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May 29, 2020 – For Green Line It’s Time For 2 Steps Forward, Not 1 Backwards

With Monday’s Green Line Committee meeting approaching, the LRT on the Green Foundation is asking Councillors to look beyond the current debate swirling around Stage 1 and provide an answer to a question Calgarians have been asking for the last three years. Since May of 2017 when it was first announced that the Green Line would need to be delivered via a staged approach, a decision on the path the project will take once construction of Stage 1 begins has taken a back seat to the work being done to finalize the alignment through the centre city.

“For three years Calgarians living and working in communities outside of the Stage 1 boundaries have been waiting to learn the direction Green Line will take once construction between 16th Ave N and Shepard begins,” said Jeff Binks, president of LRT on the Green. “With Council now in a position to give the green light to a project that represents a $4.9 billion investment and create 20,000 jobs we hope they remember that this is just the end of the first chapter in the Green Line story and not the end of the story itself. Now is the time to provide clear direction on what comes next.”

As part of its written submission to the Green Line Committee, the LRT on the Green Foundation has asked that Council target a Green Line extension north to 96th Ave N and south to McKenzie Towne as the aspirational Stage 2 plan for the line. In addition the Foundation has asked that an updated cost estimate be provided for the proposed Stage 2 plan and that Council direct City of Calgary staff to create a package of early works projects based off the plan including, but not limited to, land acquisition as well as identifying opportunities for the creation of transitway segments and grade separation to further enhance the BRT along the Centre Street/Harvest Hills Boulevard corridor and report back by the end of this year. It’s hoped this timeline will help position the project for COVID stimulus funding that may become available.

“The Stage 1 plan that will be considered on Monday includes many positive additions over the plan that was put forward in 2017 such as the 9th Ave N station, the multi-use pathway crossing of the Bow River and BRT improvements along Centre Street. The creation of 20,000 desperately needed jobs is also an important bonus. Given all of this we feel Council should be able to look past the nay-sayers who want to delay the project and approve the Stage 1 plan while also setting the path towards building the next stage. When it comes to Green Line now is the time for Council to take two steps forward, not one backwards.” concluded Binks.

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Feb 26, 2020 – It’s Time To Green Light Green Line Segment One

Calgary, Alberta – February 26, 2020 –

Last Friday’s Green Line Committee meeting concluded with a decision to further delay the deadline for approving Stage 1 of Calgary’s Green Line LRT by several more weeks. As debate continues to swirl around the city centre segment of the Green Line, concern is growing that too much focus has been shifted away from getting the southern segment of Stage 1 to a shovel-ready status. The southern portion of Green Line Stage 1, known as Segment 1, runs from the Elbow River to Shepard Station and has been sitting in limbo since last fall.

“The reason Stage 1 of the Green Line was split into two segments was to bring it to a shovel-ready status in the south while questions were being resolved about the routing through the city centre,” said Jeff Binks, president of LRT on the Green. “Now that the question on where to cross the Elbow River has been resolved, there is no longer a reason to delay on the southern segment. We know more time is needed to discuss the route in Eau Claire and Crescent Heights but we have faith the City of Calgary can walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s time to start walking.”

Prior to construction beginning on Green Line Stage 1, both segments must proceed through a two-step process that begins with a Request For Qualifications (RFQ) and concludes with a Request For Proposals (RFP) which is followed by the construction contract being awarded. The RFQs for both the Green Line trains (LRVs) and Segment 1 concluded in the fall of 2019. A decision to delay moving towards RFP was made after questions emerged about whether Segment 2’s routing through the city centre would impact how the Green Line would cross the Elbow River into the community of Ramsay. Recently the City of Calgary has publically revealed its proposal for the city centre that showed the Elbow River crossing would remain the same as approved by Council in 2017.

“Construction on the southern segment of the Green Line should begin without delay. Companies have been patiently waiting for the opportunity to bid on this project and thousands of Calgarians are desperate for the opportunity to get to work building this project. We are well past the time to move this portion of Green Line off the drawing board and into reality. The only thing standing in the way of construction is a lack of action. It’s time to green light the southern segment of the Green Line.” concluded Binks.

