By Erika Mathieu
Alberta’s new Minister of Tourism and Sport and MLA for Cardston-Siksika, Joseph Schow, has received his mandate letter from the Premier outlining his role and focus.
In addition to a general requirement to support growth in tourism and sport in Alberta, Schow has also been tasked with working alongside his cabinet and caucus colleagues to establish the Community Recreation Centre Infrastructure Fund which will enhance recreational facilities across the province by investing in small and mid-sized projects financed though the fund. The mandate letter stipulates that at least $80 million in funding will be allocated to this fund to support investments into projects such as indoor and outdoor arenas and rinks, indoor turf centres, and sports fields and courts.
On July 18, for his first appearance since receiving the ministerial mandate letter, Schow attended a press conference to announce that the application period for the “Every Kid Can Play” (EKCP) initiative was officially open for eligible families and organizations to apply for financial supports. The funding will help offset sports and recreation registration costs, and is part of a $8 million investment into the EKCP program which provides direct support to families through grants administered through KidSport Alberta. The remaining $5 million in funding for the EKCP initiative will be awarded to non-profit organizations to empower them to deliver affordable sports and recreation-based programming and create equitable access for youth in sport.
The mandate letter specifies the Premier’s expectations for the role including the development of an international games bidding policy and legislation, as necessary, “to ensure future international gaming bids using substantial provincial taxpayer dollars are subject to transparent public disclosure requirements and cost/benefit analysis and include mandatory referenda for affected communities when appropriate.”
Following the announcement, Schow appeared to side-step questions from reporters regarding the protocol for hosting and bidding on large-scale sporting events such as the Commonwealth or Olympic Games. Schow did not indicate with certainty whether or not a referendum would take place on the matter of presenting a bid to host the 2030 Commonwealth Games, but said, “in terms of getting feedback, that’s what we are going to do.”
When asked about budget overruns incurred by the 2026 Victoria Commonwealth Games, followed by the Australian state of Victoria withdrawing as hosts for the sporting event on July 17, and with Alberta exploring a possible bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2030, Minister Schow said he was “disappoint(ed) to hear that the Commonwealth Games are going to be cancelled, but as my mandate letter says, and it just came out on Friday, we are looking at exploring international multi-sport games and bringing them to Alberta, and there is going to be a process for that.”
Schow said the government of Alberta is currently working with BidCo to determine the specifics of what would be required to host the 2030 Games in Alberta.
“Once the information comes back we’ll be able to make a decision and consult my caucus colleagues, and the Premier as to what is best for the Province of Alberta, as well as consult Albertans.”
Schow said it’s still too early to project a cost estimate to host the games in Alberta but told reporters, “If we are going to host international games, we want to make sure it’s right for the province, and for the taxpayers.”
Schow called questions pertaining to whether the 2030 games would be an appropriate forum for a provincial referendum on spending to finance the games, “premature,” and said, “the main purpose of consulting is to make sure it’s a good deal for Alberta.”
Schow noted the unexpected cost overruns for the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games, which saw the original $2.6 billion budget nearly triple to $7 billion is “certainly concerning,” but added it is still “too early,” to say what an acceptable cost threshold would make the games a good deal for Albertans.
“We have to look at the structure of the referendum and consult with the public, but what’s paramount is making sure we make the right decision for Alberta taxpayers.”