As political debate continues over the cancelled bid for the territory and City of Whitehorse to host the 2027 Canada Winter Games, the potential to host the Games should federal funding come through is not being entirely ruled out.
During question period in the legislature on Nov. 21, Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon and Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn continued debate over the Games with Dixon questioning the Dec. 8 deadline that had been in place for confirmation of federal funding and if there was hope the Games could be hosted in the territory should Ottawa re-engage on the issue.
Mostyn replied in the affirmative.
“The member opposite, I think, is correct,” he said. “If the federal government were to provide clear guarantees that there would be funding from the federal government of sufficient value, we could continue with the bid, provided we got that information before Dec. 8.”
The questioning followed debate last week after Mostyn’s Nov. 14 announcement that the territory would not move forward with the already submitted bid due to federal funding that did not meet the territory’s expectations.
The territory had asked Ottawa to commit approximately $160 million for the Games. The federal government responded with an offer of $16.75 million, with $3 million for capital costs. Much of the funding was needed for new infrastructure like additional ice surfaces at the Takhini Arena site and the athlete’s village.
Last week Dixon questioned Mostyn on the decision and whether the Canada Games Council had asked about the possibility of a scaled back bid that would not rely so heavily on federal funds.
Mostyn replied by pointing out the Canada Games Council was going to extend the confirmation of federal funding to Dec. 8 to give the territory more time to come up with the funding.
During a site visit to the territory in October the Canada Games Council also floated the idea of a potential Plan B, the idea of a scaling back what was included in the bid. Mostyn said the territory brought the possibility to the city.
”We went to the City of Whitehorse with that proposal, and at the time, the City of Whitehorse drew a hard line in the sand, and said that they would no longer be willing to support the co-hosting bid, if we didn’t build a rink infrastructure for the City of Whitehorse,” Mostyn said in response to Dixon’s questions.
Given the city’s position, the territory shelved the idea of a scaled back Games, as the territory needs the support of the city in order to host the multi-sport, national event.
Mostyn added he had just been informed City of Whitehorse staff later came back to territorial staff later that week, stating the city might be more willing to look at a different option. However, the following Monday, the territory announced its decision.
“We met as a cabinet and announced the decision to our partners on Monday morning,” Mostyn said, adding that he hadn’t looked at any scaled back version with city officials.
He went on to argue the bid took a lengthy 18 months to put together and that’s the bid on the table with the Canada Games Council. It does not have the funding support of all three governments, he said.
“It met the needs of the community of Whitehorse and the citizens of the Yukon, and the Canada Games Council,” he said. “That bid is currently still on the table. It requires the funding from the federal government, the territorial government and the City of Whitehorse.”
While the city committed $8 million to capital costs, the territory had committed to make up the difference needed provided the federal government committed to what the territorial government viewed as a “reasonable offer.”
“The federal government committed to contributing $3 million, with a total commitment from our other two partner governments in this enterprise of $11 million,” Mostyn said. “The Yukon government made the fiscally responsible decision not to proceed with the bid that was before the Canada Games Council.”
The City of Whitehorse has maintained it was not consulted before the Yukon government opted not to move forward with the bid.
In a Nov. 21 emailed statement, a city spokesperson said the city was informed of the territory’s decision to opt out of the bid process on the morning of Nov. 14, the same day the territory publicly announced the decision in a statement by Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn.
The city said mayor and council had discussed the possibility of a Plan B, which included a scaled back version on the plans for Takhini Arena.
Mayor Laura Cabott did not elaborate on the discussions about a Plan B.
“There was a lot that was discussed last week in the legislature, in written statements and interviews and I think at the moment right now, the best thing is, is not making any comments,” she told reporters after council’s Nov. 21 meeting.
Pressed further on whether the door is completely closed on the Games, Cabott paused before replying.
“I would say, you know, Yukon government delivered a statement and they made a decision,” she said. “We are also a co-host of the Games and there are some other players, stakeholders, and so where does it leave us? It’s a bit undetermined at the moment.”
Cabott would not comment beyond that.
For it’s part, the Canada Games Council has said it will be working through an expedited bid process to find a new community to host the 2027 Canada Winter Games. It’s hoped a new host will be found as soon as possible, ideally by March 2023.
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