Right to Know: Brier Edition

Last week, I wrote CBRM Communications & Information Officer Christina Lamey asking to see details of the CBRM’s bid for the 2023 Brier. As you may recall, council discussed the bid in camera during its regular monthly meeting on August 24, but Mayor Amanda McDougall, as she kicked all media, spectators and tech people out of the make-shift council chambers at Centre 200, said:

Once the competitive bid process has concluded and a decision has been rendered – and just for information purposes, that bid process concludes on Monday the 30th I believe? Yes, council will disclose all bid…details publicly.

There is a problem with this statement, of course, which is that that while the bid process closed on August 30, Curl Canada won’t be rendering any decisions until September 30. But once the bids are closed, there can be no further question of jeopardizing the CBRM’s “competitive edge” (assuming it has one) by making the details public and it’s actually debatable whether discussing the bid publicly before it was submitted would have hurt the municipality’s chances. As I discovered previously, the city council of Lethbridge, Alberta discussed its Brier bid publicly before it was even submitted — and it won. (For the record, that bid was worth $1 million.)

The bottom line, of course, is that citizens of CBRM have every right to know the details of this bid.

But the CBRM begged to differ.


‘No financial loss’

Lamey responded (shortly after my publication deadline):

The bid deadline was August 30th and the municipality will now wait for the selection committee to follow their process and make a decision, expected in the fall. Once a decision is made, disclosure of our bid details can be made to a limited extent as to not negatively impact the competitiveness of future bids. If we are not successful, there is no financial loss for CBRM.

First, the mayor did not say bid details would be disclosed “to a limited extent” — she said council would disclose “all bid details” publicly. If you want to hear it with your own ears, the discussion of the bid begins at the 8-minute mark of the August meeting video. Nor did Lamey elaborate as to how another municipality might ride the details of our losing bid to future victory.

And of course, if “we” are successful, there is a financial burden for the CBRM and my point, not to belabor it, is that citizens have a right to know the extent of that burden.

I asked Lamey to reconsider and I CC’ed Mayor McDougall, who replied:

We put forward a bid of $750,000 for the Brier and added components in the bid such as in-kind use of recreation spaces, facilities and also guaranteed ticket sale revenues to add to the competitiveness of the bid.

So, I knew they’d put forward a base bid of $750,000 because that’s the minimum bid Curl Canada will entertain, as this excerpt from the application form shows:

Bid Fee Brier 2023

I also know that CBRM expects this $750,000 to be shared by three levels of government. It’s the “in-kind use of recreation spaces, facilities and also guaranteed ticket sale revenues” I’d like to know more about. Lethbridge, Alberta’s winning (I originally wrote “wining” — Freudian?) bid for the 2022 Brier included $600,000 in cash and an additional $400,000 from “in-kind” components.

I told the mayor that it was the in-kind components of CBRM’s bid that interested me and she said:

We have committed the standard $750,000 from the bid and like I said before, we have included in-kind contributions like our facilities (ie. C200), the expertise within the organization like communications and [e]vent management (for example) and guaranteed ticket sales.

There’s a dollar-value to these contributions, but the CBRM is clearly not going to share it. Instead, the mayor suggested I was being “negative” and said she was “really disappointed to see an attempt to turn this into something other than an opportunity to prove we can host fun, professionally run, national events that the community love.”

I realize that many CBRM residents love the idea of hosting the Brier and will volunteer their time, should the CBRM bid be successful, and enjoy every moment of the competition. That’s fine, but they, as well as those less enthusiastic about the event, have a right to know how much it will cost us if we win (and how much we’ve guaranteed in terms of ticket sales). Lethbridge city council certainly felt its citizens deserved to know details of its bid — why is the CBRM any different?

And just to add insult to injury, as I was trying to get an answer to my question, the agenda for Tuesday’s regular monthly council meeting was released and it included this item:

CBRM Right to Know Week proclamation


Council passed this resolution unanimously last evening, without discussion.

So perhaps I will ask my question again between September 27 and October 3…