Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the federal government is considering sending its share of funding for the city’s largest infrastructure project more quickly, to help fill a gap left by a delay in provincial financing.
Mr. Nenshi made the comment after a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Mr. Nenshi met with Ms. Freeland in separate meetings on Tuesday as the federal minister investigates ways Ottawa can ease increasing feelings of regional alienation across the prairies.
While Mr. Kenney has called for a renegotiation of his province’s role within Confederation, Calgary’s mayor said Ottawa could deliver timelier infrastructure funding and help with economic development as the region continues to suffer from an oil-price shock that began in 2014.
Mr. Nenshi said a federal commitment to send part of its share of funding before construction starts on Calgary’s $4.6-billion Green Line, a large expansion of the city’s light-rail network, would need to be made within the next three months for the project to remain on schedule.
The transit expansion would add 46 kilometres of rail to the city’s system. The project has run into troubles in recent months, with technical issues and a provincial decision to cut its funding over the next four years from $555-million to $75-million. The Kenney government has said its funding will now come in later years, long after construction starts.
Calgary’s mayor has said the city can’t fund the early stages of the transit expansion without help. “Being open to the idea versus inking something with the three partners – Calgary, Alberta and Canada – that’s what I’m looking for,” he said.
While Ottawa typically only sends funds to provincial or municipal infrastructure projects to reimburse money that has already been spent, Mr. Nenshi said the federal government is now considering going early. “The question is whether the federal government is willing to step into the gap, understanding that the federal government, Liberal and Conservative, has had a real problem getting infrastructure money out the door,” he said.
Ms. Freeland did not answer any questions from reporters on Tuesday, and did not make any statements after her meetings with Mr. Nenshi or Mr. Kenney. Her office did not respond to questions about whether she supports changing the funding structure for the Green Line.
The federal Liberals lost all their Alberta seats in the 2019 election, and elected no members of Parliament between Winnipeg and the Rocky Mountains. After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s re-election, Mr. Kenney struck a panel looking at whether Alberta should pull out of the Canada Pension Plan and whether it should create a provincial police force, among a number of proposals to limit the province’s ties with the federal government.
“I appreciate the continued outreach by the government of Canada, however, Albertans do want to see some concrete action early in 2020 to demonstrate that we can find common ground in the federation,” Mr. Kenney said before meeting with Ms. Freeland in Calgary.
The two governments have been at odds over the federal carbon tax, which was imposed on Alberta at the start of the year after Mr. Kenney’s decision to scrap his predecessor’s provincial tax on carbon. At the same time, the governments in Edmonton and Ottawa have co-operated on the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, which would link the oil patch with the Port of Vancouver.
“We’ve started to really roll up our sleeves and get some concrete things done,” said Ms. Freeland in brief remarks. She cited Ottawa’s decision to accept Alberta’s carbon tax on industrial emitters, as well as an initial understanding between both governments on how to regulate methane emissions. The potent greenhouse gas is often created during oil and gas production, and traps significantly more heat than carbon dioxide.
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