Calgary votes 'No' to bid on the 2026 Winter Olympics
Calgarians voted ‘no’ to submitting a bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. Mayor Naheed Nenshi repeatedly voiced his support for the Olympic bid, and given the ‘No’ result he felt the bid process was transparent but wants to examine why Calgarians decided on voting no. The bid for the Olympics was a political push; months of campaigning by BidCo, also known as Calgary 2026, with robocalls and mailed pamphlets, which resulted in polls showing citizens who voted ‘no’ citing ongoing economic hardship in the city and province from the economic recession that started in 2014. Calgarians’ questioned the priority of spending an undetermined billions of dollars when a significant number of Albertans remain unemployed and without foreseeable reversal of their fortunes.
The Calgary Olympic Bid Corporation (CBEC) said the city would need new facilities plus CAD $3 billion in government funding to host the 2026 Olympics, which they expected to cost CAD $5.23 billion. Last year, a report from the CBEC estimated the net cost of the Games at CAD $4.6 billion, nearly CAD $1 billion less.
The CAD $3 billion public cost would be split between the municipal, provincial, and federal governments, with the remainder paid privately through ticket sales, corporate sponsorship, and a contribution from the International Olympic Committee.
Throughout the two-year process, details from the cost to taxpayers to venues and security costs were not clarified with the public and budget numbers varied widely. Days before advance voting opened, the federal government announced they would provide up to CAD $1.75 billion in 2026 dollars for the Games, approximately CAD $1.5 billion in today's dollars, or half the needed amount, and only if the city and province's total contribution matched it, totaling CAD $800 million from Calgary taxpayers. City Council had a final opportunity to pull the plug on the bid a week prior to the vote when it became apparent the ‘yes’ side would lose.
Crosbie Cotton was a local journalist who covered Calgary’s successful bid for the 1988 Winter Games and reflected that it was the polar opposite of what happened in Calgary today. In 1988, he says, “The bid was led entirely by entrepreneur business leaders with a vision. It was born with unmatched passion launched with a $5,000 boost from the Calgary Booster Club, an organization that to this day supports the best athletes this city produces every year. Hell-bent on a mission whose only goal was to succeed, they spent pennies like manhole covers and raised the funds required to bid from within an engaged populace and excited corporate community. They convinced corporations to volunteer their experts and professional services instead of paying everyone tax dollars. For the 1988 Games, city hall covered a minuscule part of the bid cost. Sidelining the mayor and council and letting adroit business acumen take the lead was a brilliant manoeuvre that protected taxpayers while taking local political grandstanding out of the Games.”
The deadline for potential hosts to submit a bid to the International Olympic Committee is January with the winning city chosen in September 2019.
UK Prime Minister May’s ‘days are numbered’ after unveiling Brexit deal to Cabinet
After a year and a half of tense negotiations, British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed Tuesday that she has reached a final Brexit deal with the European Union. Senior Ministers were called to Downing Street individually Tuesday night to be briefed on the deal ahead of an emergency Cabinet meeting Wednesday. Ministers were not entrusted to take a copy of the 500-page draft of the deal, accompanied by a five-page "political declaration", home with them. The deal apparently involves a two-year transition until 2021, followed by a highly contentious all-UK customs union "backstop" in the event that the Irish border issue cannot be resolved.
Cabinet sources suggest ten members of Cabinet have made it clear they have significant reservations including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey. Leadsom, Mordaunt, and McVey have been the subject of repeated resignation speculation.
All four opposition parties wrote a joint letter to the Prime Minister demanding a "truly meaningful vote" on the deal. The DUP, Labour Party, and Liberal Democrats each issued statements setting out their opposition to the deal, which has not yet even been published.
Conservative Eurosceptics were infuriated by the deal, with former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith suggesting PM May's "days are numbered" and when asked if it were now time for a new party leader, Mr. Duncan Smith replied, “The questions will be asked … the party will certainly be asking questions along those lines.” Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and brother to former Transport Minister Jo Johnson, who resigned from Cabinet yesterday, told BBC News: "This has been a chronicle of a death foretold for some months now. We are going to stay in the Customs Union … We are going to stay effectively in large parts of the Single Market. It is vassal state stuff. For the first time in 1000 years this place, this Parliament, will not have a say over the laws that govern this country. It is a quite incredible state of affairs."
