Calgary and Edmonton both want to host world’s fair

world's fair
Vancouver successfully played host to Expo 86. Will either Calgary or Edmonton be next?

Is Calgary about to play host to Expo 2017, an event that could cost provincial taxpayers in excess of one billion dollars? Last week the City of Calgary, led by Mayor Dave Bronconnier, shelled out $400,000 worth of the city’s resources to begin the bid process. Vancouver and Montreal are the only two other Canadian cities to have played host to this international event.

In the case of Vancouver, Expo 86 helped to put Vancouver on the map and helped to shape the future development of the city for the two decades that followed. Montreal’s Expo didn’t quite have the same profound effect on its local economy, but it was a source of much pride throughout the nation.

Calgary’s bid has caused a lot of angst, as the City of Edmonton has also placed a bid. This will leave the Province of Alberta having to decide which of those bids to support, if any at all. The Edmonton Sun states that Lindsay Blackett, someone they describe as "the province’s main man on the World’s Fair file", is not amused by the Calgary bid:

Lindsay tells this scribe the move reeks of extortion, forcing the province to choose between latecomer Calgary and Edmonton, a city long in the hunt for the prize.

Alberta is currently going through some of the worst financial times they’ve had in decades. Provincial deficits have been on the rise, and oil prices have been on the decline over the last year. As a result Blackett states:

If we make a bid, can we win? If we win, do we want to have it? Do we want to spend anywhere between $1 billion and $3 billion to do it?

We’re all skittish because we’re looking at potentially having to cut $2 billion from our budget. So that’s an immediate concern.

We have to focus on priorities, needs versus wants. What would Albertans feel if we had to take something away they feel is cherished? It’s really hard to tell Albertans they can’t have their services but we can go forward and have an Expo. We don’t have a billion dollars for either city right now.

Our suspicion is that Edmonton’s bid will likely make it out on top, the price of oil will once again hit $100 a barrel, and yes, the province will find the funds needed to host Expo 2017.

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