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Council opts to pump $11 million into Games

City council voted Monday to make an $11-million contribution to the 2027 Canada Winter Games, after two hours of discussion.

By Chuck Tobin on September 28, 2022

City council voted Monday to make an $11-million contribution to the 2027 Canada Winter Games, after two hours of discussion.

They talked about the benefits the Games would bring to Whitehorse, and legacy infrastructure that would be left behind, just like how the Canada Games Centre was a product of hosting the 2007 Canada Winter Games.

But it was clear the $11-million contribution does not include the cost of the in-kind contributions the city will be required to make, such as providing free transit and ice rentals.

In a letter to council, Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn has said an appropriate contribution by the city would be $17 million.

Yukon government representatives appeared before council Monday to outline some of the capital requirements, including the need for a fourth sheet of ice, and the Takhini Arena site is the best site for a fourth sheet.

Providing a new sheet of ice could involve substantial renovations of the Takhini Arena or the removal of the 36-year-old arena with the construction of a new arena.

The Star has learned the thinking today is that the Takhini Arena would be demolished and replaced with a new facility at a cost of $111 million.

There would also need to be a new athletes’ village built at a cost of $65 million.

Mayor Laura Cabott pointed out how the 2007 Games left behind valued infrastructure, saying it would be the same for the 2027 Games.

“You have to spend money to make money,” she said.

It was recognized that time is short, and there is no wiggle room to put off a decision.

It’s estimated it would take two years to build a new arena, and that it would have to be available one year before the Games so the city could host a mandatory test event.

Construction of a new arena is estimated to take two years, suggesting that requires construction to begin as early as next year to be ready for the test event.

Included in the plans for a new arena is the construction of a high-end outdoor rink facility at the Takhini Arena site to fill in the two-year gap left behind by the arena’s demolition.

Coun. Dan Boyd pointed out the Games committee requires a minimum of four ice sheets available in the host city.

The Yukon government, he said, has asked the federal government for a $150-million contribution to host the Games, which would include the cost of two new ice sheets.

Damion Burns, the assistant deputy minister of Community Development, told council the Games are being offered to the Yukon because it’s the territory’s turn in the rotation and Whitehorse is the only community with the infrastructure to host them.

A new arena, he said, would include a running track and 800 retractable seats.

Coun. Ted Laking expressed concern that the city could be called up to increase its contribution if the capital construction cost escalated beyond the $11 million.

Boyd noted, however, the Yukon government has agreed to underwrite any escalation in cost, which provides a huge pillow of comfort for the city.

The memorandum of understanding the city will now sign with the Yukon government to co-host the Games will note the city’s contribution will be $11 million, he noted.

Coun. Kirk Cameron said the benefits that hosting the Games would bring before, during and after the event would be huge.

There is a chance, he said, for the city to embrace a project and the Games that could stimulate $80 million to $100 million in economic activity for the city.

“It’s a huge opportunity for our city as an economic generator,” he said.

Cameron said it’s more than just an economic generator, in that it would leave behind another Games legacy asset.

Having grown up in Whitehorse, Cameron said he remembers when the Jim Light Arena on Fourth Avenue opened in the 1960s.

He noted how the kids in town used to go there to buy their pop and chips, and watch hockey.

“The social impact is much beyond the numbers,” he said. “We have another opportunity that will contribute more infrastructure for our growing city.”

The city, said Cameron, would be left with a facility that could host national events.

“We have a significant opportunity here,” he said.

Boyd noted how council and city staff have worked hard at building a financial surplus of $55 million, putting the city in a strong financial position to make the $11-million contribution as well as host the Games.

Burns said they do need to establish what the federal government contribution would look like.

“We hope to have that in the coming weeks,” he said.

City manager Jeff O’Farrell said this bid to host the Games is fundamentally different from the 2007 bid. In 2007, it was a joint bid by the Yukon government and the city, but this time around it’s only the city.

The Yukon government would be responsible for any costs beyond which the city agrees to in the memorandum of understanding, he said.

The mayor noted that after the Games, the $65 million worth of housing would immediately be turned into affordable housing. The city could not afford this – the same thing for the arena, she said.

Cabott said Mostyn’s letter asked council to let him know if it’s comfortable with a $17-million contribution.

Council’s decision to contribute $11 million has answered the question, she said.

See commentary in Opinion section.

