News / Calgary

Green Line $1.53 B contribution not possible without carbon tax: Notley

The province's Green Line cash will flow to the City of Calgary upfront without financing to help the Green Line's overall construction

Premier Rachel Notley looks on as Mayor Naheed Nenshi basks in the glow of a major funding announcement that will see the Green Line built.

Jennifer Friesen/ for Metro

Premier Rachel Notley looks on as Mayor Naheed Nenshi basks in the glow of a major funding announcement that will see the Green Line built.

Presenting the Green Line, made possible by a contribution from your provincial carbon tax.

Politicians and city employees could barely hold in their "yahoos" as Premier Rachel Notley, Transportation Minister Brian Mason and Mayor Naheed Nenshi all shared in the good news: The Green Line's first stage is fully funded.

That's thanks in part to $1.53 billion over 8 years in Climate Leadership Plan cash from the provincial government, first reported in Metro on Thursday.  

Green Line booster Coun. Shane Keating said the eight-year timeline could help the city in its upcoming tax room discussions. He's already eyeing $23.7 million over 10 years, which he said could just about cover an extension in the south to McKenzie Towne.

"Instead of earmarking that money for financing charges, we can turn around and earmark it for capital plans," said Keating. "I think that's where the savings is going to go...it will shift the pools of money to go from financing charges to capital costs."

As reporters peppered the government with questions about the city's largest infrastructure project, and its fate should a new government swoop in and cut the carbon tax, Notley made one thing clear: the funding wouldn't be possible without a carbon levy and she's not entertaining any hypotheticals about the future of the tax.

Calgary's politicos aren't concerned about losing this eight-year commitment now that it's been secured.

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"Any new government coming in, to stop the project in its tracks, to justify that is a little off base to begin with. I don't believe there's ever been a new government coming in that hasn't honoured previous commitments," said Keating.

"Whether you like the carbon levy or not, it's here, this wouldn't be debt, it would be from the carbon levy."

The money will start flowing in the 2019/2020 budget, just before an election year, with $165 million in the first instalment, and $195 million for the following seven years.

The opposition Progressive Conservatives said they support the province's funding pledge despite being highly critical of government spending.

Ric McIver, who is the PC leader in the legislature, said the Green Line is badly needed and called Notley's announcement “very good news.”

McIver's Calgary riding is at the southern end of the planned transit expansion project.

“It is a long, slow, painful commute for tens of thousands of people every single day,” said McIver, a former Calgary city councillor. “This is a good investment.”

The Wildrose was not immediately available for comment.

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And Nenshi isn't done bugging Mason on the Green Line, because Stage 1 only covers half of the Green Line's entire vision. He said because the province's eight-year cash timeline matches up with the project's construction staging, and helps with the city's debt servicing costs.

"It allows us to start talking, relatively soon, about once construction is done on phase 1, how much cheaper it is to just continue the work one station at a time with cash flowing that would be available after eight years," said Nenshi.

"Not that I'm going to pre-suppose anything."

With files from the Canadian Press

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