Trudeau says Calgary's Green Line LRT construction to begin in the fall, Nenshi not so sure

The Alberta government says it's now confident in the plan the City of Calgary put together for its massive Green Line LRT project and the federal government is on board too.

Justin Trudeau made the announcement that Ottawa was approving the $5.5-billion transit plan during a media conference at a Calgary Transit maintenance yard on Wednesday afternoon.

"This fall, construction on Phase 1 of the LRT Green Line will begin in Calgary's Beltline and downtown," he said from the Oliver Bowen Maintenance Yard. "We're also looking forward with the province and the city on Phase 2, which would see the line extended to the north."

One of the primary goals of the Green Line, Trudeau says, is a "faster and cheaper commute."

'No one wants to waste time and money in traffic. This will help you get home to the kids sooner."

In addition to the easier ride around the city, the Green Line LRT will help boost Calgary's economy by creating approximately 20,000 jobs throughout the planning and construction phases. But that's not all, Trudeau said.

"When it's done, the Green Line will mean another 400 more long-term positions for people in operations and maintenance," he said.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi calls the support from the federal government "unwavering" from the moment Trudeau became involved in 2015.

"That has been incredibly important to the people of Calgary knowing that that committment was there," he said. "A committment which I might add is larger, on a per capita basis, than any committment to any other transit project in any other city in the country."

Not only did Nenshi thank the support of the federal government on the project, but he also thanked council for their support throughout the whole process.

"It was a year ago that council made the final decision on the Green Line in a 14-1 vote and that is really extraordinary," he said.

However, one issue Nenshi did bring up with the development on the project had to do with timelines on construction. He says he isn't convinced that a fall construction date would be feasible.

"In reality, when we finish our procurement and actual start real construction this fall, no, that's not possible," he said.

But that's not to say Nenshi isn't excited about Trudeau's news.

"Being able to move forward in this way will allow us to continue with a lot of the early works that we have in place with some confidence and the stuff that is already funded."

PROVINCE ALSO 'CONFIDENT' IN PROJECT

Minister of Transportation and Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver also announced details of the decision in a release Wednesday, saying that he is "grateful for the hard work" that went into building the plan.

"Alberta's $1.53-billion commitment toward the Green Line is a massive investment in the future of Calgary, one we are happy to make because we believe our best days are ahead of us," he said in a statement.

"I am confident that the Green Line is in a stronger, more certain position today, and is in the capable hands of an experienced project team that can take this important project forward."

KENNEY ABSENT FROM ANNOUNCEMENT

Despite being present in Calgary for Trudeau's visit, Premier Jason Kenney was not at the media conference to announce the decision to begin construction on the transit line.

The premier's absence was noticed by Rachel Notley, the leader of the Alberta NDP.

In a statement, she said she remains worried about the future of the project, adding the UCP government will continue to "try and obstruct it."

"Four years ago yesterday, I was proud to stand in Calgary and announce my provincial government’s full commitment to getting the Green Line underway as soon as possible," she wrote.

“We heard clearly today that, under the leadership of Jason Kenney, the project was stalled and delayed by at least one year. That’s one year longer to wait for the creation of 20,000 jobs and it’s one year longer to wait for the economic boost that this will provide to the downtown core and all Calgarians."

Kenney's office, however said he was not present at Wednesday's conference because it was "a re-announcement of funding already committed" to the Green Line.

"The premier announced this funding committed on behalf of the Government of Canada as a federal minister in 2015," said Kenney's press secretary Jerrica Goodwin in an email.. "Alberta’s government has approved the revised business case for the Calgary Green Line LRT and provided it to the federal government weeks ago for approval."

PREMIER PRESSED TRUDEAU ON OTHER ISSUES

Kenney had other priorities to bring up with Trudeau during his meetings on Wednesday, including a timeline for reopening the Canada-U.S. border, how oil investment is being hindered by federal environmental policies and progress on pipelines.

"The leaders discussed progress on pipelines, including the Trans Mountain Expansion, with the premier underscoring Alberta’s hope that First Nations will have an opportunity to purchase an ownership stake in the project," Goodwin said.

"Premier Kenney also urged the Prime Minister to seek flexible rules at the Glasgow Climate Summit for Canada to get credit for reducing global (greenhouse gas) emissions through liquefied natural gas exports."

Goodwin also said Kenney spoke with Trudeau about Alberta's two vacant Senate seats, requesting that he take some more time with that decision until after nominees are elected in the fall.

"The two leaders agreed on the need to work together in support of efforts by Indigenous communities to mark and commemorate Indian Residential School gravesites. They also agreed on the importance of condemning recent acts of arson targeting churches, and the premier briefed the Prime Minister on Alberta’s actions to improve security of churches and other vulnerable targets of hate crimes."

APPROVAL A LONG TIME COMING

Previously, McIver rejected the previous business plan for the project in June 2020 over concerns that the plan council approved was different than what was handed to the province.

In the letter to Mayor Naheed Nenshi, McIver said a thorough analysis needed to be done.

The report was soon completed and the province submitted a number of recommendations to the City of Calgary.

Last month, the Green Line board said it had come to an agreement with the province, which brought about "greater cost certainty" on the multi-billion-dollar project.

In Wednesday's announcement, the province said the city addressed all the recommendations and the plan was then forwarded to Ottawa.

The process has resulted in a delay for commencing construction, the city says, but it has an estimated completion date of sometime in 2025 or 2026.

The Green Line will cost approximately $5.5 billion.