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Alberta’s vision for passenger rail

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Alberta’s government will develop a Passenger Rail Master Plan as the foundation to advancing passenger rail in the province.

Since the early days of Alberta’s development, the province has been shaped by the iron rails that crisscross its landscape. The arrival of the transcontinental railway in the late 19th century brought about profound changes to the way of life, facilitating trade, settlement, and economic prosperity. Towns and cities sprung up along the tracks, serving as vital hubs for commerce and transportation.

Today, the legacy of rail continues to shape Alberta and the rest of Canada. While the modes of transportation may have evolved, the spirit of innovation and connectivity remains as strong as ever. As Alberta experiences record population growth and evolving transportation needs, advancing passenger rail infrastructure is essential for enhancing accessibility, efficiency, and connectivity across the province.

Alberta’s Passenger Rail Master Plan will look forward decades and identify concrete actions that can be taken now as well as in the future to build the optimal passenger rail system for the province. The Master Plan will assess the feasibility of passenger rail in the province, including regional (inter-city), commuter and high-speed services.

“A large and efficient passenger rail network stretching across the province has incredible potential. It represents a forward-looking vision and is a mobility solution for our rapidly growing province and I’m excited to watch this plan take shape and bring us into the future. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m confident that we will build the network Albertans need to improve daily life and work, boost the economy and take away the stress of long-distance travel.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

“Alberta already has significant public mass transit systems in Calgary and Edmonton for the provincial passenger rail system to build upon. The Master Plan will be a vital tool to guide the province on the next steps in advancing passenger rail. It will provide certainty to the rail sector and ensure the most effective use of tax dollars and government authorities. We look forward to hearing from Albertans and working with municipalities, Indigenous communities and the private sector in advancing passenger rail in the province.”

Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors

Passenger rail services connected to urban mass transit shapes and strengthens regional transportation systems, connects communities, supports jobs and the economy and improves access to housing.

“Canada’s railways appreciate the Alberta government’s efforts to conduct a fact-based study on the potential for passenger rail service that recognizes the essential need to protect current and future freight rail capacity. Any proposal to co-locate passenger service in freight corridors must demonstrate the ability to preserve the freight rail capacity required to move goods in support of the province’s economy, today and tomorrow. Rail is the greenest mode of ground transportation for both people and goods.”

Marc Brazeau, president and CEO, Railway Association of Canada

The government’s vision is for an Alberta passenger rail system that includes public, private or hybrid passenger rail, including:

  • a commuter rail system for the Calgary area that connects surrounding communities and the Calgary International Airport to downtown;
  • a commuter rail system for the Edmonton area that connects surrounding communities and the Edmonton International Airport to downtown;
  • regional rail lines from Calgary and Edmonton to the Rocky Mountain parks;
  • a regional rail line between Calgary and Edmonton, with a local transit hub in Red Deer;
  • municipal-led LRT systems in Calgary and Edmonton that integrate with the provincial passenger rail system; and
  • rail hubs serving the major cities that would provide linkages between a commuter rail system, regional rail routes and municipal-led mass transit systems.

The vision includes a province-led “Metrolinx-like” Crown corporation with a mandate to develop the infrastructure and oversee daily operations, fare collection/booking systems, system maintenance, and planning for future system expansion.

“At VIA Rail our vision for integrated mobility means dreaming of a future where a passenger can easily switch between commuter rail, light transit, transit buses, and regional trains in an agile and simple way. We’ve already initiated a number of exchanges with partners, and we intend to step up the pace in the coming months and years. I can assure you that as integrated mobility becomes an increasingly important topic of conversation in Alberta, VIA Rail will be there to play a unifying role.”

Mario Péloquin, president and CEO, VIA Rail Canada

Alberta’s Passenger Rail Master Plan will ensure government has the required information to make decisions based on where passenger rail delivers the best return on investment. The plan will provide a cost-benefit analysis and define what is required by government, including a governance and delivery model, legislation, funding, and staging to implement passenger rail in Alberta. This work will include a 15-year delivery plan that will prioritize and sequence investments.

“We are excited to see the province taking the next step in committing to regional and intercity rail. This Passenger Rail Master Plan aims to set out a vision for a comprehensive rail network in our province that’s long overdue. We are thrilled to see this process move forward.”

Justin Simaluk, president, Rail for Alberta Society

The Master Plan will take into account future growth, planning for the growing provincial population and considering the use of hydrogen-powered trains to ensure a robust and effective passenger rail system to serve Albertans for years to come.

Development of the Master Plan will include engagement with Albertans to gain their perspectives for the future of passenger rail in Alberta.

Alberta’s government has released a Request for Expression of Interest to seek world-class knowledge and consultant services as a first step toward the development of the Passenger Rail Master Plan for Alberta. Following this process, a Request for Proposal will be issued to select a consultant to develop the Passenger Rail Master Plan. The Master Plan is expected to be completed by summer 2025.

