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Alberta

Backers of Calgary-Banff train say they need Parks Canada to get on board

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CALGARY — Updated ridership projections show a proposed $1.5-billion Calgary-to-Banff passenger train could be a success without annual payments from the government of Alberta, the project’s backers said Monday.

But Liricon Capital Inc., the lead private sector proponent of the project, said that will only happen if Parks Canada enacts policies aimed at encouraging the adoption of mass transit by visitors to Banff National Park.

“Specifically, the help we asked for and need from them (Parks Canada), is to provide some carrots and sticks,” Liricon Capital managing partner Jan Waterous said, adding that could be anything from raising the entry fee to Banff National Park for private passenger vehicles to expanding bus and shuttle service between park attractions.

In an interview, Waterous said the company is still waiting for a yes or no from the provincial government for its proposed rail line.

Liricon submitted its unsolicited proposal to the province earlier this year. While the company did not request any government funding for the project’s capital costs it did ask the province to commit to providing up to $30 million annually for the life of the train to help cover the mortgage on the project.

However, Waterous, who, together with husband Adam owns the Mount Norquay ski resort located in Banff National Park as well as the long-term lease on the Banff train station, said Monday a new ridership study commissioned by Liricon and Plenary shows those payments may not even be necessary.

The study, conducted by international transportation consultancy Steer, concluded that the train could carry up to 11 million passengers per year by 2035, five times more than originally projected in Liricon’s first proposal.

The new ridership projections are based on recent developments, Waterous said, such as Liricon’s securing the support of local municipalities including Calgary, Canmore and Cochrane, all of which have committed to tying in the passenger rail line to their existing mass transit networks.

The higher ridership forecasts also reflect Liricon’s discussions with local tourism operators who have expressed interest in offering package deals for rail travellers, as well as ongoing talks with Air Canada and WestJet that could see the rail line integrated with the airlines’ schedules to offer travellers a seamless transfer from the Calgary International Airport to Banff.

However, Waterous said the higher ridership figures are also based on the assumption that Parks Canada will incentivize ridership of the train through policy changes, something the federal agency has not committed to.

“We have done as much as we can do. The success of the train at this point really comes down to stakeholder support, and specifically the support of Parks Canada to put these policies in place to support this shift to mass transit,” Waterous said.

Liricon’s plan involves a European-style tourist train that would also serve local commuters, with service through seven communities as well as a stop in downtown Calgary.

The proposed hydrogen-powered passenger train would be built within the existing Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. freight corridor, which means it would require the twinning of the existing track but would not involve any foray into currently undisturbed land within Banff National Park.

Supporters of the project say the train could reduce the number of passenger vehicles within Canada’s oldest national park by at least 20 per cent, and up to 40 per cent with the use of policy incentives to promote train usage.

While proponents say that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the park, as well as traffic congestion, some environmentalists have warned that a passenger train would make Banff an even more popular destination for tourists, increasing the overall human impact on wildlife and the region’s natural landscape.

Waterous said Liricon’s next step is to work with Steer to develop an investment grade ridership and revenue study that will fully flesh out the financial impact of potential policy incentives.

Liricon has suggested that net ticket costs for Albertans using the train would be priced at about $20, with out-of-province users paying more.

Liricon has asked the province to commit up to $10 million to complete the next phase of design and development work.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2022.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Red Deer South MLA lambastes Premier Kenney for weighing in on the race to replace him

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Article submitted by Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan

Kenney, the time for you to be quiet is now

When you are a departing leader of a political party, one of your responsibilities is to build unity. One way of doing so is to stay out of the leadership race to replace you. Jason Kenney promised he was not going to be a “color commentator” in the race, and then proceeded to become one. Kenney misrepresented a platform commitment of Danielle Smith —a leading candidate—sowing division and creating disunity.

While misrepresenting the ideas of others and then attacking the straw men manufactured out of the misrepresentation may be standard practice in a junior high school debate, it’s dishonest and disrespectful.

Kenney called the Alberta Sovereignty Act “nuts” and “nuttier than a squirrel turd”. Is that going to produce unity? In his leadership review, when he called those who disagreed with him “bugs”, “kooks” and “lunatics”, how did that work out
for him?

Kenney says the Sovereignty Act would make Alberta the “laughingstock” of Canada. Perhaps we already are.

When Albertans held a provincial referendum and rejected equalization, who did Trudeau appoint as environment minister? He chose Steven Guilbeault, the Greenpeace activist, arrested for climbing on Ralph Klein’s roof when he was away, frightening Klein’s wife who was home alone. I bet Trudeau thought that was funny.

What does Trudeau do with Kenney’s sternly worded letters? Perhaps they are trophies he hangs on the walls.

The premier of Quebec said one of his favorite things about Canada is equalization, so what progress has Kenney made on equalization? None.

The Sovereignty Act seeks to do what Quebec does. Is Quebec a laughingstock?

Kenney says the Sovereignty Act would be a “body blow” to Alberta jobs and the economy and “draw massive investment away”. Isn’t that going to be the result of Trudeau’s new “discussion paper?”

This paper was released in August with a submission deadline in September. It proposes either a new cap-and-trade or carbon tax only on oil and gas development, disproportionately punishing Alberta while sparing Quebec and other provinces that Trudeau bribes for power.

