I support a YES vote on the Olympics, here's why...
Hello, citizens. I want to talk to you today in depth about a very big question that's coming before all of us and it's of course the Olympic plebiscite, which is taking place on November 13. I've got a lot to say on this issue and I want to say it as succinctly as possibly because I know there's a lot of misinformation out there and I know a lot of you are concerned about how you're going to vote and I want to encourage everybody first and foremost to go out and vote.
A lot of the misinformation that's out there is deliberately trying to create confusion so that normal thoughtful Calgarians feel so unsure about the situation that they don't go out and vote.
Misinformation is also designed to enrage a group of Calgarians who are prone to raging and will go out and vote angrily and not thoughtfully about a big decision about our city's future. That's sort of the state of the landscape, but let's talk about this. I'm honored to be in a position where usually I am one of 15 Calgarians who make big decisions about our city's future. On November 13, 700 plus thousand Calgarians will be asked to participate in that kind of decision making and it's really important to ask yourself what the role of the Olympics are for the city's future.
I was always of the opinion that this was a big question that we had to study, we had to do some serious work because we're talking about a lot of money and a lot of opportunity. It has taken quite frankly too long to get to a point where there's clarity. When I say clarity, I don't suggest for a moment that there aren't a lot of questions that need to be answered moving forward, but we've reached a point of clarity where we can make a thoughtful go, no-go decision as whether this is something we want to pursue. I have moved very recently as the deal has solidified from a qualified yes to an absolute yes on November 13 and I want to share with you my reasons why in the hopes that it clarifies your own thinking.
1. The first thing I want to talk about is the financial deal
The first question is an economic question and to be completely frank with you, the entire project of exploring the Olympics has about economic leveraging. What I mean by that is as a member of city council, I am laser focused on the fact that $0.08 of every tax dollar that's collected inside of the city of Calgary. Every time we pay taxes to the three orders of government as Calgarians, whether it's income tax, whether it's business taxes, whether it's paying at the pump, whether it's GST when we do a purchase at the store, the reality is that for every dollar of tax that's collected inside our city limits, the citizens of Calgary see $0.08 on a dollar back from the three orders of government.
Billions and billions of dollars of taxes that we pay go to Edmonton never to return and they go to Ottawa never to return and they are dispersed across Alberta and they're dispersed across Canada to maintain the high quality of life that we collectively enjoy of Albertans and as Canadians. I have no problem with that, but the argument I make to the other orders of government and that my colleagues make and that the mayor makes is that if you want to continue to have the goose that lays the golden eggs that is Calgary, you have to feed that goose and we are constantly working angles on a year-by-year basis to see what we can do to leverage more than the typical $0.08 on a dollar back to Calgarians so we can build a city that can continue to be that engine of prosperity that floats the boat of the rest of province and the rest of the nation.
The deal that has emerged for Calgarians is spectacularly good. The overall budget for this Olympics is $5.2 billion. The question is how much do Calgarians have to pay in order to get about $4.4 billion of money flowing through our economy that wouldn't otherwise come to our economy. Then of the amount of money that Calgarians would have to pay, and this is the really important question, how much of that money would be money that we would spend anyway over the next eight years on things that we know we need and that we'd prioritize and how much of that money would be stuff that we wouldn't otherwise prioritize or worse-case scenario would be more throwaway money? For me, that sort of nonessential spend, that stuff that we wouldn't spend if it wasn't for the Olympics, my number in my mind in order to get $4.4 billion was somewhere between $100 and $200 million. I am asking us to pursue a $5.2 billion Olympics because I think that that will be an opportunity to get more things that we need. A new arena, I think that that would be a much easy thing to achieve if the entire world was coming to Calgary, transit from downtown to the airport, mass transit.
One of my big, big dreams is that we're able to build a passenger rail that connects us to our hinterland in a much more sustainable, environmentally friendly and world class way. A passenger rail from here to Bev to Lake Louise. That would make this place amazing and I think that that's something that we will be able to achieve with something like the 2026 Olympic games coming to Calgary. An improved urban public rail throughout Calgary. These are things that we will be able to pursue, both with public and private dollars, if we have this. It's something we're going to pursue anyway, but the question is does the games curtail our ability to go after these things or does it enhance our ability?
I fundamentally believe it enhances our ability and it builds a whole ton of things that we need to refurbish and build new in the first place. You've heard the field house, the largest single investment in affordable housing in the city's history are both new things that we would get and the 11 venues that made Calgary the center for winter sports, the most successful Olympic legacy in the history of the games all integral to the bid right now and we have the ability to go after more. That is the city building capabilities of this is what really gets me enthusiastic given that we have such a good financial deal. Then, there's legacy side of things. Outside of sitting building, we are Calgary and we're not the same place that we were in '88.
2. The Legacy
We can really celebrate what we are today, a commitment to our amazing pluralism as Canadians, as Calgarians, a deep commitment to truth and reconciliation, to accessibility, to gender equity, all of the things that set us apart in the sweep in human history as an amazing place, time and people, to live and to work and to build community together. We can tell the world that story and we can enhance it together. The arts and cultural side of it. The Olympics are very much about creating an enhanced legacy of who and what we are moving forward into the future. Does it do that? No, it doesn't do that by itself, but it's a multiplier. It's a leverage machine that allows us to sort of focus and have those great conversations and it's very important for you to ask yourself what is the kind of place that we ideally want to be and become and can this investment and this focus help us get there?
3. The Spotlight
What I hear from all of these amazing business people, these entrepreneurs is that when they go out to the world to sell Calgary to potential workers, it's hard to sell Calgary. They're selling Canada. That's great, but we also want the world to be aware of us and putting a spotlight like the Olympics on us is a very, very helpful tool in getting there. Much more importantly than attracting talent is attracting capital. When they go out and talk to venture capitalists, a lot of them say "Why Calgary? Where is Calgary?" My mission is to get to a point where people aren't asking that question, where people are like "Of course Calgary." The question that you have to ask yourself is does the Olympics help us do that?
I believe it does. Every single one of these business people believes that it does. When you go to the polls, ask yourself about the economics. It's undeniably a good deal, whether it's a 10 to one, whether all of those, every one dollar we put in, whether we get to stick $10 here that wouldn't have come anyway. I'm not going to argue about that, but it is a tremendous opportunity and it's a great deal financially and we can build off of that and we know we will bring the capital projects in on time, on budget, and we'll leverage for more stuff. If you're cool with that vote, yes. If you think that we can leverage, vote yes. Think about the legacy and think about the role the Olympics can and should and ideally will play in shaping our legacy.
Use that to structure your vote. I'm voting yes for all of those reasons. Think about as we transition our economy historically, this is a big shift in time in our economy, will this international spotlight help or hurt us? It will definitely help us. Please vote yes for that reason as well.
Get to the polls. You can check out where your polling station is at vote2018.calgary.ca. The main vote is November 13. You will need proof of Canadian citizenship. You need to be 18-years-old. You have to have been in Calgary since May 13 and a resident of the city on voting day. You need to provide one piece of authorized ID.
If you're a yes vote, please talk to your friends, inform your relatives, your community. Get as many people to the polls as possible. This is a very important decision for our city's future and I encourage you to get very much involved in driving this forward for a yes, so we can ink this deal and we can put the world spotlight on us for the next eight years. Thank you. Gian-Carlo Carra signing out.