After years of back and forth, Calgary has finalized a new events centre deal. The funding is raising questions for municipal leaders across the province, who are wondering if there is a double standard.
Calgary will soon be receiving $330 million in provincial funding for the next step in that city’s future.
“Any investment in infrastructure is much more than the dollar figure attached to a project. It’s more than a building and it’s more than a road. It’s an investment in making Alberta the best place to live and work and raise a family,” said Premier Danielle Smith on Thursday.
The money won’t go directly to the arena, but will be used to improve roads or sewers to allow for the new facility. It also includes money to knock down the Saddledome.
This is raising more questions, as Edmonton built a new arena and currently must foot the bill to tear down the Northlands Coliseum.
“Knowing that Calgary is going to be getting funding for the demolition and building of arena … just questions honestly in my mind around what any potential support may look like,” said Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador.
Currently, Edmonton taxpayers are on the hook for $1.5 million a year to maintain the empty coliseum and the city has been asking the province for financial support to knock it down.
“We just can’t keep waiting. That’s a lot of money to be spending year over year and it isn’t in line with the overall plans for the exhibition lands. Eventually, we do want to see the redevelopment of that site,” Salvador said.
Rural Municipalities of Alberta said that although it’s happy for the city of Calgary, certain needs have to be met across the province.
RMA president Paul McLauchlin said $300 million “would go a tremendous way” to pay for things like bridges, water, wastewater and “in many cases, the things that we would do trying to keep the lights on.”
“We’d sure like to see the generosity that’s been given to Calgary,” McLauchlin said.
McLauchlin said he hopes that the funding is not solely based on an election promise.
“My hope is that that’s not what this is and instead is a message from this government understanding that infrastructure and investment is an important part of growing all of Alberta right across the board,” McLauchlin said.
With the support for the revitalization of downtown Calgary, Edmonton City Council hopes it gets some funding news next.
“There are a number of other major priorities when it comes to provincial advocacy and funding on the city side. There are some immediate pressing needs as it relates to housing, affordable housing winter shelter space as well and just general infrastructure funding,” Salvador said.
“We want to just ensure that Edmontonians are getting their fair share when it comes to federal or provincial funding.”