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Nov 14, 2019 – A Quick Copy And Paste Can Save Green Line

Calgary, Alberta – November 14, 2019 –

With Calgary City Council’s Green Line Committee scheduled to meet on Friday to discuss the fate of the project a few paragraphs of text may now be all that stands in the way of construction beginning. In a Nov 4 op-ed published in the Calgary Herald defending the 90 day termination clause introduced in Bill 20, Minister Ric McIver pointed to the Canada – Alberta Bilateral LRT funding agreement as having similar language with a similar purpose. A closer examination reveals key differences between the two documents that could be Green Line’s salvation.

“Minister McIver should be commended for his determination to work with the City of Calgary to find a solution to the problem created by the delay to Green Line funding. We have confidence that issue can be resolved but if the language in Bill 20 remains unchanged it could prove to be an insurmountable hurdle,” said Jeff Binks, president of LRT on the Green. “The Minister has pointed to the federal funding agreement as having a similar intent as Bill 20 and as being acceptable to the City of Calgary and to industry so if the wording in that document works for everyone, why not just adopt those portions of it to replace the controversial text in Bill 20?”

Article 10 of Bill 20 allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council to terminate the $1.53 billion grant agreement “without cause” after a minimum of 90 days’ notice. Article 11 limits the liability the provincial government has even if funding is terminated due to “misfeasance or bad faith”. In contrast Articles 5 and 22 in the Canada – Alberta Bilateral only permit funding to be terminated through either a budget appropriations bill that must stand up to the rigours of the legislative process or through a 90 day dispute resolution process. The difference in tone and the increased level of transparency and scrutiny outlined in the federal document means the likelihood of funding being terminated is much lower.  The LRT on the Green Foundation is proposing the Alberta Government replace Articles 10 and 11 in Bill 20 with the text from Articles 5 and 22 in the Canada – Alberta Bilateral.

“We are at the point where construction of a $4.9 billion infrastructure project is being held up not by funding but by a few paragraphs of text. By copy and pasting the wording of the federal funding agreement to replace the controversial language in Bill 20 Minister McIver can launch the largest public infrastructure project in Alberta’s history and put 20,000 people to work. It’s the deal of the decade. If the provincial government isn’t willing to make such an easy modification to Bill 20 it’s concerning and Calgarians deserve to know why,” concluded Binks.

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The Relevant Excerpts From Bill 20 and the Canada – Alberta Bilateral Are Included For Reference On The Following Pages

Link to the full text of Bill 20: https://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.aspx?p=bills_status&selectbill=020&legl=30&session=1        

Link to the full text of the Canada – Alberta Bilateral Agreement: https://www.infrastructure.gc.ca/prog/agreements-ententes/2018/2018-ab-eng.html

   

Oct 30, 2019 – Risk to Green Line Rises With New Bill 20

Calgary, Alberta – October 30, 2019 –

Questions of concern are being raised about how the Alberta Government’s Bill 20 legislation will impact the Green Line LRT. ‘Schedule 3 – Public Transit and Green Infrastructure Act’ appears at the very end of the large omnibus bill and introduces language that dramatically increases the amount of project risk the City of Calgary will have to accept as it considers whether to begin construction on Green Line after a delay to almost half a billion dollars in funding was announced as part of the recent provincial budget.

“Our new provincial government has stated repeatedly that they are committed to building the Green Line LRT however the delay to a sizeable amount of funding for the project has raised some doubt,” said Jeff Binks, president of LRT on the Green. “Premier Kenney gave life to the Green Line with the funding he announced while he was a federal cabinet minister and Minister McIver has been a supporter of this project throughout his time in government. If that commitment remains solid we must ask why language was included in Bill 20 that helps push this project towards a cliff?”

Article 9 of Schedule 3 requires the City of Calgary to seek approval from the Minister if there is any material change to the project and allows the Minister to impose additional terms and conditions prior to approving the proposed changes. With the centre city portion of Green Line under review, this could transfer the ultimate decision making power about the final alignment away from the citizens of Calgary and to the provincial government. In addition, Article 10 allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council to terminate the $1.53 billion grant agreement “without cause” after a minimum of 90 days’ notice. This termination clause means the City of Calgary faces a dramatic increase in financial risk when it comes to borrowing the money required for construction as the provincial portion of the total funding may not be available to repay the loans requiring Calgary taxpayers to make up the difference.

“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. 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” concluded Binks.

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