A former Brexiteer Cabinet minister who asked not to be named said the deal meant the Conservatives could not win the election. MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said “the white flags have gone up all over Whitehall … we are all toast, aren't we? This is almost like the Titanic – she can't steer it and she is not going to let anyone else steer it. Normally rats leave a sinking ship – this lot have stayed on it.”
NATO looks to start-ups and disruptive tech to defeat emerging defense threats
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or North Atlantic Alliance (NATO), is developing new hi-tech tools, including 3D-print parts for weapons to be delivered by drone, as it scrambles to retain a competitive edge over Russia, China, and other would-be battlefield adversaries. Head of NATO’s transformation command General Andre Lanata told a conference in Berlin that his command demonstrated over twenty-one “disruptive” projects during military exercises in Norway this month.
NATO is focused on areas such as artificial intelligence, connectivity, quantum computing, big data and hypervelocity, but also wants to learn from DHL and others how to improve the logistics of moving weapons and troops. Lanata urged start-ups and traditional arms manufacturers to work with NATO to boost innovation, as rapid and easy access to emerging technologies was helping adversaries narrow their longstanding advantage.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said increased military spending by NATO members would help tackle some of the challenges, but efforts were also needed to reduce widespread duplication and fragmentation in the European defense sector.
Ceasefire in Gaza resumes
Following an Egyptian mediation effort Hamas militants and Israel held their fire late on Tuesday, bringing relative calm to Gaza after several days of the worst rocket and air strikes since the 2014 war. Palestinians and Israelis both made it clear the pause was an armed stand-off rather than a long-term accommodation. The wider Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been stalled for several years.
Hamas, which has ruled the Palestinian side since 2007, claimed victory, with spokesman Abdel-Latif Al-Qanoua saying their militants had “taught the enemy a harsh lesson and made it pay for its crimes” and they would abide by a ceasefire “as long as the Zionist enemy does the same.”
After a cabinet debate lasting several hours, Israel’s Security Minister Yuval Steinitz said that he knew of no formal truce. Rather, he said Israel had “landed a harsh and unprecedented blow on Hamas and the terrorist groups in Gaza, and we will see if that will suffice or whether further blows will be required”.
Amazon chooses New York City and Arlington, Virginia for HQ2
Amazon attracted hundreds of proposals from across North America in a year-long bidding war for what they called HQ2, beyond their home headquarters in Seattle, Washington. With plans to create more than 25,000 jobs, Amazon chose to split HQ2 between both Long Island City in New York City and Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. and will spend USD $5 billion on the two new developments. Amazon also announced a new 5,000-person center in Nashville, Tennessee to focus on technology and management for retail operations.
With more than 610,000 workers worldwide, Amazon is one of the largest employers in the United States and the world’s third-most valuable company, behind Apple and Microsoft. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and the world’s richest person, also privately owns the Washington Post. Amazon says it has invested USD $160 billion in the U.S. since 2010 and that the new offices will generate more than USD $14 billion in extra tax revenue for New York, Virginia, and Tennessee over the next two decades. Amazon said it expects an average wage of more than USD $150,000 for employees in each new office.
Strategically, the two locations are in the financial and political capitals of the country, potentially offering greater influence among lobbyist in the American capital. Close proximity to the Pentagon may also help Amazon win a USD $10 billion cloud-computing contract from the U.S. Department of Defense, said analyst at Wedbush Securities, Michael Pachter.
At the outset of its search last year, Amazon said it was looking for a business-friendly environment, saying it will receive performance-based incentives of USD $1.525 billion from the state of New York, including an average USD $48,000 for each job it creates. Amazon expects to receive more than USD $2 billion in tax credits and incentives and plans to apply for more, such as New York City’s Relocation and Employment Assistance Program, potentially worth USD $900 million over twelve years, and performance-based incentives of USD $573 million in Virginia, including an average USD $22,000 for each job it creates.