2030 Olympics: Vancouver council blocks motion to put bid question on ballots

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An attempt by a Vancouver city councilor to include a question about pursuing a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics on upcoming municipal election ballots was blocked by the rest of council this week.

Com. Colleen Hardwick presented the motion at Tuesday’s council meeting. However, in order to proceed to council debate and vote, a motion requires another councilor to second it and Hardwick did not receive a seconder this week.

The motion suggested that a yes-or-no question asking voters if they support Vancouver’s participation in hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics be included in the upcoming October election. It was updated from an earlier motion, which called for a plebiscite on the issue.

Hardwick compared the potential vote to that which took place in 2003 on the 2010 Olympics. Turnout for the plebiscite was around 50%, with almost 64% in favor and around 36% against. That vote, however, took place outside of a regular election, and Hardwick argued it would be more cost-effective to couple it with the one taking place in the fall.

“Adding this vote on the ballot in October could increase voter turnout,” Hardwick added as he presented his motion to council on Tuesday.

Hardwick’s reasoning for holding a vote included allowing the public to weigh in on the financial impacts of the event. She also argued that viewership for the Winter Games “is down”.

However, Hardwick used viewership data from the recent Beijing Winter Olympics, which not only took place amid the COVID-19 pandemic but were diplomatically boycotted by several countries, including Canada. Regarding the boycott, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said late last year that he was “extremely concerned about the Chinese government’s repeated human rights abuses.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor Kennedy Stewart urged councilors through a series of social media posts to oppose Hardwick’s motion, saying it “violates the agreement signed between the governments of Vancouver and Whistler with the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Líl̓wat on whose unceded lands our towns are built.”

Stewart was referring to a deal announced in early February to explore an offer. Although Vancouver and Whistler were involved in the deal, the bid would be led by the four nations and has been called a “reconciliation game”.

“I urge fellow councilors to consider what support for (Hardwick’s) decision to essentially tear up our (MoU) says about their own commitments to reconciliation,” Stewart wrote on Twitter.

In response, Hardwick said Tuesday that the motion did not violate that agreement.

“Like any memorandum of understanding, all parties are accountable to their own members and, in our case, to our citizens,” she said at the board meeting.

A final decision has not been made on whether the Olympic bid will go ahead. It’s planned for later this year. A subsequent decision by the International Olympic Committee on who will host the 2030 Games is expected in 2023.

With files from Ben Miljure of CTV News Vancouver

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