Quick facts

  • Passenger rail includes:
    • Commuter rail – passenger rail that primarily operates within a metropolitan area, connecting commuters to a central city from adjacent suburbs or surrounding commuter towns, and is often traditional heavy-rail
    • Regional rail – passenger rail that operates beyond the limits of urban areas and provides inter-city passenger rail transport services and can be traditional heavy-rail or high-speed rail
    • Light-rail transit (LRT) – urban passenger rail transit that typically operates small, frequent train service in an urban area. Calgary and Edmonton use LRT as part of their mass transit systems
  • Passenger rail in Alberta is currently limited to two tourism-focused services, VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer, and LRT in Calgary and Edmonton.
  • Budget 2024 includes $9 million to support the development of the Passenger Rail Master Plan this year.

This is a news release from the Government of Alberta.

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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith promises bill protecting rights to refuse vaccines is coming

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From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

The plan is to introduce an amended Bill of Rights this fall that includes protections for individuals’ personal medical decisions.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has promised that the province’s Bill of Rights will be amended this fall so that there are protections added for people’s personal medical decisions that most likely will include one having the right to refuse a vaccine.

Smith’s promise to add protections for personal choice on vaccinations comes because of the COVID jab mandates put in place for a time in Alberta under former Premier Jason Kenney.

Speaking to Albertans at a recent town hall in Bonnyville, Smith said that the COVID crisis resulted in many people being discriminated against for their own medical decisions and that “it shouldn’t have happened.”

Smith, who leads the United Conservative Party (UCP), said that she believes “every person has to be able to do their own assessment, their own health assessment, to be able to make those decisions.”

The original plan by Smith was to add protections for one’s vaccine status directly Alberta Human Rights Act (AHRA). However, this plan was nixed after she was advised by Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel chair Preston Manning that this was not the right legislation for an additional protection.

Instead, Smith promised that a better “law” dealing directly with vaccine status will be forthcoming.

On Monday, Smith confirmed on X that an updated version of the Bill of Rights is coming.

“It’s time. Let’s get this done,” she wrote.

Last year, Smith, as reported by LifeSiteNews, promised to enshrine into “law” protections for people in her province who choose not to be vaccinated as well as strengthen gun rights and safeguard free speech by beefing up the provincial Bill of Rights.

On Smith’s first day on the job and only minutes after being sworn in, she said that during the COVID years the “unvaccinated” were the “most discriminated against” group of people in her lifetime.

She took over from Kenney as leader of the UCP on October 11, 2022, after winning the party leadership. The UCP then won a general election in May 2023. Kenney was ousted due to low approval ratings and for reneging on promises not to lock Alberta down during COVID.

Smith promptly fired the province’s top doctor, Deena Hinshaw, and the entire Alberta Health Services board of directors, all of whom oversaw the implementation of COVID mandates.

Under Kenney, thousands of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare and government workers lost their jobs for choosing to not get the jabs.

While Smith has not said much regarding the COVID shots since taking office, she has allowed her caucus members to have broad views when it comes to known safety issues related to the jabs.

UCP MLA Eric Bouchard hosted a sold-out event titled “An Injection of Truth” that featured prominent doctors and experts speaking out against COVID vaccines and mandates.

“Injection of Truth” included well-known speakers critical of COVID mandates and the shots, including Dr. Byram BridleDr. William Makis, canceled doctor Mark Trozzi and pediatric neurologist Eric Payne.

The COVID shots were heavily promoted by the federal government and all provincial governments in Canada, with the Alberta government under Kenney being no exception.

The mRNA shots have been linked to a multitude of negative and often severe side effects in children.

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Scotia Place – Calgary unveils design for new arena / events centre

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News release from the City of Calgary

Scotia Place, Calgary’s new event centre, designed as a place for community where there is room for everyone

The City of Calgary and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) are excited to reveal the design for Calgary’s new event centre – formally named Scotia Place.

The design is influenced by the ancestral and historical land of Indigenous Peoples and the culturally significant site that embodies our shared purpose – to gather. It brings together Indigenous cultural perspectives with Calgary’s and the region’s natural beauty, reflecting the four elements of nature – fire, ice, land and air.

A striking feature of the building is the central structure with a textured flame motif that emulates a home fire, which is further amplified when it is lit at night. The home fire, a place of warmth and energy that brings people together to share stories of the past and create stories for the future, rises from the white, glacial-like forms that define the lower parts of the building.

“When you consider that Calgary is already the envy of other cities with a new world-class convention centre in the heart of the Culture + Entertainment District, the addition of Scotia Place is another signal to investors that our city understands how to build a future that leverages hospitality and hosting as its core strengths,” says Mayor Jyoti Gondek. “We are also acknowledging and honouring the foundational role that Indigenous communities have played for generations in making Calgary, and now Scotia Place, a space where we all belong.”

Scotia Place, which is scheduled to open in fall 2027, celebrates the area’s importance as a place for all and will be a landmark attraction in Calgary’s emerging Culture + Entertainment District. More than a building, however, the 10-acre city block is designed for community and connection and includes a community rink, outdoor and indoor plazas spaces, four restaurants, the Calgary Flames Team Store, and future development opportunity in the northeast corner. It will provide gathering places and amenities for the 8,000 people who will live in this new downtown neighbourhood.

