Calgary

Bill 20 would let province pull Calgary's Green Line LRT money without cause

Alberta's UCP government has proposed a bill that would let it pull a promised $1.53-billion grant for Calgary's Green Line with just 90 days' notice and without cause.

Calgary's mayor says he wasn't consulted on provisions in the legislation

An artist's rendering shows a ground-level station on Calgary's Green Line project. (City of Calgary)

Alberta's UCP government has proposed a bill that would let it pull a promised $1.53-billion grant for Calgary's Green Line with just 90 days' notice and without cause.

The provisions were included in Bill 20, an omnibus bill introduced by Finance Minister Travis Toews on Monday.

Bill 20 would also require any proposed changes to the project to be approved by the transportation minister and would allow the minister to impose additional terms and conditions on the project before it can proceed.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was surprised by the provisions because he and the city weren't consulted.

"At first blush, it looks like these provisions will make it more difficult to proceed with the Green Line," he said in an emailed statement, adding that a solution is needed because 20,000 jobs are at stake.

4-year funding cut 86%

The former NDP government had pledged a total of $1.53 billion toward the project in a signed agreement, matching amounts committed by the federal government and the city. The federal funding is contingent on matching the contributions of the other two levels of government.

The city solicitor has told council there are legal implications to that signed agreement, but they'll stay secret for now, as council discussed them during a closed-door session on Monday.

In last week's budget, the UCP reduced the amount of money pledged for the first four years of the deal by 86 per cent — cutting it from $555 million to $75 million.

The province has said it still intends to fund the 46-kilometre LRT line, which the city says would serve almost a quarter-million Calgarians each day.

"I just don't see the necessity of some of the clauses," said Coun. Shane Keating, a supporter of the project who chairs council's Green Line committee.

A spokesperson for Alberta's transportation minister said the clause is standard practice.

"Transportation almost always includes a termination clause in contracts, including those previously signed with the Cities of Edmonton and Calgary," the emailed statement read.

Keating said the uncertainty will result in inefficiencies, and make building the project much more cumbersome.

"What company, you know, who can build a $1.5-billion contract, wants to do it in segments of payments? They want to know that they can build the $1.5 billion and they're going to be guaranteed as being paid the $1.5 billion."

Calgarians deserve answers on why this language exists and need to see concrete action that demonstrates this government's support for Green Line.- Jeff Binks, president of LRT on the Green

"After fundamentally altering a signed grant agreement and delaying a significant amount of Green Line funding, Calgarians are being asked by the Alberta government to trust them when they say they will deliver the remainder of the funding by the end of 2028," Jeff Binks, president of advocacy group LRT on the Green, said in an emailed release on Wednesday. 

"How can that level of trust be reached when at the same time they're using the final pages of a massive omnibus bill to insert language that allows the entire provincial funding to be pulled on a whim? Calgarians deserve answers on why this language exists and need to see concrete actions that demonstrate this government's support for Green Line."

Planning on the Green Line began in 2012, but issues with the route and contract changes have pushed the anticipated completion date back to 2027.

Construction on the southeast leg from Shepard Station to Victoria Park has already been delayed until 2021, as planners review the stretch from 16th Avenue North through downtown, to the Beltline and Ramsay. 

Coun. Joe Magliocca, who isn't a supporter of the Green Line project, said he's fine with the clause because it could ensure additional oversight.

"Some days, I think the city does need micro-managing, the way we've been going," he said.

The first council committee meeting on the Green Line project is set for Nov. 15. 

With files from Scott Dippel

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