There are a times when an elected official cannot be a politician. A politician would focus on what would get them more votes in the next election when considering a decision. A politician would avoid controversy and avoid contentious decisions for fear of the public backlash. An elected official must focus on doing what is right and must consider the broader context of a decision.
In November of 2013 Council made the decision to dedicate $52 million over 10 years to the Green Line. The vote narrowly passed 8-7. When I reflect on this vote, I can say with great confidence that it is the best decision I have made in my time on council. Instead of taking the easy route, I took a risk on the $52 million and was labelled by many as a flip-flopper, a traitor and even turncoat because of my decision. Simply put, an elected official must see the bigger picture. By dedicating $520 million of local funding to the Green Line, the City of Calgary sent a message to the other orders of government that this project is a priority.
Today the Government of Canada announced that the City of Calgary will receive $1.53 billion for the Green Line LRT project. The funding will be officially approved when the City of Calgary makes a formal application to the Public Transit Fund (PTF) that meets all of the criteria. This announcement is an absolute game changer for the Green Line and could allow for Calgary Transit to dramatically accelerate construction. Without the dedication of $52 million over 10 years from the City of Calgary, this would never have happened.
During Stampede this year I had an opportunity to speak with a number of Members of Parliament here in Calgary. I had a very productive discussion with Calgary – Centre MP Joan Crockatt to discuss the benefits of the Green Line project and highlight the importance for partnering with the federal government. I also had conversations with Ministers Jason Kenney and Michelle Rempel that proved both informative and productive. We were able to share ideas and identify a way forward to take this project to the next level. Here is a copy of the 3-page briefing that we provided to the Ministers:
It is very clear to me that the federal government understands the importance of this project. I am especially grateful for the hard work from Minister Rempel and Minister Kenney for the role they played in making this announcement a reality.
Publically funded projects like the Green Line are typically funded one-third by the federal government, one-third by the provincial government and one-third from the municipal government. With a price-tag of $4.6 billion, this project will still require additional funding commitments from the City of Calgary and the Government of Alberta. Discussions will need to continue with the provincial government to identify what funding might become available. Some of these conversations have already started, but today’s announcement obviously adds a new dynamic.
The spotlight will also shift back to City Council. Our commitment of $520 million started this process, but we will need to find an additional $1 billion to make up our contribution to this project. Council must find a way to accomplish this without putting Calgarians through new taxations or increases to existing tax. The best way forward is extending the $52 million from 10 years to 30 years which would give the City of Calgary $1.56 billion for this project.
This project will grow as quickly as the funding will allow. Along Calgary’s LRT network, the areas along the Green Line are among the fastest growing in the entire City.
Waiting for an additional 20 years for this project to be completed simply is not a reasonable option. Calgarians need more transportation options. We need to take pressure off of Deerfoot Trail and reduce city wide congestion on our major roadways. The figure below shows the dramatic growth in communities south of Glenmore Trail and east of the Bow River:
I am so excited about how far we have come on this project. Continued job and population growth along the Green Line corridor will be among the largest growth rates in the entire city. It has often been referenced at Council that planning for the Green Line is fine, but we could not take next steps until bags of money fell from the sky. I am pleased to say that we are on the verge of realizing an amazing opportunity for a huge number of Calgarians, and I cannot wait for construction to begin. Green certainly does mean go!