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Council overwhelmingly votes down Chu's Olympic plebiscite idea

Calgarians won’t get to weigh in this fall on a potential 2026 Olympic Games bid at the ballot box, after elected officials defeated a pitch for a plebiscite from Coun. Sean Chu on Monday.

Council criticized Chu’s ask to spend $390,000 on an Olympic referendum as premature, irresponsible and unnecessary, before voting 13-2 against it. Only Chu and Ward 2 Coun. Joe Magliocca voted in favour of an Olympic bid plebiscite

“Firing this off to a plebiscite is hiding from our responsibility. We’re here to make the hard decisions,” said Ward 11 Coun. Brian Pincott. 

“Let’s actually have the balls to do what we’re hired for,” said Pincott, who quickly replaced the word “balls” with “estrogen” in council chambers.

Chu, who prides himself on being fiscally conservative, said spending nearly $400,000 on a plebiscite at the October municipal election would be worth it to give citizens a say on an event that could cost more than $4.6 billion in 2017 dollars.

“It’s important to listen to what citizens are saying and I’m not afraid to listen,” Chu said.

But several councillors argued it was far too early to ask Calgarians for their thoughts, when full figures and details on a potential Winter Games aren’t yet known. 

“There’s a vast amount of information we still need to collect,” said Ward 6 Coun. Richard Pootmans. “I would be open minded to a plebiscite once we have that information and Calgarians could make an informed decision.

“Right now, it would be irresponsible to put a plebiscite forward without the information I would want as a citizen to make that kind of decision,” he said.

Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell said it was too premature to have citizens weigh in and she questioned what it is they would even be asked.

“Once we determine the actual costs and let’s say, it requires a property tax increase, would that be the question? Are you willing to accept a property tax increase for this certain amount in order to pay for the Olympics?” 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’s not opposed to the idea of a plebiscite down the road when more information is known. 

“But of course, a plebiscite has to be an informed one, otherwise it just becomes a glorified online poll for $400,000 which is not really that helpful,” he told reporters. 

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http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/council-overwhelmingly-votes-down-chus-olympic-plebiscite-idea