Comments (38)

Up 16 Down 10

Heathen on Oct 1, 2022 at 12:02 pm

Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? It is not fit that you should sit here any longer. You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing lately … In the name of God go.“

Up 13 Down 6

jack on Oct 1, 2022 at 3:30 am

Lo cost housing to be located at the college? Why not within a neighborhood like it should be?

Up 28 Down 9

Salt on Sep 30, 2022 at 1:06 pm

Are we not in a CLIMATE EMERGENCY?! Alas, our idiocracy marches ever onward, unfettered by internal contradiction or reason.

Up 24 Down 3

Max Mack on Sep 30, 2022 at 12:46 pm

Where are the so-called studies? Where is the independent review by experts?

Up 34 Down 5

CJ2 on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:01 pm

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail when it comes time to choose which city will host, and the deciders will look at the carbon footprint of games athletes flying here from all corners of Canada. Since climate change is usually so top of mind; that is, until the politicians hear the words "legacy project".

I'm actually pretty shocked at the suddenness of this decision, and Laura Cabott's fulsome embrace of it, in particular. "Public transit costs a lot of money!" Laura in the spring.

It's not just the money, and the fact that they are already constantly dealing with cost overruns. It's the sheer hubris of thinking they can manage this. They couldn't even open a major roadway after the landslide in less than two months. Just yesterday, a city engineer was blaming the length of time to finish paving Two Mile Hill on the contractor's staff shortage. If this goes ahead, the City of Whitehorse will be a minor player in bringing it to fruition.

What year are they living in? We're on the brink of a world war. The government is throwing money at residents, desperately trying to counter inflation. The effects of climate change are arriving. And on a more mundane note, these governments can't seem to keep firewood flowing for the industry, or efficiently plow roads.

And they're dreaming of a multi-million infrastructure project for a one or two week event? It's baffling.

Up 43 Down 6

Nathan Living on Sep 29, 2022 at 4:19 pm

A few years ago the Canada Games Centre was costing the City 1 million a year after usage fees. I doubt this has changed in the last few years.

Takhini arena with 2 ice sheets will likely also run a significant annual deficit. As a taxpayer I would like to know how much more I will have to pay after the games.

Will the City take away the Homeowners Grant post Canada Winter Games? I would bet there is no clear answer to this as the push for the games rolls along.

Up 53 Down 3

Oya on Sep 29, 2022 at 3:07 pm

Please say it ain't so. Let's have a referendum like Thomas Brewer is suggesting. Listen to the people! FFS!

Up 44 Down 4

Erwin Glock on Sep 29, 2022 at 3:03 pm

... and talking about volunteers: City and YG should make sure that their staff scheduled to volunteer is doing this on their own time (and money). Then we see how many volunteers we are going to have, which is expected from the private sector.
I'm certain Mayor Cabott will gladly give a detailed statement and how are the usual cost overruns are justified.

Up 67 Down 3

Eyes on the prize on Sep 29, 2022 at 12:59 pm

The capital expenses are the red-herring here - it’s going to be the ongoing O&M costs that nobody is talking about, not even Ted.

The City will be on the hook for keeping the sheets of ice cold, the seats warm, and the lights on. Long after the games are gone.
And that’s going to be a challenge, when there’s not enough O&M $$$ to even clear the snow from streets.

Prepare for larger potholes, unpainted lines and snowy streets!
Oh yeah, and property tax increases, as that’s what fund the O&M budget for the City, not capital expenditures.

Up 48 Down 9

Apex Parasite on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:58 am

11 million to give billy the opportunity to prove he can run faster than jimmy...

Up 48 Down 5

Thick Wool on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:47 am

“You have to spend money to make money.”

Actually, it’s a three part thing. First you need to earn money to have it to spend. If you’re borrowing money to spend money to make money, you’re borrowing against your own future.

Up 56 Down 5

Thomas Brewer on Sep 29, 2022 at 11:41 am

It matters not what the citizenry wants nor desires when our elected officials only desire is to have a legacy plaque on a building with their name on it.

How about putting this project to a referendum? I don't think Mayor and Council will dare to.

Up 58 Down 3

Austin on Sep 29, 2022 at 10:25 am

Yep taxes are gonna go up. Can't even get the road plowed or pot holes fixed and they want to look all high and mighty about the games. Give me a break.. Most people can barely afford to live in this town. Time to start saying NO to somethings and start fixing the Territory.

Up 48 Down 4

SH on Sep 29, 2022 at 10:19 am

“You have to spend money to make money,” Laura said. The CGC was built to accommodate the Canada Winter Games, from my understanding. How much does the CGC bring in each year? Pretty sure the City spends far more than it earns (meaning the CGC is doing the opposite of making money).

