In response to a sparring match between Calgary mayoral candidates Naheed Nenshi and Bill Smith, Alberta’s transportation minister says any changes to the approved Green Line LRT project would mean the province starts its approval process over.
“It’s not a blank cheque,” Brian Mason said Friday, referring to the $1.53-billion funding from the province. “The commitment is for the project that the council has advanced.
“If the council wants to change that and advance a different proposal, then we’ll take a look at it, but we’re going to start the process over.”
Mason was reacting to Nenshi’s suggestion that Smith said he would cancel the Green Line LRT project, which Smith refuted.
“No, I do not want to cancel the Green Line, I just want it to make sense for Calgarians,” Smith told reporters. “I think we need to take a look at it to see if the alignment makes sense right now.”
Smith suggested the current plan wasn’t accomplishing the goal of moving people from the south to the city centre or from the city centre to the north.
Smith said he doesn’t have a specific plan himself and declined to give details on a timeline of how long a review of the current project would take. He said he’d want to sit down with council to find a plan that “made sense.”
Mason emphasized the province’s current commitment is based on “quite a bit of work” from its civil service and the City of Calgary administration.
“Federal funding of about a billion dollars is also contingent on provincial funding,” Mason said. “We’ve had our transportation staff, including engineers and financial people, take a good look at it, and we’re satisfied that the project that has been advanced by city council is a sound project and will benefit the people of Calgary.
“Now that doesn’t mean that some other alignment might not also meet those criteria, but we haven’t studied that and we would have to study that.”
Nenshi said Smith’s review would put billions of dollars in funding at risk.
“Three billion dollars was vetted on this project by the provincial and federal governments and Mr. Smith is willing to throw that away,” Nenshi said. “He’s willing to throw away $100 million that’s already been spent on the Green Line; he’s willing to increase the cost of the Green Line $100 million a year while he dithers around looking for another solution.
“Three hundred million dollars of the federal government money has to be spent by 2019 or we forfeit it completely.”
Nenshi suggested Smith was “a guy who was much more used to being a passenger on Alison Redford’s jets than actually taking a bus or a train.”
“For someone who never went to a consultation session, who never bothered to attend the council meeting when this was being discussed—or a committee meeting—who has never before raised a question about it in all those mayoral forums, to come up and say something so uninformed?
“It’s actually reckless; it’s dangerous. It runs the risk of snuffing out our fragile economic recovery.”
Listen below: Marcel Latouche, president and CEO of The Institute for Public Sector Accountability, shares his list of 14 candidates for the election and talks about Calgary’s debt burden, as well as the Green Line LRT.