S.W. ring road deal approval 'historic,' says Tsuu T'ina chief
69% of band members voted to allow final leg of Stoney Trail to be built on reserve land
Members of the Tsuu T’ina First Nation have voted in favour of allowing the southwest leg of Calgary’s ring road to run through their reserve.
"I am very pleased that the Tsuu T'ina people have approved the ring road proposal. This has potential to be a win-win-win for all parties," tweeted Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
About 1,000 people living on the reserve were eligible to cast a ballot on Thursday on whether to approve a deal negotiated between band council and the province. Chief Roy Whitney says 933 band members cast ballots.
"Oct. 24 will be remembered as a historic day for the Tsuu T'ina Nation," he said.
In the end, 69 per cent of eligible voters on the reserve voted in favour of the agreement.
The nation agreed to transfer 428 hectares of land to Alberta for the purpose of a transportation and utilities corridor. In compensation, the province will transfer 2,160 hectares of new reserve land worth an estimated $44 million.
In addition to land, the province will give the band $275 million and pay roughly $66 million to replace housing and other buildings that will have to be torn down to make way for the ring road.
Despite some reports, the nation hasn't decided if all Tsuu T'ina members will get some of the money.
In the past, any land claim settlements on Tsuu T'ina have seen the nation keep half and the other half has been paid out on a per capita basis so every member gets an equal share.
The nation is planning extensive business developments along the ring road in the future that will generate revenue and jobs for the community.
Alberta also has an obligation to finish construction of the road in seven years from the date the land is transferred.
Better deal than 2009, says chief
The deal also states the province will pay for interchanges linking the reserve to the ring road, sources said.
Whitney says this deal is better than what came out of the last round of negotiations.
"I must point out the language of the 2013 final agreement provided all Tsuu T'ina with the certainty we did not have in 2009," he said. "That all of our compensation and that the deal for the roadway is guaranteed."
The southwest portion of the ring road — the final section of Stoney Trail yet to be built — would stretch from Highway 22x to Highway 8 along the city's western edge of Tsuu T’ina territory, and then continue north using the 101st Street corridor to the Trans-Canada Highway.
In 2009, band members voted to reject a proposed deal with the province. It would have seen the Tsuu T’ina get $240 million and 2,000 hectares of Crown land in exchange for 400 hectares of aboriginal land on which to build the road.
Transportation Minister Ric McIver promised to reveal more details about the deal — which have been kept secret — once band members had their say.
McIver says the government doesn't know yet if it will build the road itself or use a public-private partnership as it has with the southeast leg of the ring road, which is expected to open soon.
Premier Alison Redford rejects any notion the province paid too much to complete the project.
"It's not about giving away. It's about negotiating with people that have an asset that they're legally entitled to that we needed to have in order to keep building our city."
The deal is expected to be signed by the province and Tsuu T'ina by the end of next month. The federal government has to approve changing the reserve's boundaries and the ring road.
When asked about a cost, McIver said the southwest leg will cost billions to build.
Lakeview residents rejoice
The ring road deal is being welcomed with sighs of relief in Lakeview.
There were fears that, without a deal with the Tsuu T'ina, the province might need to tear down dozens of houses in the southwest community for a ring road along the 37th Street alignment across the Weaselhead.
"The message I would have for ... Tsuu T'ina, the province [and] the city is to really just thank them for continuing to work together on this hugely complex problem," said Amy Lonsberry with the Lakeview Community Association.
"The magnitude of this agreement — it's unprecedented and historic."
Lonsberry says people in Lakeview have felt for a decade that their lives have been up in the air.
- An earlier version of this story said 59 per cent of band members voted in agreement, but it was actually 69 per cent.Oct 25, 2013 3:09 PM MT