With Canada’s first World Cup game since the 1980s just weeks away, politicians in Toronto are already haggling over the details of the next major soccer tournament.
Toronto is scheduled to host five World Cup games in 2026, when the competition will be played across Canada, Mexico and the United States.
The city has pinned many of its plans to host the five games at a cost of around $300 million on help from other levels of government.
Cost estimates for Toronto to host 5 World Cup matches go up: city staff
In a March staff report, city staff said they were “confident that suitable funding arrangements” can be made for the federal and provincial governments to absorb around two-thirds of that cost.
However, Ontario Premier Doug Ford cast some doubt on that assumption at an event on Wednesday.
“Every day this cost keeps going up and up and up,” Ford said. “And I’m a big soccer fan — I love soccer — but let’s take a look at it, we’ll look at the finances and hopefully we will be able to come up with an answer sooner than later.”
In July, after Toronto was confirmed as a host city, staff revised its cost estimate from $290 to $300 million.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, speaking at a photo opportunity with the World Cup trophy on Wednesday, said the costs would be worth it.
“I think the return on those monies is going to be gigantic in terms of jobs and investment — actual economic activity during the World Cup — (and) the reputation of that,” he said.
Tory said governments “are all just doing their appropriate due diligence” and suggested he was hopeful funding would flow from Ottawa and Queen’s Park.
“They’ve expressed what I would call due diligence,” he said of Ford’s concern about rising costs.
“Let’s remember, the money that’s going to be spent is going to be spent here, we’re not sending it out of the country.”
A Toronto staff report at the end of June said Ontario had expressed “support” for Toronto’s bid but had not made a specific financial commitment.
“The federal government has indicated that specific financial commitments will only be made once a national safety and security concept has been completed to inform the federal essential services component of the total event cost,” the report said.
Global News reached out to the federal government for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.
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The 2026 soccer matches would attract around 174,000 overnight visitors and book out 292,000 room nights, city staff have estimated. This would generate roughly $3.5 million in municipal accommodation tax revenue.
Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment, which owns Toronto FC, said it was “involved” in discussions around the World Cup but did not indicate if it would make any financial commitment to the city’s plans.
“I understand the clock is ticking there,” Ford added.
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