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Premier says joint Commonwealth Games bid needs backing of Albertans, doesn't commit to plebiscite

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We don't yet know the projected cost or which venues could host events for a potential 2030 Commonwealth Games, but officials say it will be up to Albertans to decide whether to put forth a bid.

However, people shouldn't expect a plebiscite or public vote on the matter, according to the group putting together the pitch and Calgary's mayor.

The group publicly launched its exploratory phase of a possible Alberta bid in early March and will have just months to put together a proposal.

"We have to see that the public is behind it. That's pretty key. We wouldn't want to go forward without broad public support," Premier Danielle Smith said Monday, though she wouldn't go as far as committing to a plebiscite.

"I tend to like to see a proposal before I make a decision on it."

It's complicated to have a public vote, Smith suggested, because several communities are being considered to be part of the bid.

Calgary and Edmonton would host a bulk of the events if Alberta does welcome the games — Tsuut'ina and Canmore could be in the mix, too.

The Alberta 2030 group is working on determining a price tag to bid and host the games.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games, hosted by Birmingham in the U.K., cost more than $1.2 billion.

"Capturing adequately the legacy impacts is difficult," said Matt Lyons, a research fellow at the University of Birmingham who studied the cost and impact of the 2022 Commonwealth Games and other major sporting events.

"One of the things that is generally overlooked is what this money could otherwise have been spent on, really? What is the opportunity cost of this decision?" he said.

It makes it difficult to truly determine whether hosting the Commonwealth Games is really worth it, Lyons said.

"You've got the tourism impact, which is principally what we looked at. It suggested that that brought in around 200 million pounds," Lyons explained.

"But this is quite a narrow estimate. The U.K. government has also produced a report which looked at the wider impacts, and have suggested that the impact is more like 870 million pounds."

The Alberta 2030 group is accepting feedback on its website and says input and participation will be at the core of its effort.

There's no word whether there will be any in-person events hosted by the exploratory group or any level of government to gather public comments.

The bid proposal will be made public by August and a host for the 2030 Commonwealth Games will be picked in November. 

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