Kenney should consider stopping his straw man attacks and start focusing on Ottawa where he came from. No straw man is required as Ottawa is already responsible for driving away hundreds of billions in investment out of Alberta and thousands of Alberta jobs with it along with more “body blows” to come if we get this imminent new cap and trade or new carbon tax imposed on our natural resources.

Is Kenney working on his latest sternly worded letter?

But wait, under section 92A of Canada’s constitution, isn’t Alberta supposed to have jurisdiction over the development of our natural resources? Isn’t Trudeau again seeking to do indirectly what he cannot do directly? Isn’t this a sneaky,
backdoor, constitutional trojan horse? Isn’t this what the Sovereignty Act is intended to address, to assert constitutional boundaries that Ottawa continually seeks to circumvent, trespass, attack and undermine? When Ottawa abuses its
power, isn’t the Sovereignty Act to be a check and balance?

Yes, a good idea, improperly applied can be detrimental, and if that is the version that Kenney wants to manufacture, attack, and fearmonger, that is his choice.

Properly applied the Sovereignty Act will benefit Alberta, counteracting the commercial uncertainty and chaos from Ottawa by asserting the constitutional boundaries that Ottawa habitually disrespects, seeking to undermine and intrude into
Alberta’s constitutional jurisdiction to develop its oil and gas resources.

Kenney says the Sovereignty Act does not respect the rule of law.

Properly applied the Sovereignty Act supports the rule of law as it asserts Alberta’s constitutional jurisdictions and resists abuses of power emanating out of Ottawa.

Kenney says he “isn’t really following the leadership race”. He is.

Kenney started saying he does not know which candidates are supporting the Sovereignty Act. He knows.

He also knew the deadline for members to participate in the leadership race had ended the day before he chose to improperly misrepresent a platform policy of a leading candidate who is not part of his inner circle.

Great leaders speak the truth in love inspiring the best in those they serve. They do not fearmonger, they do not call names, they do not misrepresent others’ ideas and then attack the straw men they manufactured with their misrepresentations.

It is disappointing to see Kenney failing in his responsibility to build unity. I have faith his successor will do better.

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Alberta

Edmonton gondola needed better Indigenous consultation, councillor says

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By Angela Amato in Edmonton

The sole city councillor to vote in support of a gondola across Edmonton’s river valley says the outcome may have been different if there were better Indigenous consultation.

A recommendation that a city agreement with Prairie Sky Gondola be terminated passed 12 to one on Monday.

Karen Principe, councillor for Ward Tastawiyiniwak, was the lone vote against nixing the project.

But she says more meaningful consultations with Indigenous people were needed before signing the land-lease agreement with Prairie Sky.

The gondola project has been criticized for several reasons, including financial risks to the city and controversy around building on the Rossdale Burial Site.

The Rossdale Burial Site is an Indigenous burial ground that has been recognized as a cemetery by the City of Edmonton since 2005.

The decision comes after a meeting last week where citizens, councillors and the Prairie Sky Gondola team discussed the project.

“It was a very tough decision,” said Principe. “I just thought that it was such a great, creative idea and something unique for Edmontonians.”

Chief Darlene Misik of Papaschase First Nation sent out a statement Thursday, saying her community supported the Prairie Sky Gondola Land Agreement.

“Without this opportunity to access and develop our significant presence beyond the appearance of what is quite frankly an unkept cemetery, the city will wait yet another 15 years or until something else triggers a discussion before considering that perhaps something should be done at the Rossdale Flats,” Misik wrote.

Nisha Patel,The sole city councillor to vote in support of a gondola across Edmonton’s river valley says the outcome may have been different if there were better Indigenous consultation.

A recommendation that a city agreement with Prairie Sky Gondola be terminated passed 12 to one on Monday.

Karen Principe, councillor for Ward Tastawiyiniwak, was the lone vote against nixing the project.

But she says more meaningful consultations with Indigenous people were needed before signing the land-lease agreement with Prairie Sky.

The gondola project has been criticized for several reasons, including financial risks to the city and controversy around building on the Rossdale Burial Site.

The Rossdale Burial Site is an Indigenous burial ground that has been recognized as a cemetery by the City of Edmonton since 2005.

The decision comes after a meeting last week where citizens, councillors and the Prairie Sky Gondola team discussed the project.

“It was a very tough decision,” said Principe. “I just thought that it was such a great, creative idea and something unique for Edmontonians.”

Chief Darlene Misik of Papaschase First Nation sent out a statement Thursday, saying her community supported the Prairie Sky Gondola Land Agreement.

“Without this opportunity to access and develop our significant presence beyond the appearance of what is quite frankly an unkept cemetery, the city will wait yet another 15 years or until something else triggers a discussion before considering that perhaps something should be done at the Rossdale Flats,” Misik wrote.

Nisha Patel, former Edmonton poet laureate and disability justice activist, wrote an essay against the gondola.

“I feel immensely grateful to the amount of people who fought and reasoned for this outcome,” Patel said.

Patel’s essay focused on the Indigenous burial site, the city’s transit needs and the financial implications of the project.

“As someone who has lived in areas with low to no transit options and now lives in a high transit corridor, I’m very sympathetic to the many folks who rely on transit alone.”

While the city has halted the project, Prairie Sky Gondola could still revise its plan and propose the project again.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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