Could a scrapped Alberta carbon tax derail the Green Line LRT expansion?
Rachel Notley’s party is cautioning that a change in provincial government could jeopardize Calgary’s Green Line LRT expansion project.
The project received a pledge from the provincial government in 2017 that was funded by revenues officials said were generated by the carbon levy.
Global News has learned municipal and provincial officials are expected to announce a finalized funding agreement as soon as next week.
But Albertans set to head to the polls between March 1 and May 31, the provincial NDP is raising concerns over the future of the 46-kilometer transit project.
“I think what [the NDP is] really focused on right now is trying to get people to understand that you cannot just repeal the carbon tax without some sort of negative ramifications, and for the City of Calgary, that could be the Green Line,” pollster and political analyst Janet Brown said.
The provincial government vowed to cover more than $1.5 billion of the $4.65-billion cost of the first phase of the project, which will stretch between 16 Avenue North south to Shepard. The city, the province and the federal government have pledged to share one third of the cost each.
But, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney has been vocal that the first action his government will take, if elected, is to scrap the carbon tax.
“Jason Kenney is saying his first bill is going to repeal the carbon levy, where’s he going to get that $1.7 billion to fund the Green Line as it currently sits?” Service Alberta Minister Brian Malkinson said. “It doesn’t make sense and I feel like he should be honest with Albertans on where that’s going to come from.”
On Friday, members of UCP called the NDP’s claims that eliminating the carbon tax would result in the cancellation of major infrastructure projects ridiculous.
“The claim that anything funded through the carbon tax will not happen is patently false and the NDP government knows it,” Calgary-Hays MLA and UCP whip Ric McIver said. “And in their desperation, because they’re failing, they’re just saying things they know aren’t true.”
McIver said there will be other sources of revenue to draw from, pointing to when GreenTrip funding for transit projects ended prior to the carbon tax coming into effect.
“When the GreenTrip funding went away and the carbon tax came in, nobody said that everything was going to stop just because the funding mechanism changed,” he said. “A new government will have a new funding mechanism or a new funding envelope.”
According to Brown, the NDP believes it has a secure base with 30 per cent of the vote and it trying to get more centrist voters to think about the change that comes with electing a new government. She said the province is also putting pressure on the UCP to respond with a plan.
“(Kenney) promised spending cuts, he’s also promised to cut a tax that is a major source of revenue for the government,” Brown said. “So the government is pressing Jason Kenney to explain how he’s going to do this — where are the cuts that he’s talking about going to come from, and where’s the money going to come from for the programs that we’re counting on?”
McIver told Global News his party’s plans will come when the UCP reveals its platform.
Meanwhile, Mayor Naheed Nenshi is also looking for some answers when it comes to the project’s funding, saying the project can’t move forward without all three commitments.
“Anyone who wants to be premier has to say how they’re going to fund stuff that’s already underway,” Nenshi said Thursday. “If there’s no carbon tax, it means real big holes in the ground because the work’s already happening.”
The full Green Line route plan spans 46 kilometres from North Pointe to Seton and includes 28 stops. At the time it was announced, officials said the addition would double the city’s existing LRT network.
Construction is slated to begin in 2020 and wrap up in 2026.
The legislature resumes on March 18 for a speech from the throne, and its expected the Premier will drop the writ shortly after that, triggering an election sometime in mid-April.
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