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Finger-pointing continues over dropped bid to host Canada Games in Whitehorse

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Whitehorse’s bid to host the 2027 Canada Winter Games is officially dead — but the finger-pointing continues over who’s responsible for its demise.

The Yukon government announced last month that it was withdrawing the bid to host the event in partnership with the City of Whitehorse. The territorial government said there simply wasn’t enough money being offered by the federal government to cover the costs.

Yukon Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn said at the time that Ottawa offered $16.75 million, including $3 million in capital costs, toward the $185-million bid. 

A city spokesperson later said the city was blindsided by that decision to withdraw the bid.

Now Mayor Laura Cabott is suggesting that the territorial government fumbled in its more recent efforts to come up with a revised, last-minute bid by pitching something that the city couldn’t support.

Working with the territorial government in recent months has been “frustrating,” Cabott said.

“I think that we were maybe not as aligned as we ought to have been, or thought that we were,” she said.

Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabott, seen here in front of city hall in April, said the city could only host the games if there was a ‘meaningful legacy piece.’ (Jackie Hong/CBC)

The mayor says that after Mostyn’s announcement last month, there were back-and-forth discussions with the city, territory and the Canada Games Council about how to possibly revise and resubmit the bid.

That would involve whittling down the price tag by cutting back on some of the planned new infrastructure. A big piece of the original $185-million price tag was to go toward building an athlete’s village, and a new arena and flexi-hall.

According to Mostyn, the Canada Games Council decided a new arena wasn’t a necessary part of a new bid. The event would make do with the city’s three ice sheets, instead of building a fourth. Mostyn said the athlete’s village, however, was essential.

“So we went and started working with our partners to co-host the games, the City of Whitehorse, to come up with what I called an ‘unplugged’ bid for the games, or a stripped-bare bid, without any recreational facility infrastructure,” Mostyn said on Thursday.

“This was the option that we started working on, just in the last 10 days.”

‘A shock, and very disappointing’

According to Cabott, that was just never going to fly. The city couldn’t support Mostyn’s “unplugged” bid as he described it to them last week.

“That was a shock, and very disappointing … the fact that we wouldn’t get any municipal infrastructure, it’s pretty hard to swallow,” Cabott said.

“We would still host the games, if there is essentially a meaningful legacy piece.”

That chance, however, has now come and gone. The Canada Games Council is now looking for another possible host for 2027, and Mostyn said on Thursday that he was drafting a letter to the council, to be delivered by a Friday deadline, formally withdrawing Yukon’s bid.

Mostyn said he was “a bit surprised” by Cabott’s comments.

“We’ve been working hard together,” he said.

“I would have loved to have brought forward something a little bit more sparse, but in the end the City of Whitehorse has decided that wasn’t in the best interests of its citizens — and I totally respect that.”

‘I would have loved to have brought forward something a little bit more sparse,’ said Yukon Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Meantime, the opposition Yukon Party also weighed in again on the ill-fated bid, accusing the territorial government of not having a “plan B” ready.

“The minister has brushed off those suggestions and let the deadline pass without trying to salvage the bid that many had worked on to put together,” reads a Thursday news release from the Yukon Party.

“It has left a reputational black eye on the Yukon that will be difficult to recover from.”

Cabott echoed that, saying the debacle may affect how Yukon is now viewed, as a possible host for big sporting events.

“We will continue as a sport city, I think, still bid on sports, but it may be difficult to be bidding on a multi-sport event in the future,” she said.

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