How much will it cost to host the FIFA World Cup in Vancouver? CTF demands transparency

The Taxpayers Federation is putting pressure on the City of Vancouver to releases its contract with FIFA World Cup for its updated costs, but the city says it will be kept confidential due to legal and security reasons.

It’s still unclear just how much it’s going to cost Vancouver and B.C. to host seven FIFA World Cup games in 2026, and that’s not sitting well with everyone.

The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation is demanding more transparency from officials, saying they should “follow Toronto’s lead” and “immediately release all contracts with FIFA.”

The CTF calls out Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim specifically, saying there is “absolutely no excuse for Sim’s secrecy.”

The federation notes a “heavily-redacted contract was released to a Vancouver journalist in response to a freedom-of-information request” in March 2023.

“Nearly every page of the contract was redacted in its entirety,” the CTF said in a release Thursday.

“We know that the cost estimates in Toronto have ballooned since they first announced they would be a host city. They’ve released updated financials. Minister (Lana) Popham has said the costs in B.C. have changed substantially but has refused to give us hard numbers or any kind of indication of what those numbers look like. That’s unacceptable,” CTF B.C. Director Carson Binda said.

A recent report to the Toronto Mayor’s Executive Committee showed that “current projections estimate operating and capital costs incurred locally” will be around $380 million — $80 million higher than the initial projection — to host games in that city.

‘That’s a slap in the face to the people who are being left with the bill’: CTF

The last estimate provided by B.C. was in June 2022. At the time, the province forecasted the cost to be between $240 million and $260 million. However, that was when Vancouver was slated to host five games, not seven. Inflation rates have also risen since then.

“When you divide that out by the number of games Vancouver is hosting, that’s going to cost us B.C. taxpayers about half a million dollars per minute of playtime, at a time when more Vancouverites, more British Columbians than ever are using food banks, at a time when more people than ever are having a hard time paying their rent and mortgages and keeping a roof over their head,” said Binda.

“We are paying for few international elite to live a life of luxury that most British Columbians and most Vancouverites couldn’t even imagine. Private suites, connectors between the casino and BC Place in case the beautiful game gets boring and you want to take a blackjack break. That’s a slap in the face to the people who are being left with the bill.”

The Taxpayers’ Federation says any revenue brought in by the games would not go into the pockets of Vancouver residents.

“It becomes corporate welfare; taxpayers — normal families like you and I — are paying for a few corporations in the hospitality sector to make a profit,” Binda said. “We’re subsidizing that.”

CityNews asked Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Lana Popham at the end of February about costs. She said at the time that the ministry is being as forthcoming as it can be.

“I think people should understand: if I had that number, I would share it, because we’re going to be completely transparent. There’s a lot that’s changed since 2022 and there’s a lot that’s changed just in the last few weeks,” she explained on Feb. 29.

Ministry still updating cost estimates

In a statement to CityNews Thursday, the Ministry of Tourism echoed much of Popham’s messaging, saying it continues to work with its partners “to further B.C.’s overall cost estimates for planning, staging and hosting FIFA World Cup 26™ matches, including updated projections of the economic benefits of hosting two additional matches.”

“Now that we know B.C. is getting more matches than expected, we are updating our cost estimates and the short and long-term economic benefits of hosting FIFA World Cup 26,” the ministry said, which is in line with previous statements.

“We are committed to sharing more information as soon as possible. We’re very excited B.C. is hosting seven matches – that’s two more than we were expecting – and more matches mean more opportunities to bring visitors to B.C. and grow our economy.”

The ministry says hosting the World Cup matches will benefit the local economy “significantly,” adding preliminary estimates show just five games could attract nearly 269,000 visitors during the tournament.

Pressure has been mounting on the province to release a better picture of what it will cost to host the seven World Cup matches.

The government has also been criticized by the opposition for the lack of information, with BCU Finance Critic Peter Milobar asking earlier this month, if Seattle could release its FIFA bid, why can’t B.C.?

“What a mess for what should be a celebration of soccer played at the highest level,” he said on X.

Earlier this week, the FIFA World Cup 26™ Vancouver account shared that officials were at BC Place for a site visit. The stadium is set to undergo upgrades to meet FIFA’s standards for play before the event.

“Taxpayers have every right to know how much we’re paying to host seven soccer games,” Binda said. “The city and province must be transparent with taxpayers instead of hiding the details.”

With files from Cecilia Hua.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today