NWT weighing up whether to bid for 2035 Canada Winter Games


The Northwest Territories is considering whether to take up the opportunity to host the 2035 Canada Winter Games.

The nationwide youth multi-sports event attracts thousands of athletes but has never been hosted in the territory, which does not currently possess the necessary facilities.

Yellowknife had the opportunity to host the 2023 Canada Winter Games but city councillors voted in 2016 not to do so.

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Though a report insisted the city had the money, volunteers and accommodation to host the Games, councillors said they hadn’t heard enough public support and felt the tens millions of dollars required could be better spent elsewhere.

As a result, the NWT surrendered its 2023 hosting right to Prince Edward Island, which is now hosting the Canada Winter Games in February next year.

In return, PEI gave the NWT its original hosting slot of 2031. But in news releases last week, the NWT government and Canada Games Council said the territory had now been assigned 2035 under a new system, with 2031 going to Quebec.

Shane Thompson, the NWT’s minister of municipal and community affairs – which controls sports and recreation in the territory – expressed cautious optimism about the opportunity to host.

“The formal bid must be submitted eight years prior to the 2035 Canada Winter Games, which means that a decision to bid must be made by 2027,” Thompson said in a statement.

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“The GNWT must now undertake the work required to bring forth a bid on behalf of the NWT.

“This is a very exciting opportunity, as hosting multi-sport games supports many GNWT objectives including increased tourism and the promotion of northern arts and culture. The GNWT is currently working to understand fully the opportunities, challenges, and risks that come with hosting a major national sporting and cultural event like the 2035 Canada Winter Games.”

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Whitehorse moving ahead with 2027 bid

In 2016, hosting the Canada Winter Games in Yellowknife was estimated to cost $50.3 million, of which the city would have covered $15 million. The territorial and federal governments and sponsors would have paid for the rest, though the GNWT’s apparent reluctance to formally commit to the Games was cited as a key reason why city councillors voted down the idea.

Some 3,000 athletes, 4,500 volunteers and thousands of spectators can be expected to attend any Canada Games.

The 2016 report said housing everyone for the duration of the Games would be the biggest challenge.

This time around, Thompson said a “proper and thorough consultation” will now take place with everyone involved before a decision on bidding for 2035 is made.

“Should a formal bid for the 2035 Canada Winter Games be submitted, the GNWT will pursue every available option to secure funding and support from the Government of Canada,” Thompson wrote.

“If a bid is submitted, 2035 would be the first time in history that the Northwest Territories would host the Canada Games, and it would offer an opportunity to support Truth and Reconciliation recommendations in two ways. First, by ensuring that there is meaningful participation by Indigenous people in the host society and second, by ensuring that there are appropriate and meaningful opportunities for Indigenous governments and Indigenous organizations to participate and benefit from hosting these games in the NWT.”

The Yukon, meanwhile, is working toward hosting the Canada Winter Games for a second time in 2027.

Whitehorse has already hosted the event once, in 2007, and the Yukon capital’s councillors just gave their backing to the 2027 bid. A bid evaluation committee is scheduled to visit the city this month.

NWT athletes and coaches routinely cite Whitehorse’s impressive facilities as an example of the legacy a Canada Games can leave for future generations of northern athletes, despite the formidable costs involved.

Accommodation is similarly a concern for the Whitehorse bid, and a major housing package is proposed as part of its hosting plan alongside some new facilities.