It's a No: Plebiscite reveals Calgarians want to halt 2026 Winter Olympics bid

Calgarians have voted against a bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The No side won with 56.4 per cent of the vote, according to the unofficial result of the non-binding plebiscite. The results were announced by returning officer Laura Kennedy around 10 p.m. Tuesday.

A total of 304,774 people had cast ballots across the city, with 171,750 voting against a bid and 132,832 casting a vote in favour of the Games.

The result means a loss of $ 700 million in funding from Alberta for the Games, as the money was contingent on the outcome of the plebiscite. But the bid still faces an official vote by city council before the bid corporation is officially dissolved.

Polls closed at 8 p.m., with those in line before 8 p.m. still be allowed to vote, Elections Calgary said.

As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, 153,163 people had voted in person, adding to the 46,620 advance votes and 8,001 mail-in ballots received, according to the city.

During the 2017 election, 157,697 people had voted by 6 p.m., not including mail-ins and advance voting.

The grand total at the end of last fall's election was 387,582. That was equal to a 58 per cent voter turnout, according to Elections Calgary. 

A Calgarian arrives to vote in a plebiscite on whether the city should proceed with a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, in on Nov. 13. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Voter Ron McCulloch, who cast his ballot at the Strathcona Christie Aspen Community Association, said he was basing his choice on his conscience and his pocketbook.

"It's somewhat annoying that the city has given the Yes people a lot of money and they've given the No people nothing," he said. "And you kind of look and say, well, is this the elite that's pushing the agenda?"

Erin Waite and Dan Gauld with No Calgary Olympics look at early vote counts from scrutineers as plebiscite results start to come in after 8 p.m. on Nov. 13. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

But voter Nina Connors said she hopes people realize it's about more than money.

"I came to vote because I was in the Olympics in Vancouver and thought it was the most wonderful thing I've ever been to, and I think if anyone can do this, it's Calgary," she said. 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he just had one request for Calgarians — to vote.

"Regardless of where you stand, let's make sure there's a really high voter turnout so there's an unambiguous decision on this," Nenshi said, who voted Tuesday morning at Monsignor A.J. Hetherington School in the northeast.

"I hope you'll vote Yes. I think there are many great reasons to keep this process going and to not let this opportunity pass us by. But regardless of where you stand, please come out and vote."

A Calgarian arrives to vote in a plebiscite on whether the city should proceed with a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Many Calgarians across the city heard the mayor's voice in a robocall Monday night, pushing for a Yes vote.

A plebiscite result in favour would likely mean the city's Olympic bid corporation would submit a formal proposal to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in January, while a vote against would result in the province pulling its financial support and likely a council vote that would see the bid corporation shut down.

Voting for the non-binding plebiscite took place in all city wards and there were multiple polls in each ward.

Elections Calgary instructed voters to not wear their Olympic gear to polling stations, as campaigning was not permitted inside.

The advance polls drew a strong turnout, with 54,442 votes, including 8,582 mail-in ballots.

Updates on voter turnout were provided by Elections Calgary throughout the day.

The plebiscite was the first time in a Calgary election that electronic vote tabulating machines were used, instead of hand-counting ballots. 

Voters wait to cast a ballot at the Renfrew Community Association in northeast Calgary. The city says by 9 a.m., 13,263 voters had cast their ballots at stations across Calgary in the Olymbic bid plebiscite. (CBC)

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