Calgary councillor Sean Chu may not have gotten the result he wanted regarding a plebiscite on the Olympics, but at least it’s not dead.
“I’m disappointed, but happy at the same time,” the Ward 4 councillor said Wednesday after council moved to have the debate next month. “Disappointed we cannot deal with this today and I think it’s very important for the Calgarian to have a say in this.”
Chu brought a notice of motion with support from Ward 11’s Jeromy Farkas for council to vote on having a plebiscite on hosting the 2026 Games.
However, Ward 5 councillor George Chahal moved for the debate to happen April 10th at a Priorities and Finance Committee meeting, where administration would brief council on multiple public engagement options.
Council voted 10-3 in support of Chahal, with Chu, Farkas and Joe Magliocca the three against (Shane Keating and Evan Woolley were absent.)
Despite Chu’s call to have a vote now, Ward 13’s Diane Colley-Urquhart said moving it to April was the right move.
“The first piece is we need administration to present a real detailed plan on what the communication will be on citizens going forward, part of that might be a plebiscite,” she said. “The other part is having the city clerk’s and the elections office give a lot more details on the merits of what a plebiscite would look like and what the questions would be, what they potentially could be.”
Chu has long called for a simple “Yes or No” plebiscite question, while others have argued against the simplicity.
“It can’t just be ‘Do you love the Olympics?’, it actually has to be on this is how much it will cost, this is how much benefit we think will come from it, so it has to be when the conversation is quite a bit more detailed than it is today,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday.
While council won’t have more thorough details about costs and benefits about hosting until June, theoretically if a plebiscite was approved, Calgarians would have those full details when they vote on hosting in October.
“It’s a good theoretical question and it doesn’t have an answer right now,” Colley-Urquhart said.
Chu said it’s a positive scenario, especially if it gives Calgarians several months to digest the data.
“Also in a way there’s more time for engagement right now,” he said. “The readers, the listeners, maybe it’s time for you to contact us.”
Aside from the plebiscite, Chu is also encouraged more councillors have gotten aboard against hosting altogether.
He and Ward 7’s Druh Farrell were the only councillors to vote against spending $5 million to form the original Calgary Bid Exploration Committee, which estimated the cost for hosting the Games would be $4.6 billion.
But Tuesday night, four more voted against forming a BidCo. — pending $20 million in funding from the provincial and federal governments — to develop a bid book for the Games.
Those councillors included Jyoti Gondek, Peter Demong, Magliocca and Farkas.
“All we need is two more councillors who actually think that this is a bad deal for Calgary,” Chu said.
But when asked if he has two more votes at this point, he said he doesn’t.
“I will keep trying,” he said.