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Province to review Calgary Green Line plan: McIver letter

While the cheering has yet to die down, the province’s transportation minister and former southeast city councillor dimmed the lights slightly on Calgary’s successful Green Line vote.

But, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said they welcome the province’s ongoing scrutiny of the project.

By a vote of 14-1, Calgary city councillors approved administration’s recommendations on the $5.5 billion public transit project. It’s the largest ever infrastructure project in the city’s history.

In the following hours, a letter dated June 16, 2020, was drafted by Alberta’s Transportation Minister Ric McIver. In it, Minister McIver said he’s in favour of developing Calgary’s mass transit system.

“Our government has reiterated its commitment to building the Green Line and we remain in favour of the goals of the project and the desire to provide accessible mass transit for Calgarians,” he said.

The letter goes on to say that it’s the largest public infrastructure project in Alberta’s history. It said that “merits thorough analysis to ensure that we have properly considered the risks associated with a complex rail line through downtown Calgary.”

“It is incumbent on the provincial government to ensure that the $1.53 billion in taxpayer dollars that form the province’s contribution are used responsibly,” the letter read.

The 90-day clause

Last year, the province’s omnibus Bill 20, changed how the province would work with municipal transit deals.

Specifically, the minister responsible could make amendments to the agreement, and any material changes made would require ministerial approval.

To that end, the province said that they could “with a minimum 90 days notice” terminate the grant agreement without cause.

The letter specifically mentions significant changes in the scope and cost of the project since it was originally put forward to Calgarians. 

“We therefore intend to take the time necessary to complete a thorough and informed analysis of the benefits and risks of this latest version of the project before obligations are incurred by the province, to ensure that taxpayers are protected,” the letter read.

City of Calgary administration, aware of the clause, included point 16 (c) in the list of recommendations. This direct administration to secure funding sources, in writing from the province, for the ongoing Green Line work.

Minister McIver represents southeast Calgary residents

McIver, MLA for Calgary Hays, a southeast Calgary riding has been vocal about support for the Green Line project.

McIver was also the city councillor for Ward 12, the area Coun. Shane Keating now represents. Keating was key in getting the Green Line deal done.

The Green Line’s end point will be in Seton, near the South Health Campus. That crosses Minister McIver’s riding.

In 2017, when the ruling Alberta NDP were mulling Green Line funding, McIver encouraged the province to get a deal with the city done.

“Absolutely. This is a high priority for Calgary,” said McIver, who was PC caucus leader at the time, and quoted in the Calgary Herald.

“The province needs to step up.”

We have reached out to Minister McIver on Twitter and through his office for a further interview. We have received a response but an interview hasn’t yet been set up.

Mayor Nenshi had read a copy of the Minister’s letter, his office said.

“This is the next step in the process,” read a statement from the mayor.

“We look forward to a good discussion and welcome their review.”