Regarding the comment, "It was recognized that time is short, and there is no wiggle room to put off a decision." If this is true, then the City shouldn't move forward with the games. Why commit to something of this proportion if you don't have time to think things through?

Up 46 Down 4

Jim on Sep 29, 2022 at 10:18 am

I’m so glad Boyd is patting himself on the back for saving $55 million. Maybe they should look after the crumbling infrastructure they have and snow removal. Traffic flow is a frigging joke in this town. The Riverdale bridge is apparently beyond repair as they have tried patching twice. As far as the additional housing left behind. When will the City realize it is not in their scope of work to build social housing. Their job is to open up land and make it available and let YTG build social housing if they wish.

Up 47 Down 4

David on Sep 29, 2022 at 9:59 am

Maybe focus on filling our potholes and developing housing before you burn a pile of money like this Your priorities are so out of whack.. I don't care what government pays for this waste it is still our tax money.

Up 47 Down 4

KP on Sep 29, 2022 at 8:56 am

Taxpayers are screwed. I can't believe some of these councillors call themselves conservative.

Up 45 Down 8

Groucho d'North on Sep 29, 2022 at 8:49 am

Looks like the decision to host the games was already determined some time ago. Off-leash Liberal governments are answerable to none.

Up 19 Down 25

YT on Sep 29, 2022 at 8:16 am

The usual comments re. Liberals ruining everything.
It takes the COUNCIL to approve this, and even Conservative stalwarts like Boyd and Laking voted for. They could have opposed but did not.
And speaking of spending, the Yukon Party has the same sort of track record for needless expenditures as does the current governing party.
Who gave us the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter? Hospitals that we can’t afford to operate and staff in communities that didn’t need them?
Thanks YP. And the YPs answer to the Libs current cash handout for inflation is to.......hand out MORE cash?
All the parties are guilty if you’ll take off your partisan glasses and actually look at what’s going on.

Up 38 Down 4

jack on Sep 28, 2022 at 11:09 pm

Are new fancy offices for our city officials also included in the plan??

Up 41 Down 5

My Opinion on Sep 28, 2022 at 10:52 pm

All these politicians have gone nose blind. But we all smell it.

Up 46 Down 5

My Opinion on Sep 28, 2022 at 10:51 pm

These things take thousands of volunteers. I have had a job posted for two years. It pays 40.00 per hour not a single applicant, good luck.

Up 37 Down 5

Nathan Living on Sep 28, 2022 at 8:49 pm

To me the financial planning by the City seems very sketchy.

And the one councillor who voted against hosting the games has put himself in an excellent position to further his political career.
Years ago the City did not have $300,000 to help SIMA out. But city finances now seem so positive (maybe little sarcasm).

Up 14 Down 15

Davis on Sep 28, 2022 at 8:22 pm

@Anie - not sure why you think that no other city in Canada wants these games??
No other city in Canada has been offered to host these games yet as they've been offered to Whitehorse as a direct award (because the Canada Games Council wants the games to be held in the north every 20 years or so at least so that the games can be held all across Canada and not just in the biggest of cities, and Whitehorse is the only city in the north that can realistically host the games). If Whitehorse were to say no then they would open up bidding from the rest of Canada.

Up 9 Down 41

Davis on Sep 28, 2022 at 8:16 pm

Would be silly for the City not to support the bid. They only have to contribute $11M and they would get a $111M new two sheet arena (that they need as they currently can't keep up with ice time demand) and a bunch of new affordable housing units worth $65M (which they also need as the City is in a housing crisis). Seems like a pretty good deal for the City to me.

Up 44 Down 5

Roy on Sep 28, 2022 at 7:14 pm

Hey council

I’m offended. And insulted. By what? By the fact you think I’d hear you apply this spin and think that I, and everyone else, would swallow it.

We’re gonna pull off a miracle you say?
We’re gonna do what no one else has done before - even in times of excess? Using our local knowledge eh?

Will you be there to apologize when this blows up and all Yukoners are left paying for your irresponsible choices?
I doubt it. By then the pockets will have been lined.

Ever been to Olympic Village in Vancouver? That was sold as “it’s gonna be affordable housing!” Go have a look. But I see it’s the classic “this time it’ll be different we promise”

I predict 2025 is when CWG will be back for more millions. We’ll be too committed at that point to do anything but throw more money into the fire.

