The federal government has officially thrown its support behind North America's unified bid to host the 2026 World Cup, but B.C. says it's reluctant to get on board.
"I have a higher obligation than just being a soccer fan. I have a higher obligation than just wanting to see World Cup soccer in Vancouver," Premier John Horgan told reporters Tuesday. "I have to make sure that taxpayers aren't on the hook for unknown costs at the whim of FIFA. I'm just not prepared to sign off on that and nor is the minister of finance."
Vancouver is one of four candidate cities in Canada, joining Montreal, Edmonton and Toronto.
Horgan said his government has told the North American bid committee it wants to see World Cup soccer in Vancouver, but "not at any cost."
"We have been grappling with the proponents who want us to sign a blank cheque—a conditional agreement that can be changed by FIFA but not by us," he said.
Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are up against Morocco to host the world's most widely viewed sporting event. Their unified bid has to be submitted by the end of the week, and FIFA's decision is expected in mid-June.
On Tuesday, Canada promised to immediately commit up to $5 million if the bid wins.
"It's good for our athletes, it's good for our communities, our economy, our reputation as an international sport leader," Kirsty Duncan, federal minister of science and minister of sport and persons with disabilities told The Canadian Press. "We are behind this bid."
B.C.'s tourism minister, however, said the province wants a better understanding of the financial risks before it commits to anything.
"B.C.'s taking a look at the opportunity. It's a great opportunity, as we know, but it also comes with potential risks, so we're taking a look at those risks," Lisa Beare told reporters in Victoria Tuesday. "We're going to make the decision that's in the best interest for B.C. taxpayers."
Members across the aisle are criticizing the province for its hesitation, saying B.C.'s bid has been years in the making.
"That is concerning because there's been many months, even years, put into this proposal and this project and at the last minute, to pull out like that, speaks to me about a government in disarray," said Liberal MLA Jas Johal.
"British Columbia has proven over and over again that we can host world class events," he said, citing the success of the 2015 Women’s World Cup and the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Johal also said he's received information that the internal deadline to join the bid was Monday night and that B.C. had already made a call indicating that it would withdraw.
Horgan, however, said joining the bid is still an option and the province is in talks to find a solution that would see the beautiful game come to BC Place in 2026.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber