The unfolding World Cup 2026 debacle in Toronto

The reality is no politician – Tory, Chow, or anyone else – should have saddled Toronto taxpayers with this burden. Pictured: Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow. Photo Credit: Olivia Chow/X.

Toronto taxpayers recently received news as predictable as the sun rising in the east: the price tag for hosting a handful of 2026 World Cup games is skyrocketing and taxpayers will be the ones left holding the bag.

The new numbers are so bad it’s time for Toronto’s leaders to consider withdrawing from hosting the games. 

When politicians first started talking about hosting a handful of 2026 World Cup games in Toronto, taxpayers were told the cost would be somewhere between $30 million and $45 million.

Former mayor John Tory commissioned analysis of the potential economic benefits of hosting. Bureaucrats concluded it would generate $307 million of economic activity and stimulate opportunities for Toronto’s tourism sector. 

With costs pegged at less than $50 million and economic benefits reaching as high as $307 million, Toronto’s politicians sold the games to taxpayers as a no-brainer.

It turns out the whole pitch was a house of cards.  

Fast forward five years. Officials are now telling Toronto taxpayers the cost of hosting the games will reach $380 million. The very same analysis shows the city of Toronto only expects to bring in an additional $118.9 million in new tax revenue from the additional economic activity bureaucrats hope will result from hosting six soccer matches.

That means that even if bureaucrats’ rosy projections hold true, costs will outweigh city revenue by a three-to-one margin.

Even a kindergartner could weigh those odds and decide it’s a raw deal for taxpayers.

How did costs shoot up so much? Toronto bureaucrats are blaming it on “inflationary uncertainty.”

Surely Toronto’s politicians don’t think taxpayers are so thick headed they can’t figure out that a 1,166 per cent increase in the cost of hosting the games cannot be purely blamed on inflation.

The reality is that hosting games like the World Cup and the Olympics are money losers. Practically every event goes over cost, without fail. 

When Calgary hosted the Olympic Games in 1988, cost overruns amounted to a whopping 59 per cent. Even the Vancouver Olympic Games saw cost overruns of 17 per cent, which is said by experts to be the best performer. 

Gamblers can safely bet the farm that costs for Toronto to host six World Cup games will far exceed $380 million. 

And Toronto taxpayers will bear the greatest burden: the Ford government says it won’t contribute any more than $97 million toward hosting the games and custom dictates the federal government will cover no more than 35 per cent. 

Some proponents of Toronto’s FIFA deal argue taxpayers shouldn’t just focus on the tax revenue generated to recoup the costs. Instead, they argue taxpayers should focus on the economic benefits for local businesses encouraged by increased tourism. 

But it’s worth remembering that asking taxpayers to foot the bill for hosting the World Cup purely to benefit businesses is a form corporate welfare. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay more in taxes just so certain businesses can increase their profits.  

Mayor Olivia Chow seems to understand Toronto taxpayers are getting shafted.

Chow recognizes the burden placed on Toronto taxpayers, but claims she’s “saddled” with Tory’s deal. Chow says she wouldn’t have signed the deal as it stands and will prioritize “cost control” going forward. 

That’s simply not good enough. 

The reality is no politician – Tory, Chow, or anyone else – should have saddled Toronto taxpayers with this burden. 

Chow needs to do more than work to control costs. If she can’t lower the taxpayer tab by working with sponsors and getting more private sector buy-in, Chow should withdraw Toronto from its hosting the games.

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