Airport train, and housing among Calgary’s funding requests for provincial budget

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Airport train, and housing among Calgary’s funding requests for provincial budget
Calgary is asking for some big ticket items in the upcoming provincial budget with more than $1.3 billion in funding requests. But Alberta's premier has hinted this budget will restrain spending. Adam MacVicar reports. – Feb 27, 2024

The City of Calgary is asking for around $1.3 billion in new and continued investments in the upcoming provincial budget, but the premier’s warning of spending restraint is raising questions around how much will be fulfilled.

Topping the city’s budget wishlist is a $53 million provincial contribution to extend the Blue Line LRT to the Calgary International Airport, as well as $225 million to cover a portion of an Airport Transit Connector rail line.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the projects would require funding from all levels of government.

“To provide a viable link between the airport to downtown, we need to do that with our provincial partners,” Gondek said.

In last year’s budget, the UCP government committed $5 million for Calgary to study the feasibility of a transit connection to the airport.

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A rail connection to the airport has been a long talked about project in the city, and would be welcomed by air travellers like Mark Fandruy.

“Especially if it was the CTrain because it’s accessible for so many people,” he told Global News. “If they had a stop here it would be good.”

Calgary is also seeking a $166 million provincial contribution to a Bus Rapid Transit line in North Central Calgary, a project that would require funding from all orders of government to cover the estimated $500 million price tag.

Another $127 million is being requested to cover a portion of the city’s $308 million Foothills Multisport Fieldhouse.  The city has already contributed $109 million to the project, and design work is underway.

Funding for the city’s downtown strategy is also part of its budget submission to the province, including $160.5 million for affordable housing and accommodations for seniors and students in the downtown core.

Around $103 million is being requested for redeveloping Olympic Plaza and adjacent Stephen Avenue along with the second phase of the Arts Commons Resident House project. The city said both projects will also require federal funding as well.

“Those are key investments that need to continue to be done,” Calgary Downtown Association executive director Mark Garner told Global News. “It will be a great economic driver. It’ll bring people downtown.”

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Investments in social services make up a large chunk of the city’s budget asks for the provincial government, including $380 million to help boost the city’s Housing Accelerator Fund plan to build 11,000 new homes including affordable housing.

The city is also asking the province for $9.5 million to fund local community outreach teams partnering with Calgary Transit to help provide services to people experiencing homelessness, and an additional $8 million for the city’s Community Safety Investment Framework.

The city also wants the province to allocate $10.5 million to to index Family and Community Support Services investment to inflation and population growth, and $16 million to continue funding the city’s low-income transit pass program.

In a televised address last week, Premier Danielle Smith indicated fiscal restraint in the upcoming budget due to lower-than-anticipated resource revenues.

When asked about Smith’s comments, Calgary’s mayor said the province is responsible for filling gaps left by offloading responsibility onto the city.

“If it means not fulfilling your provincial obligations when it comes to housing, safety and transit, three things we are heavily invested in, that’ll be a big let down to Calgarians,” Gondek told reporters. “The property taxes that folks are paying, they’re expecting to get services from those, and a third of (property tax revenue) goes to the provincial government, we need to hold them accountable for what they’re investing in.”

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Deborah Yedlin, CEO of Calgary’s Chamber of Commerce, said the budget will be a balancing act Alberta’s booming population continues to put pressure on existing infrastructure and services.

“When you have 184,000 people come to the province, and you have a declining demographic curve in places like health care and education, and there is an expectation that surfaces are going to be maintained, if not enhanced,” Yedlin said. “It’s going to be an interesting game of trade offs that the government is going to face in this regard.”

The City of Calgary received about $2 billion in funding commitments in last year’s budget.

The provincial government will table its budget on Thursday.

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