Coun. Colleen Hardwick’s motion to get the Vancouver 2030 Winter Olympics bid on this fall’s election ballot fell flat at the April 12 city council meeting.
Hardwick, who is running for mayor under the TEAM for a Livable Vancouver banner, could not find another councillor to second her motion, which would have opened debate and allowed public speakers. She withdrew the motion from the March 29 meeting, fearing lack of support.
She said taxpayers deserve a say on hosting another multibillion-dollar mega-event, especially since so many questions remain about the costs of organizing the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The 2003 standalone plebiscite, passed by almost 65% of 135,000 voters, cost $575,000 and led to winning the 2010 hosting rights. Hardwick said adding a yes or no question to the Oct. 15 civic election ballot would cost little or nothing and could bring more citizens to the polls.
“The International Olympic Committee looks favourably on bids that have demonstrated community support,” Hardwick said to fellow council members. “So why would we not have an open and democratic process given all these considerations?”
Mayor Kennedy Stewart did not speak to the motion. He had publicly opposed the motion, claiming it contravened a memorandum of understanding signed with the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations.
Hardwick said it was up to Vancouver city council to be responsible to its electorate. None of the civic staff that ensure motions are compliant expressed a concern about the MOU, which explicitly states it is not legally binding for any party.
“So does this council support our citizens’ right to vote or not?” Hardwick asked. “Someone really needs to second this motion and to get it on the table. We have speakers signed up. Let them speak.”
Only councillors Adriane Carr, Rebecca Bligh, Melissa De Genova and Sarah Kirby-Yung spoke, all with questions critical of Hardwick’s motion. De Genova was concerned about costs incurred by first nations so far, while Carr and Kirby-Yung suggested Hardwick should have consulted the band chiefs.
“Like any MOU, and in business, I’ve been party to MOUs, each one of those parties has an internal responsibility to their shareholders, members and constituents,” Hardwick said. “So I wouldn’t expect the first nations to be coming and asking us whether it was okay if they had a referenda, for example.”
So far, none of the four have scheduled a vote. The Squamish Nation has invited its members to an April 24 information meeting in Squamish.
Bligh errantly claimed that VANOC records are publicly accessible. In fact, the public is not allowed to see the 2010 organizing committee’s board minutes and financial records at the City Archives until Oct. 1, 2025 under an agreement negotiated by former city manager and VANOC director Penny Ballem.
COPE Coun. Jean Swanson protested against the 2010 Olympics and was in the minority that opposed a 2021 motion on exploring an Olympic bid. However, she opposed Hardwick’s motion.
“In the past I have fought against the Olympics for a bunch of good reasons,” Swanson said by email. “This time I think it would be disrespectful of the host nations to set in motion a process that could derail what they propose before we know what it is.”
Coincidentally, Swanson earlier spoke out against restoring $5.7 million to the Vancouver Police Department budget. The RCMP-led 2010 Games security operation cost $1 billion and marked the beginning of an era of VPD budget increases.
When ex-Vancouver 2010 CEO John Furlong proposed a 2030 bid two years ago, Stewart was quick to say he favoured a plebiscite. In an April 11 statement, Stewart suggested after consideration of a feasibility study and staff report on the bid in June, “council may decide to schedule a community vote or other engagements with residents.”
The International Olympic Committee wants to choose a 2030 host before its annual meeting next year in Mumbai. It has replaced costly bidding wars with a new process that encourages interested cities to negotiate behind closed doors.
Besides Vancouver, other bids could come from Sapporo, Japan, Salt Lake City, Utah, and a Spanish/French/Andorran group.
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