The chief of the Tsuu T'ina First Nation is hinting there's a chance a ring road deal might be resurrected.
Chief Sandford Big Plume issued a statement Wednesday saying it's become apparent that there's dissatisfaction with the five possible routes put forward by the province for the southwest leg of Calgary's ring road.
The province has held a number of open houses in Calgary on the ring road options. At one meeting last week, many people expressed their opposition to the routes, particularly the one that would expand 37th Street southward either over or through the ecologically sensitive Weaselhead Flats.
"For those reasons, I intend in the near future to meet with Tsuu T'ina people to gauge their willingness to either consider a review of a significantly improved version of the ring road contract that was rejected in 2009, or a new route through Tsuu T'ina that requires less land and has less impact on the Nation," Big Plume said in a news release.
In June 2009, about 700 members of the band voted 60.5 per cent against a draft plan for the ring road to be built through their reserve.
Under the draft agreement, the First Nation would have transferred 400 hectares of property, where the ring road would be built, to the province in exchange for $240 million and 2,000 hectares of Crown land on the northwest border of the reserve stretching west to the edge of Kananaskis Country.
Nenshi 'delighted' to support future negotiations
Big Plume cited a long-term need of the Tsuu T'ina for increased traffic flow in support of commercial development plans.
He said he wouldn't counsel his people to consider either option unless the province takes legally binding steps on three areas of concern identified by the Tsuu T'ina during the last referendum.
"Let me be clear, I will not re-open formal negotiations with the Province of Alberta until I have a mandate to do so from Tsuu T'ina people," Big Plume said.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was pleased to hear of Big Plume's decision.
"His vision for a potential win-win solution between the Province of Alberta and the First Nation is heartening given that the current solutions for a southwest ring road — for many people — are unsatisfactory," Nenshi said in a statement.
"I respect the chief's need to ensure he has a clear mandate from his citizens prior to re-opening formal negotiations with the Province of Alberta."
Nenshi said he would be "delighted" to play a supporting role in negotiations.
An Alberta Transportation spokesman has said that the province would be seeking a preferred route within the next three months.
Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette said he welcomes the move by the Tsuu T'ina and that his door is always open to talk.
But he added there's "nothing new to say right now," and that he will wait to see what happens after Big Plume meets with his people.