Vancouver City Council to consider plebiscite on First Nations-led 2030 Olympic bid

Mar 23 2022, 5:55 pm

The matter of whether Vancouver should host the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games could come down to a public vote.

A member motion by TEAM city councillor Colleen Hardwick calls on Vancouver City Council to approve an Olympic plebiscite included in the ballot for the civic election held on October 15, 2022.

“Given the significant financial commitment involved in hosting, Vancouver electors should have a say on whether they favour proceeding with a 2030 Olympic bid,” reads the motion.

Hardwick previously voted against the potential 2030 Olympic bid when the matter was before city council.

Holding the plebiscite simultaneously with the 2022 civic election would not only turn the Olympics into an election issue over the next six months, but it would also reduce the costs of holding such a public vote.

For the 2010 Olympic bid, the City of Vancouver held a plebiscite on February 22, 2003 — four months before the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) host city decision — at a cost of $575,000. In contrast, the 2017 by-election to fill a vacant city councillor seat cost $1.2 million.

The 2022 civic election ballot is expected to include three questions surrounding the capital budget.

The plebiscite on whether to submit the 2010 bid saw one of the highest turnouts ever for a Vancouver municipal public vote, with about 135,000 ballots cast — a turnout of about 50% at the time. Vancouverites voted in support of the Olympic bid; 64% voted “Yes,” while 36% voted “No.”

The decision to hold a plebiscite for the 2010 bid was one of the key election promises made by COPE’s Larry Campbell in the 2002 civic election. Campbell was elected as mayor, and on December 10, 2002, shortly after the election, he received city council’s approval to hold a public vote — after the bid had been formally submitted to the IOC.

If Hardwick’s motion is approved, city staff would be asked to include the Olympic question in the 2022 civic election ballot.

She wants the ballot question to be: “Do you support or do you oppose the City of Vancouver’s participating in hosting the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games?”

The answer options would be: “YES, I support the City of Vancouver’s participation” or “No, I oppose the City of Vancouver’s participation.”

City council is expected to deliberate and decide on Hardwick’s Olympic public vote motion next week.

In December 2021, the local First Nations of the Metro Vancouver and Sea-to-Sky regions — Lilwat, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh — announced a partnership with the City of Vancouver and Resort Municipality of Whistler to begin the process of assessing the feasibility of re-hosting the Winter Games in 2030.

This would be the first-ever Indigenous-led Olympic bid ever, and if successful, the first-ever Indigenous-led Olympics.

In January 2021, the First Nations and municipal governments also signed a formal agreement with the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) to examine the feasibility of the 2030 Games in detail.

The COC is expected to return to First Nations and municipal leaders this spring with potential draft Games concepts. It was previously assumed that First Nations and city council would hold a vote on whether to proceed with the Olympic bid in late spring or early summer.

Although Hardwick’s motion mentions the “Vancouver 2030 Society” and their website, the grassroots organization does not represent the efforts of First Nations, municipal governments, and the COC and CPC, which have formed a separate exploration committee.

Proponents of the 2030 Olympics state the Games could be held at a lower cost by reusing most of the venues and facilities built for the 2010 Games, provide a much-needed economic and tourism boost within the years-long pandemic recovery window, lift community spirits, and offer an opportunity for meaningful First Nations economic and cultural reconciliation.

There is the possibility that the IOC could decide the 2030 host city later in 2022, instead of the assumed seven-year decision timeline sometime in 2023. Vancouver faces real competition from previous Olympic hosts with highly advanced bid plans, including Barcelona, Salt Lake City, and Sapporo.

 

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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