In an unexpected move Tuesday (March 29) at city hall, city councillor Colleen Hardwick withdrew her motion that calls for a plebiscite to gauge whether citizens want Vancouver to host the 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
But it’s not the end of Hardwick’s goal to give people a say on a potential bid for the Games.
Instead, Hardwick told Vancouver Is Awesome after the council meeting that she will introduce an updated motion at the April 12 meeting. She wants a couple of weeks for Vancouverites to understand the need for a vote on such a costly international event.
“I believe by delaying it by two weeks, and talking to Vancouverites, that I will be able to demonstrate significant support for this that will persuade council that it is the right thing to do,” she said.
“If people in the city get wind that they don't have a voice on whether this Olympics would proceed, and that decisions have been made in backrooms that have excluded them, I think Vancouverites are not going to be very happy about that.”
But don’t expect Hardwick to use the word “plebiscite” in her updated motion, instead calling it a vote. She still wants a question on whether citizens would support hosting the 2030 Games on the Oct. 15 election ballot.
Leading up to Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Kennedy Stewart and some councillors said publicly that they were concerned that Hardwick hadn’t consulted with the four First Nations that signed a memorandum of understanding with the City of Vancouver and Resort Municipality of Whistler to explore the feasibility of hosting the Games.
Stewart said in a written statement March 23 that Hardwick’s call for a plebiscite did not honour the agreement with the nations and risked “severely undermining our relationship with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people upon whose unceded lands our city is built.”
When drafting her motion, Hardwick said, city staff did not raise a concern over how a call for a public vote on the Olympics would affect the agreement with the nations, which was signed in December 2021.
“It was never about diminishing the role of First Nations,” said Hardwick, whose name will be on the election ballot as the mayoral candidate for TEAM for a Livable Vancouver. “It was just delivering on our responsibilities as the City of Vancouver to our electorate.”
Staff, however, has told Hardwick that preparations for the Oct. 15 municipal election are already underway and that funds for a potential question and campaign regarding a vote on the Olympics is not included in the budget.
Hardwick believes costs would be minimal compared to a stand-alone plebiscite.
'Conversations have begun'
For her motion to be heard, Hardwick needs another member of council to second it. She said she had a councillor “lined up” to second her motion Tuesday, which she expects will carry over to the April 12 meeting.
Hardwick, along with councillors Christine Boyle, Jean Swanson and Pete Fry, voted in November 2020 not to support a motion from Coun. Melissa De Genova to direct city staff to explore the feasiblity of hosting the Games in 2030.
When asked if she’s reached out to First Nations leaders, Hardwick said “those conversations have begun but I’m not in a position to be talking about more than that.” She wouldn’t say who those conversations involve, or what the response was to her call for a vote on the Olympics.
Vancouver Is Awesome has left phone and text messages, along with email requests for interviews and statements, to all four nations. Only the Squamish Nation has replied, with a representative saying the band wanted to learn the result of Hardwick’s motion before providing comment.
Since the nations signed a memorandum of understanding with Vancouver and Whistler, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee have signed a collaboration agreement with the group.
A decision on whether to proceed with a bid is expected in late fall.
Vancouver 2030 'grassroots' society
Meanwhile, Vancouver 2030 — a self-described “grassroots not-for-profit society” — has emerged to campaign for the Games to return to Vancouver and the region.
Mark Hamilton, who served as IT lead for Team Canada at the London Games in 2012, is the society’s president. The society’s website says “our organization is working to generate publicity and develop the relationships necessary to facilitate a successful Games bid.”