The minister responsible for sport in the Northwest Territories hopes Yellowknife thinks twice about hosting major events after the South Slave’s experience.
Two years ago, Yellowknife councillors rejected the chance to host the 2023 Canada Winter Games in the city. A significant deterrent was the cost, projected to be upward of $50 million – not including pre-existing plans to build a new swimming pool, and some territorial government contributions.
However, Caroline Cochrane – the minister for municipal and community affairs, which oversees sports and recreation – feels this year’s Arctic Winter Games in Hay River and Fort Smith could change some minds.
“I am hoping so,” Cochrane told Cabin Radio while touring the snowboarding venue on Wednesday.
“The more we can get in the Northwest Territories – we need to get out there, we need for people to know that we exist, and this is one of the ways.
“It’s good for athletes and residents, and it’s good for kids to see other cultures and learn that there are people out there, internationally.”
The budget initially submitted by the South Slave in its bid to host the Arctic Winter Games projected a total spend of around $7.5 million. It’s not clear what the actual cost will come to once the Games conclude.
If Yellowknife’s councillors were to think again, they may be in for a wait. Prince Edward Island has tentatively assumed the NWT’s position in the rotation to fill the vacancy in 2023, leaving the territory pencilled in for 2031.
Territorial ministers were left disappointed when councillors turned down the 2023 Games. Finance minister Robert C McLeod had urged Yellowknife to accept, labelling the Games an “incredible opportunity” for the city and territory.
The current political climate may prove no more receptive, as the city’s arts community recently mounted a push for increased funding through a share of the lottery revenue currently spent on sports and recreation.
However, giving the Games the green light at an early stage would give Yellowknife more than a decade in lead time if councillors felt able to commit to it.
Meanwhile, Cochrane is also aiming for a lasting political effect on the South Slave from the experience of two communities jointly hosting this year’s Arctic Winter Games.
“I’m hoping that it’ll bring the communities together more,” she said.
“I hope this is showing role models and showing this is something kids can learn or do. The more they play sports, the less chance they’ll get into not-so-healthy choices in life.”