There’s been a shift in tone from the provincial government over the Green Line, according to Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
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The mayor’s comments were to the city’s intergovernmental affairs committee on Thursday. The Green Line committee has scheduled an emergency meeting for next Wednesday to seek an update on progress from city administration.
“My understanding is most of the technical issues are solved,” the mayor noted. “And now there are questions of financing, procurement and cash flow.”
In December 2020, the city paused procurement to allow the province a few months to conduct a review of the plans. And the provincial budget tabled in March 2021 reiterated the province’s financial commitment to the megaproject.
“The logjam seems to have been a bit broken.”
The province continues working with the city in a “positive and collaborative” manner, addressing the issues that come up, a spokesperson for Minister of Transportation Ric McIver told Global News. The spokesperson was confident that all of those matters will be worked out through that process.
After the meeting, Nenshi told reporters that he’s been pushing the province to figure out how to move forward quickly.
“Because remember, between last summer and December, we didn’t even know the province had written down what their questions were,” the mayor said. “And once we got those, I think we were able to address them quite quickly.”
Nearing the end of March and into construction season, Nenshi doubts that much major work can get started in the 2021 calendar year.
“We may be able to get to a point to award a contract to do some early works, but I think that even that’s optimistic.”
Fed funding for other projects
Nenshi said Thursday’s announcement from Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland of $2.2 billion in capital project funding for cities is “a very welcome development.”
“The big city mayors have been pushing for some time that the federal government continue to use the gas tax mechanism as the way to get funding quickly to cities to do the work that we need,” Calgary’s mayor told reporters.
Early indications for the mayor were that Calgary would be getting around $75 million of that funding, which the federal government proposes to rename as the “Canada Community-Building Fund.”
Nenshi said the city will do a re-cast and re-prioritization of its capital budget to put the federal funds to use immediately, highlighting the city’s two biggest infrastructure priorities for this type of funding as the Arts Commons transformation, the multi-sport fieldhouse and affordable housing.
Coincidentally with Freeland’s announcement, Nenshi told the committee that these funds would likely go to the Arts Commons.
“Our biggest ask for the federal government with capital is Arts Commons and the fieldhouse,” the mayor told his fellow councillors. “And not enough for the field house, but probably enough for Arts Commons is my guess.”
Nenshi also hinted at a request for a “transformative investment in housing” that went to the federal government for consideration in the budget on April 19.