Yellowknife city councillors have voted unanimously not to proceed with plans to host the 2023 Canada Winter Games.
Having made their concerns clear in a preliminary discussion last week, the result was no surprise as all eight councillors refused to support the estimated $50 million project.
“At the best of times, this would be a stretch for Yellowknife,” said councillor Shauna Morgan. “We could do it if there was overwhelming support by Yellowknifers, but I haven’t seen or heard that.”
Maureen Miller, president of territorial sports governing body Sport North, had earlier implored councillors to reconsider – highlighting the potential for a boost in jobs, tourism and revenues by hosting the Games.
“This project is doable for Yellowknife,” said Miller, accusing many councillors of having made up their minds months before an official report on the project’s feasibility had been completed.
“The Canada Games Council are the experts in Games hosting. They’ve determined that we met the standard. The sport organizations are the experts in running sporting events and they clearly support the bid. We’re saying we know we can do this.
“If you vote no, what is your plan to increase your investment [in the city]? Surely, to vote no means you have a solid plan in place and you’re ready to share that with Yellowknifers.
“We expect council to lead by example and find ways to do more than just tell us that the sky is falling.”
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Robert C McLeod, the territory’s finance minister as well as the minister for municipal and community affairs, followed Miller in supporting the bid.
McLeod said the territorial government had the “time and flexibility” to find the funding for its share of the hosting costs.
“It would be a fantastic opportunity to showcase Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories to the rest of Canada,” McLeod told councillors from the City Hall floor.
“There would be an opportunity to build capacity in our youth, legacy training facilities, and the legacy of the athletes’ village would result in much-needed social and seniors’ housing. These are just some of the benefits.
“The community of Whitehorse hosted the Games, did a fantastic job and we’ve seen the legacy projects left behind. We want that same opportunity for our athletes here in the NWT.”
Following those presentations, Morgan countered: “There are many people who are very passionate about this, but we have received so many messages and emails that certainly don’t indicate overwhelming support from most Yellowknifers.
“I have a vision for this city that I want to pursue,” she continued, “and it doesn’t necessarily involve grand spectacle-type things that maybe the rest of Canada might see. We can pursue other large projects that would provide big economic stimulus – and I’m hoping that we will, such as a seniors’ housing complex that is incredibly needed.”
Councillor Adrian Bell said: “We’re talking about taking risks and committing to risks, albeit calculated risks. But no-one has calculated such a big risk with such a small community when it comes to the Games.
“If we’re wrong – and it’s already pretty clear that there are some things that we didn’t take a look at – then it’s going to have pretty big implications for taxpayers.”
Councillor Julian Morse added: “It is our job to best represent what is best for the majority of people in this city. I think the majority of the city is not supportive of the Games, and that’s a major roadblock.”