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Since Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn announced the startling decision that the Yukon would be pulling its bid to host the 2027 Canada Winter Games, Yukoners have been left scratching their heads about how we got here.
Just about every single person involved in any way whatsoever with the bid itself quickly expressed shock at the sudden announcement made on November 14. Now, as the final deadline has passed and the dust has settled, Yukoners finally have a clear picture of how this unfortunate series of events unfolded. While there are many details to pore over, one thing is absolutely clear: the fault for this travesty lies entirely at the feet of the territorial Liberal government and in particular, Minister Richard Mostyn. Successfully pulling off large, multi-sport games like the Canada Winter Games is no small feat and requires leadership and vision. Instead, all the political level of Yukon Government has offered has been absenteeism and erratic, unilateral decisions that ultimately proved to be too much for the already tightly timed bid to sustain.
First, let us recall the cancellation announcement itself. On the morning of November 14, the Minister let it be known that he would be making a statement on the matter in the Legislature. That statement was released alongside a news release announcing that the territorial Liberals were terminating the bid. This came as a shock to the bid committee itself, as well as the Canada Games Council, Yukon sports groups, our Member of Parliament, and the Federal Government. What was most perturbing was that even the City of Whitehorse, a formal co-host of the bid, only found out after the decision had been made. While the Minister made it clear that it was a decision made by the territorial Liberal cabinet, questions remain about why the Premier nor any other Ministers ever thought to ask their co-host, the City of Whitehorse, for any input.
Next is the matter of funding. Minister Mostyn has hung the decision on a so-called lack of clear financial commitment from the federal government. While that would be a reasonable excuse, it was immediately countered by our Member of Parliament who insisted that there was plenty more on offer from the Trudeau government. Speaking to local media, MP Brendan Hanley clarified that discussions were well underway and went as high as federal Ministers’ offices. He also noted that the amount cited by Minister Mostyn was simply Sport Canada’s base funding, and that further funding would certainly be made available. When we look at the timing of funding announcements for other jurisdictions, MP Hanley’s version seems more plausible. Newfoundland and Labrador are hosting the games in 2025, and as recently as last month, were still announcing new funding. It may be challenging for planning, but this is unfortunately how the federal government works.
Finally, there is the substance of the bid itself. The Minister has insisted that nothing less than the almost $200 million package, which included a $115 million replacement of the Takhini Arena, would do. To many Yukoners this was a gross overreach. Yukon ably hosted the Canada Winter Games almost 20 years ago with the infrastructure we currently have, buttressed by some temporary event spaces and the since dismantled Stan McCowan Arena. However, Minister Mostyn has made clear that the Liberals would not even contemplate a ‘Plan B’ or some other scaled back version of the bid. This is especially surprising given the feedback from the Canada Games Council itself. CGC president and CEO Kelly-Ann Paul said that the bid was “a shinier version than what would have been required to host the Canada Games” and the Whitehorse Star reported that Bid Evaluation Committee wrote to the Yukon expressing concern that the extravagance of the bid presented a funding risk, and that the Yukon should develop plan B.
While more facts will likely emerge about the failed bid, what Yukoners know now is that the handling of this by the Minister has been confusing to those involved, frustrating for the formal bid partners, and overall woefully inept.
The reality is that while the decision was clearly made hastily and unilaterally by the territorial Liberal cabinet, young Yukon and Canadian athletes will feel the ramifications, as the 2027 Canada Winter Games now face the very real possibility of being cancelled. It has left a reputational black eye on the Yukon that will be difficult to recover from as athletes, sports groups, other provinces and territories, and the Canada Games Council wrestle with the fallout of the rash, ill-considered decision of the territorial Liberals.
Leader of the Yukon Party