Vancouver City Council keeps Indigenous-led 2030 Olympic bid alive

Jul 20 2022, 11:52 pm

The flame for the movement to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games back to Vancouver in 2030 is still burning, following a decision made by Vancouver City Council today.

Amendments made by NPA councillor Melissa De Genova and Green Party councillor Michael Wiebe have directed City of Vancouver staff to engage in further work to advance the bid process with the Four Host First Nations, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), and the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

Furthermore, City staff will now collaborate in advancing negotiations on the proposed multi-party agreement involving all of the entities.

With Vancouver City Council’s approval, this now means all six councils of the entities involved in the potential Indigenous-led 2030 bid — the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Lilwat nations, and the cities of Vancouver and Whistler — have approved further planning work on the potential bid. This signals the start of the next phase of the planning work for the potential bid.

The amended direction was approved in an 8-2 vote, with TEAM councillor Colleen Hardwick and COPE councillor Jean Swanson opposed, and OneCity councillor Christine Boyle absent.

However, the First Nations leaders told City leaders that they were taken aback that City staff did not share their concerns about the compressed negotiation timeline and potential risks associated with hosting the 2030 Games, which were highlighted in a City staff report that was not shared or discussed with the First Nations prior to today’s public meeting date.

“I’m a little bit upset by some of the remarks that were made. We asked the City to get into the canoe with us a few months back,” said Musqueam chief Wayne Sparrow in his opening remarks to City Council and City staff, and suggested that it was an affront to the spirit of reconciliation.

“It feels very upsetting when I have to answer some of the questions in the media by not having the opportunity for the leadership, when they have concerns, to come talk to us, face to face. I do not like to have discussions with the media about some of the government-to-government relations that we have… There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered, but it’s part of that process.”

The COC will lead in the negotiation and drafting of the multi-party agreement between all entities, and it is committed to covering all costs incurred in this process through the end of 2022. Through its private budget, the COC has already covered $2.5 million in costs incurred in the 2030 exploratory phase between January and June 2022.

“The International Olympic Committee is very supportive of this Indigenous-led process… and are very intrigued,” said COC president Tricia Smith.

When asked whether the COC could aim to bid for the 2034 Winter Games, which would theoretically provide all parties with more time, Smith said that there is a “very good chance” to win the Games in 2030, while 2034 would be a “long shot” due to emerging significant bidding interest around the world.

Smith also explained that while a recent letter from BC tourism minister Melanie Mark to the COC stated that the provincial government should not be assumed to hold the role as the financial guarantor of the 2030 Games, it did not dismiss that as a possibility and that negotiations are needed to iron out the details.

The draft of the multi-party agreement will be brought back to all councils of the entities involved by the end of 2022, when the IOC is expected to advance to the targeted dialogue stage of international bidding.

Furthermore, City staff’s established deadlines and the creation of a multi-party agreement are not IOC requirements, and the agreements could be finalized as late as February 2023, while certain details would be finalized in negotiations with the IOC.

The multi-party agreement will be the foundation for the Future Host Questionnaire, which is the equivalent of the former Bid Book process under the IOC’s simplified, reduced-cost reforms of bidding for the Games. If Vancouver is invited into the targeted dialogue stage, the legally binding questionnaire is due to the IOC in January or February 2023. The IOC is expected to award the 2030 host city during its upcoming session in Mumbai in May 2023.

City Council also overwhelmingly opposed an amendment by TEAM councillor Colleen Hardwick to add a 2030 Games plebiscite question to the October 15, 2022, civic election ballot, with only Hardwick voting in support. This was the second time City Council overwhelmingly rejected Hardwick’s call for a plebiscite this year.

Sparrow warned that any call for a public vote would put the Vancouver 2030 bid to a halt immediately, stopping the project in its tracks with no further planning performed.

Following City Council’s vote of support in continuing 2030 bid planning work, Sparrow made a final remark urging City Council to not make the 2030 bid a campaign issue in the civic election.

“I want to acknowledge the comments made by the chiefs around the partnership, and working together and collaborating together. I heard very clearly that we’ve engaged in an agreement, a partnership, to move forward on the 2030 opportunities. There are obviously more steps, phases, and information that needs to be sought, and potential negotiations from all parties on what that looks like,” said ABC councillor Lisa Dominato.

Green Party councillor said that City Council’s amended direction may seem like a “180” on City staff’s recommendations, but emphasized the importance of reconciliation and that they have now landed in a “thoughtful place” that will be “all hands on deck.”

ABC councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung noted that “we don’t want to close the door on the possibility the Olympics can have, and it’s pretty inspiring.”

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