“Calgary has a long history of hosting world-class events, drawing millions of visitors to the city each year, generating revenue for local businesses, and boosting the economy,” says Danielle Smith, Premier of the Province of Alberta. “With construction on the Calgary Rivers District and Event Centre now underway, Calgary is one step closer to a revitalized downtown that will bring new energy into the city, attract more exciting events, and create jobs to improve the quality of life for Calgarians.”

A development permit application for the facility was submitted on July 19, 2024. This was a significant milestone for the project team, consisting of CAA ICON, HOK-DIALOG, and CANA/Mortenson. People interested in following or commenting on the permit can find the application at Calgary.ca/dmap. The application is expected to be heard by the Calgary Planning Commission by end of 2024.

“This is an important day for Calgary,” says Councillor Sonya Sharp, Event Centre Committee Chair. “Today is about so much more than the designs of a building. Today is the unveiling of a place where Calgarians and visitors from around the world will make memories at concerts, and sport and community events. I hope that everyone is as excited as we are, knowing that Scotia Place will become the complete experience in our new Culture & Entertainment District.”

“At CSEC, a key component of our mission is to be the heartbeat of our community, create connections and bring people together,” said Robert Hayes, CSEC President and CEO. “Scotia Place will become the perfect home to achieve and share this mission with all Calgarians. Seeing the design brings the vision of so many contributors to life. We are especially thankful to the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta for their leadership and support to help bring us to this point. In stride with our partner Scotiabank, we are very proud to play our role in presenting Scotia Place as the culmination of diligence and passion, that is now visual in this breathtakingly beautiful and meaningful facility.”

“For years we have seen firsthand the value these partnerships bring to the communities in which we operate and for our clients,” said Aris Bogdaneris, Group Head, Canadian Banking of Scotiabank. “Scotia Place introduces a bold new vision for what will be Alberta’s premier sports and entertainment venue. For nearly 20 years, Scotiabank has been a proud partner of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation and together, we are committed to bring fans and our clients an unforgettable experience when they walk through the doors of Scotia Place.”

“We are excited to start the construction of the critical infrastructure needed to build thousands of new homes and to make the Calgary’s new Culture + Entertainment district a reality,” says Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors. “Albertans expect basic infrastructure to be maintained and improved and this commitment from the province goes a long way in helping Calgary build these projects.”

Acknowledging the significance of the building’s location at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers on the ancestral land of the Treaty 7 Peoples and the Metis Nation, The City, CSEC, HOK-DIALOG and CAA ICON worked with an Indigenous Advisory Group that included representatives from the Treaty 7 Nations, the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3, and the Urban Indigenous community throughout the design process.

“It was great to be part of a truly representative voice that included all indigenous peoples of southern Alberta regarding the design of this center acknowledging the historic significance of the land it sits on to the Metis people,” said Carmen Lasante Captain of the Calgary Elbow Metis District. “Inclusivity is a core part of who the Metis are. The City has worked hard to include many diverse histories together in creating this space.”

“Engaging in the right way is fundamental to the success of relationship development with the Indigenous communities, as we have played a critical role in the identity of the land now known as the city of Calgary as the Indigenous nations are inextricable linked to the landscape and environment,” says Ira Provost, Piikani Nation Consultation

A key theme heard often during the Indigenous engagement sessions was “Come in, there is room”, making it clear that Scotia Place needs to be a place that is designed for all.

The public plazas are designed to honour the deep-rooted connection that Indigenous Peoples have with the land, incorporating representations of the tipi, Métis Trapper’s Tent, and elements of Alberta’s world-renown natural landscape.

An important design decision was to lower the event and ice surface so that the primary concourse will be at street-level. Calgarians and visitors will be able to move seamlessly between the curb, the primary concourse and the outdoor public plazas.

“We at DIALOG are thrilled to join forces with HOK and combine our unique expertise to transform Calgary’s Event Centre into the catalyst for a dynamic new urban community,” says Doug Cinnamon, Partner Architect at DIALOG.

“Other design principles including public realm activation, the integration of indigenous influences, public art & storytelling, sustainability, and a balance between past, present, and future is central to our vision. The ultimate goal is to ensure seamless accessibility, promote mixed uses, and create vibrant public areas for everyone to enjoy. This joint redesign represents an opportunity to spur investment into the area and enhance its cultural vitality, anchoring Calgary’s position as a thriving, bustling community hub.”

Scotia Place is a generational investment in Calgary’s emerging vibrant Culture + Entertainment District. A modern event centre with universal accessible design throughout and with energy and water conservation built in to maximize efficiencies and the ability to be net-zero by 2050, Scotia place is designed to serve Calgary’s growing community for decades to come.

Construction begins this week. Additional information about Scotia Place including design renderings, a video, and frequently asked questions is available on Calgary.ca/ScotiaPlace.

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