Can every taxpayer at least get a cool jacket that says “I didn’t have a nurse while in the hospital - but I got this instead!” ?

Up 35 Down 7

Juniper Jackson on Sep 28, 2022 at 5:57 pm

Isnt there a song about being sold down the river? Cabot, has before the games issue came up, thrown away any chance she ever had of running in the Territorials.. She can join Mayor Liberal Dan in the "tried, and came in 3 rd" canoe..


Up 31 Down 4

Food for thought on Sep 28, 2022 at 5:47 pm

These are ego projects for self-important politicians (remember Kathy Watson andErnie Bourassa who left Whitehorse the second they were out of office?) my recollection of the last CWG was that downtown was abandoned thanks to YTG paying everyone to volunteer (is that cost accounted for this time?). It’s probably too late but I say no to this. Seems to me Mostyn thought it was a tad rich last time. Check Yukon News archives for that.


Up 36 Down 5

Financially illiterate politicians on Sep 28, 2022 at 5:45 pm

Boyd says it is okay because YTG is going to pay for most of it? Where does he think money comes from? Last I checked we all pay territorial and federal taxes....

Up 36 Down 7

Lost In the Yukon on Sep 28, 2022 at 5:31 pm

So f’ing easy to spend other people’s money … this is disgusting.

Up 38 Down 9

Josey Wales on Sep 28, 2022 at 5:21 pm

Gee...what a completely outta touch, completely clueless council.
Hemorrhage others money for party time, how liberal of them.

Up 44 Down 2

Totally real name on Sep 28, 2022 at 4:29 pm

Council and mayor listened to your opinions and promptly ignored them.
Vote them out. Full stop.

Up 74 Down 11

Matthew on Sep 28, 2022 at 3:28 pm

“You have to spend money to make money,” she said. Too funny! How's that working out for anyone? We spent 500B in 2 years, is any Canadian better off? Didn't think so...

Up 57 Down 12

Wilf Carter on Sep 28, 2022 at 3:23 pm

Here's what they have never considered. When conservatives were in power, they put the money up front in YTG bank account. But this Liberal government will not do that!!! Before 2027 Yukon and Federal governments will have elections. $69 million for housing by 2027 when we need $390 now for serviced land and housing. This is a disaster for City of Whitehorse.

Up 78 Down 11

Dallas on Sep 28, 2022 at 3:20 pm

Typical of a liberal mayor to tell us you need to spend money to make money, what she doesn’t understand is we want to save our money and spend it on ourselves on food, gas, diesel, etc., instead of spending it on increased taxes, Trudeau Sliver and Cabot are gonna be the ruin of this territory.

Up 96 Down 9

Confused on Sep 28, 2022 at 2:54 pm


We are in a housing crisis.
We are in a pandemic.
We are in an opioid crisis.
We are in an inflation crisis.
People literally cannot afford to eat, pay rent and buy heir medications.

BUT SURE LETS PUMP A COOL 11MIL DOWN THE DRAIN FOR THE GAMES?!?!? This is absurd. Council, give your heads a shake, you should be ashamed of yourselves for this. This is not a happy thing, this is not a fun event to host, this will create so much strain on our town.

A town where people were kicked out of hotels so they could charge more for tourist season.
A town where in the past 2 years of the pandemic has lost countless businesses.
A town where a massive percentage of businesses can’t even find enough staff to meet our communities needs.

Up 68 Down 4

BnR on Sep 28, 2022 at 2:53 pm

The council of fiscal responsibility…….
Ok, so we would get a bunch of housing that could become affordable units.
What’s that look like? Will the units be sold? If not, who will be assuming the O&M?
Sure we got the CGC the last go around, but the O&M placed a significant strain on the City. To this day the CofW is hard pressed financially if major infrastructure in it fails.

Up 76 Down 7

Anie on Sep 28, 2022 at 2:47 pm

According to the article "Boyd noted, however, the Yukon government has agreed to underwrite any escalation in cost, which provides a huge pillow of comfort for the city." Most yukoners live in Whitehorse. Whitehorse residents are going to carry most of this debt, whether through City or Territory, and suggesting that the Yukon Government underwriting the cost overruns is a "huge pillow of comfort" is just a huge bunch of baloney. It looks to me like this has been steamrolled through council, with very little discussion or at least very little on the record open to public scrutiny discussion. The estimates are so vague that we should all be worried. Remember folks, no other city in all if Canada wants these games. Why do we?

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