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Plebiscite for 2030 Olympic bid a ‘no-brainer,’ says Vancouver councillor

But agreement with First Nations recommends decision on bid be made this month
Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics after citizens voted in a plebiscite in 2003 to proceed with a bid for the event.

City councillor Colleen Hardwick says her call for a plebiscite on whether citizens want Vancouver to host the 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics shouldn’t be seen as controversial and should have council’s full support when it goes to a vote next week.

Hardwick, who is running for mayor this year as the candidate for TEAM for a Livable Vancouver, has drafted a motion that calls for a plebiscite on the Games and have it tied to the ballot voters will cast in the Oct. 15 municipal election.

“It's hard for me to understand why an open, transparent and democratic vote by all the people of Vancouver on a very big issue would not be supported by all of council,” she said Thursday. “To me, it’s democracy — it's a no-brainer.”

Mayor Kennedy Stewart and councillors Adriane Carr, Sarah Kirby-Yung, Pete Fry and Rebecca Bligh have all cited concerns about lack of input from the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Lilwat nations on a plebiscite.

The four nations announced in December that they jointly entered into a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, with the City of Vancouver and the Resort Municipality of Whistler to assess the feasibility of hosting the 2030 Games.

If the bid went ahead, it would be the first one in history led by Indigenous peoples.

'Off to the races'

Vancouver Is Awesome left messages with communications staff and leaders for all four nations this week, including Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow but had not heard back at the time of this story being posted.

A copy of the MOU viewed by Vancouver Is Awesome says a recommendation on whether to proceed with a bid needs to be reached no later than March 2022 in accordance with 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games timelines.

If a decision comes this month not to bid on the Games, then there would be no need for a plebiscite. If the nations want to proceed, then Hardwick’s argument is a plebiscite would only help inform the bid — one that she believes a majority of people would support.

"Chances are it'll be a positive vote and [supporters] are off to the races, but don't try to sidestep the democratic process," she said.

'Undermining our relationship'

In an email this week, Stewart suggested Hardwick’s motion doesn’t honour the agreement with the nations “and risks severely undermining our relationship with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people upon whose unceded lands our city is built.”

Hardwick said city staff did not raise concerns related to the MOU when she sought input on drafting her motion. She said Stewart’s allegation that she is contravening the agreement with the nations is “categorically incorrect.”

Hardwick said she has not spoken to First Nations leaders about a plebiscite.

Although she is not a supporter of another Games, Hardwick said her motivation for the plebiscite is simply based on people having a say on another possible international event.

“[The nations] have their own constituency and I respect that,” she said. “But so do I as a Vancouver councillor. I report to 600,000-plus Vancouverites that I believe should have their say about the Games. So that, I would think, would be of interest and in support of their intentions.”

Added Hardwick: “I would welcome having conversations [with the nations], but I didn't know that I needed to do that in advance of bringing forward a motion for my constituents.”

'Right thing to do'

Vancouver held a plebiscite in 2003 in which more than 63 per cent of voters supported the city’s bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The plebiscite was not tied to an election and cost $575,000.

Hardwick said adding a question to a ballot would be much cheaper than the cost for a stand-alone plebiscite and would likely increase voter turnout for the election — one in which she will challenge Stewart for the mayor’s chair.

“We did it before the 2010 games, and we should do it again before heading down the road to the 2030 games,” she said. “This should not be an issue — this is the right thing to do.”

Hardwick is expected to introduce her motion March 29. If citizens sign up to speak to the motion, debate and decision may not occur until March 30.