Will Ontario Fund Toronto’s World Cup Plan? Intra-provincial negotiations

Toronto’s plan to host five games as part of the 2026 World Cup could be in jeopardy as provincial officials continue to painstakingly consider whether to help pay for the event. , which the city expects from them.

Amid increasingly detailed talks about hosting five World Cup games in 2026 at Toronto’s BMO Field, provincial staff have been sidelined, according to sources and documents, because of any financial commitment to the Ontario event. Failed to confirm.

As recently as late spring, an insider with knowledge of the talks said government staff and bureaucrats still had no idea which way the province would lean, preventing the Ford government from paying for the Toronto project. is refusing.

Meanwhile, internal emails and reports obtained by Global News through a freedom of information request show the province is worried about the rising costs of hosting the international event.

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The documents also reveal cost concerns — which appear to have prevented Dugford from pledging to help pay for the sporting event — leaving the province with a rapidly shrinking window to raise $300,000. Have any meaningful input on projects hosting over a million. event.

According to documents obtained by Global News, Ontario’s reluctance to pay means that the province can only play an “observer” role in multiple jurisdictional discussions.

Toronto expects Queen’s Park to take the field.

With Toronto’s hopes of hosting five World Cup matches dependent on support from the provincial and federal governments, city staff previously said they believed the costs could be split roughly three ways.

Initially, Queen’s Park strongly indicated that it would support Toronto’s bid to host World Cup matches and suggested that the effort was financially supported by the province.

In July 2021, then-Sports and Culture Minister Lisa McLeod said the province was 110 percent in support of FIFA coming in 2026 and would do everything possible to support the plan.

McLeod was removed from cabinet in 2022 and those assurances dried up during the Progressive Conservatives’ second term.

As of the summer of 2022, Toronto staff indicated that while Ontario had expressed “support” for Toronto’s bid, the province had not made a specific financial commitment.

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Since then, provincial governments in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and British Columbia have all agreed to cover their share of hosting costs. Queen’s Park continues to be deliberate.

Concerns about cost

The scene of the Pan American Games, hosted by Toronto in 2015, appears to be a case in point for the province. A report by Ontario’s auditor general — published in 2016 and emailed among staff in Ford’s office as part of the World Cup debate — found that $342 million was spent over the Games budget. .

A separate document circulated among provincial staff detailed how various elements of the project, such as the construction of the Pan Am Games venue or accommodation, cost more than planned. The information appears to inform World Cup discussions.

A provincial source said the feeling within the government was that there had been support for the World Cup before, but concerns about cost overruns meant the final decision was now unclear.

By November, Ford said it was concerned about the rising cost.

“Every day that cost goes up and up,” Ford said. “And I’m a big football fan – I love football – but let’s have a look at it, we’ll look at the finances and hopefully we’ll be able to come up with an answer soon.”

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A briefing note sent by staff to Ford’s office echoed those concerns over the speech and pointed out that “only five of the total 80 matches” for the World Cup should be played in Toronto. will

“The City and Canada Soccer were originally asking for $76M each from the provinces and the federal government, however costs are rising rapidly, with the most recent revised request being $92M,” warned the internal note. has been.

The Ontario Observer

While the province considers the cost of the event, both Ottawa and Toronto have plowed on without them.

A government document sent on Nov. 18 acknowledged that Toronto, Vancouver and the federal government “have begun increasingly detailed discussions and negotiations over the past two months” and to sign the deal in early 2023. The plan is made.

“Without a mandate for the negotiations, Ontario is simply sitting as an observer to these discussions,” the note said.

Take the role of a powerless passer-by in a province during the fall of 2022.

“Multi-day meetings between government partners and Canada Soccer took place in September 2022 and October 2022,” explained the briefing note.

“Unlike previous meetings, these were planning-based and focused on advancing the MPA negotiations between the parties. Ontario once again attended as an observer, and continued to state that the province hosted the event. Mandate of support has not been given.

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A large portion of the briefing notes released as part of the records disclosed to Global News were redacted with some pages advising the Cabinet as to the reason, suggesting that That Ford and his top ministers have discussed the issue.

A spokesperson for the province’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport said Ontario is “conducting due diligence” before making a commitment to the 2026 World Cup plan.

“The Government of Ontario is working with Canada Soccer, the City of Toronto and the federal government to carefully assess the needs, opportunities, risks and impacts of supporting the event in Ontario,” a spokesperson told Global News.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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