Whitehorse wasn't consulted on Yukon gov't decision to withdraw Canada Winter Games bid, city says

Whitehorse city council voted on Sep. 26 to support the bid to co-host the Canada Winter Games in 2027 with the Yukon Government. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC - image credit)
Whitehorse city council voted on Sep. 26 to support the bid to co-host the Canada Winter Games in 2027 with the Yukon Government. (Sissi De Flaviis/CBC - image credit)

The City of Whitehorse says it wasn't consulted on the Yukon Government's decision to withdraw a bid to host the Canada Winter Games — despite that bid being a joint venture between them.

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for the city said the city was informed of the territorial government's decision on Monday morning. That's also when the territory publicly announced its decision.

That's despite a memorandum of understanding that described the two governments as equal partners in public communications about the games.

That document, which was tabled in the Yukon Legislature Thursday by the Yukon Party, laid out responsibilities for both governments and described a commitment to a "co-operative and collaborative relationship" between them.

The joint bid for the games was about $185 million, and would have seen a new $115-million, 3,000-seat arena built, as well as a $60-million athletes' village that had been pitched as possible affordable housing afterward. The territory said it pulled the bid because the federal government had only offered up $16.75 million in funding.

Derek Mager, an economic impact consultant for Sport Tourism Canada, told CBC smaller jurisdictions often host the games, using them as a catalyst for new infrastructure. There's no typical bid range, he added — it depends on the jurisdiction and the kind of infrastructure they need to host the games.

"There are so many things that get built up from a capacity standpoint. I don't think any community that's ever hosted the Canada Games is in any worse shape than they were when they started — they're all in much, much better shape," he said.

Mager said it comes down to whether a jurisdiction views the games as an investment for the future.

"If you take a short-sighted approach that this costs a lot and we're not going to see an immediate return, or there's other things that are more important, that's not going to work," he said.

"It truly takes the entire community to come together to make an event of this magnitude work, both financially and operationally."

In the Legislature Thursday, Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon questioned the territorial government on whether it had considered paring down the bid.

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn said they spent 18 months refining the bid before they went back and looked at their options.

"We made that decision, I communicated that decision — that cabinet decision — to our partners immediately that morning, and then we went out from there," he said.

The city told CBC News that city council had a discussion about an alternative plan, which included a scaled-back version of the plans for Takhini Arena.

Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabott said there wasn't time to flesh the idea out before the Yukon government withdrew the bid.

"However, I think to be fair to the Yukon government, even our scaled down version, without the financial support from the federal government, our scaled down version wouldn't even been able to be built," Cabott said.

After the territory publicly announced its decision this week, Cabott said the city could launch its own bid but that was "fairly unlikely."