The Yukon government is maintaining that a lacking federal funding commitment is what led to the crumbling of Whitehorse and the Yukon’s joint bid to host the 2027 Canada Winter Games.
Following the Yukon government’s November decision to cancel its bid for the 2027 Games that had been jointly planned with the City of Whitehorse for more than a year, the national organization that organizes the Games is moving on in search of another host community.
Speaking with the News on Dec. 8, Yukon Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn said the Canada Games Council has indicated that Whitehorse and the Yukon would no longer be considered to host the Games.
The cancellation of the Games bid was first announced by the territorial government on Nov. 14, but the Games council’s decision indicates that efforts to make the requirements for hosting the Games match up with the money available have not succeeded.
Mostyn said it didn’t make financial sense for the territory to host the Games given the costs it was being asked to shoulder.
He said the total bid price was expected to be $180 million with the largest costs being the replacement of Takhini Arena with a new facility and the construction of athletes’ village housing. The minister said the government’s cabinet found that it couldn’t be responsible for the roughly $160 million left unfunded after the financial commitments from the City of Whitehorse and the federal government.
Mostyn noted that the Games council’s requirements were scaled back to require only housing upgrades allowing the Games to go forward with Whitehorse’s ice sheet and the use of facilities in other communities. He said the City of Whitehorse was adamant that at the least, upgrades to Takhini Arena were a requirement for the Games to be held in the city.
The minister called the decision difficult but financially responsible and added that the world has changed since the bid process was initiated, citing labour and supply shortages, inflation and the war in Ukraine.
“I think the timing worked against us,” he said.
Whitehorse’s Mayor Laura Cabott thinks the Yukon government backing out of the games bid was a misstep.
“It’s very disappointing, it’s a bit frustrating. We’ve missed a good opportunity for the city to host the Games in 2027,” she said.
Cabott said infrastructure upgrades in the host community are the norm prior to national-level games and called the Canada Games Centre built to accommodate the 2007 Canada Winter Games a “game changer” for Whitehorse.
She said Takhini Arena is old and in need of a retrofit no matter what but the city concluded that the demolition and replacement with a new facility presented in the initial Games bid was the most cost effective choice. Although that would have been preferred by the city, Cabott said the city was open to taking another path to host the Games and extend the life of the facility.
“I want to be clear on this. We never pulled out of the bid. We have been open to looking at alternatives,” Cabott said.
The opposition Yukon Party harshly criticized the government’s handling of the Games bid. A Dec. 8 press release from the opposition calls the decision on the bid a unilateral and hasty choice by the cabinet.
“It has left a reputational black eye on the Yukon that will be difficult to recover from as athletes, sports groups, other provinces and territories, and the Canada Games Council wrestle with the fallout of the rash, ill-considered decision of the territorial Liberals,” reads the release.
In a letter to the News, Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon noted statements made by MP Brendan Hanley following the termination of the bid that indicated that the federal funding the Liberal cabinet based their decision on was not the full amount that would have been made available.
“When we look at the timing of funding announcements for other jurisdictions, MP Hanley’s version seems more plausible. Newfoundland and Labrador are hosting the Games in 2025, and as recently as last month, were still announcing new funding,” Dixon wrote.
“It may be challenging for planning, but this is unfortunately how the federal government works.”
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org