, its chair Scott Hutcheson said.
“What we heard today was a town council was engaged, that’s been listening to its community (and) is connected to its roots to 1988,” he said.
“I heard important issues such as affordable housing driving much of the roots that are in the community and the understanding they have. From the standpoint of Calgary 2026, we see this community of Canmore as a great partner with great leadership.
“We’re thrilled to have a chance to partner with Canmore — we’re thrilled with the results today.
Canmore is still searching for government approvals when it comes to the Games.
The town is seeking written confirmation of $3.2-million in essential services funding from the federal government. These funds would go toward services including snow removal, sidewalk clearing, garbage and recycling pickup, bylaw enforcement, and police and fire response, among others.
The town is also searching for approval for resort municipality status from the province.
Town chief administrative officer Lisa de Soto said Canmore was looking for a two per cent hotel tax increase that the status would make possible.
The tax hike would give town coffers a projected $2 million per year, which would be used to support services and programs needed to deliver on the Olympics, such as essential services, a celebration plaza and cultural program delivery.
“We’re looking to have some level of certainty from the HostCo, or other funding partners, that will have a revenue tool, rather than having to fund that through property tax,” he said.
“If we had to fund $10 million through property tax over several years, it’s a significant increase to taxes. We have been looking at the B.C. model of resort municipality status, but if we can’t get there, we need some other equally dependable revenue source.”
According to Calgary 2026’s draft hosting plan, Canmore would host biathlon and cross-country skiing events at the Canmore Nordic Centre — a facility originally built for the 1988 Olympics.
The facility would see upgrades ahead of the Games in the forms of base area development, snow-making improvements, para-course upgrades and upgrades to make the area more accessible for Paralympic athletes.
As part of the Games bid, Canmore put forth $3 million to assist in gaining government matching funds.
Canmore recently secured formal authorization from provincial Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson to borrow $66 million needed for construction of an athletes’ village that, in total, would cost $116 million.
The village would have 1,250 beds and be located in the town’s Palliser area.
The authorization also allows Canmore to exceed its regulated debt and debt service limits for financing the village in 2024.
“Through the meetings we’ve had and discussions we’ve had in the last several months with the BidCo people and our own administration, I’ve come to be very confident . . . in the planning and budgeting work that’s gone into forming the athletes’ village, particularly,” Borrowman said.
Coun. Joanna McCallum was the only opposed vote.
“I find myself in a position where we were negotiating from a position of strength, and it doesn’t feel like it’s there anymore,” she said.
“I don’t think I’ve been on the Yes side or on the No side, I think I’ve been on the team Canmore side. I made it clear I needed to understand how this bid would address issues of economic diversification, would improve livability and increase affordability.
“Although I read all the documents provided to us, I’m still struggling to understand, for instance, how this is going to effect and make change of our economic diversification.”
Calgary’s plebiscite vote has begun, with advance polls opening Tuesday and carrying into Wednesday, while the voting day is set for Nov. 13.
On Nov. 19, the plebiscite will be brought to Calgary city council, which will vote on whether to continue the pursuit of a bid.
Potential Olympic bids are due to the International Olympic Committee in January, while the winning bid will be announced in June.