The Yukon government is calling off the bid to host the 2027 Canada Winter Games.
Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn announced on Nov. 14, it would no longer proceed with plans to host the national sporting event due to a lack of federal support.
“The Government of Canada has indicated that it is only willing to provide a total of $16.75 million towards the Games, including only $3 million in capital funding — the standard amount provided to any small jurisdiction hosting the Games,” he said. “This is less than three per cent of the requested contribution from Canada and less than the $11 million in capital funding the City of Whitehorse has already signaled it would contribute to the Games.”
The announcement comes less than a month after officials with the Canada Games Council bid evaluation committee were in the territory to take in the facilities and plans outlined in the bid to bring the event to Whitehorse.
The bid for the Yukon and City of Whitehorse to host was submitted earlier this year and included plans for new ice surfaces at Takhini Arena, an athlete’s village as well as upgrades to other sporting facilities throughout Whitehorse.
The Games were estimated to cost about $37 million, in addition to the approximatly $60 million for the athlete’s village that would later be converted to student housing at Yukon University and about $115 million for the new arena space at the Takhini Arena site.
It was also anticipated the national sporting event could generate between $80 million and $110 million in economic activity with nearly 4,000 people expected to visit the Yukon for the Games.
Whitehorse bid committee chair Piers McDonald expressed disappointment after Mostyn’s statement was released, noting the Games could have been a good opportunity to showcase the Yukon on a national stage and highlight the proposed theme of reconciliation.
As part of reconciliation, Arctic Sports and Dene Games were proposed to be part of the Games’ recognized sports program, along with the creation of a $1-million trust fund post-Games to promote and support Indigenous sports and athletes. A cultural festival highlighting the Yukon’s First Nations cultures to the rest of the country would have also been included as part of the events over the two weeks of the Games.
“I’m disappointed, of course,” MacDonald said, adding that he respects the government’s decision and acknowledges the government has to look at a number of factors in making a decision.
Mostyn said it was not a decision taken lightly. With federal supported limited to $3 million in capital, there would not be the funding for necessary projects that would make the Games a success.
“We made it clear from the outset that substantial contributions would need to be made by all levels of government, including our federal and municipal partners, for this bid to succeed,” he said. “Without any meaningful contribution from the federal government to support these Games, we were left with no other option.”
It was simply not feasible for the territory to move forward with the bid for the Games.
“Our government has a responsibility to manage taxpayers’ money responsibly,” Mostyn said. “At this time, it is clear that the territory’s resources must be focused on housing, healthcare, education and tackling climate change for the benefit of all Yukoners.”
Mostyn went on to thank McDonald and other members of the bid committee for its work over the past 18 months as well as the City of Whitehorse for its partnership in the bid.
“While this was not the outcome any of us had hoped for, I look forward to continuing to work with our partners to increase recreational infrastructure and support the development of sport throughout the territory in the coming years,” he said.
Though the federal government’s reason for limiting the spending on the Games to $3 million is not known, McDonald speculated it may be that after more than two years of pandemic spending, Ottawa may be signalling it is moving towards being more financially prudent and funding for recreation facilities from the federal government may not be readily available.
He said he suspects the Canada Games Council will be immediately looking for a community to host the Games that already has all the facilities needed in place.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at email@example.com