Nenshi, Smith trade barbs on Calgary's Green Line project
Alberta transportation minister says revisiting Calgary transit project plan would warrant revisiting funding
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The two front runners for Calgary's mayoral seat don't have the same train of thought on Calgary's Green Line.
The top mayoral challenger to Naheed Nenshi said Thursday that he would go back to the drawing board on the Green Line, possibly nixing the downtown tunnel in favour of extensions both north and south.
Nenshi met with reporters Friday armed with stats and warnings about his opponent's idea.
He spelled out that altering the Green Line plans could not only be detrimental to the project's integrity, but may have financial consequences.
"This is shocking and it really is remarkably, breathtakingly uninformed," said Nenshi.
The incumbent claimed while Bill Smith "dithers" around deciding on the Green Line plan he'd be wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — even risking funding that's already in place.
Smith, at his own Friday conference on the Green Line, dismissed fears funding would be lost.
“I can’t imagine that suggesting that we want to make sure we aligning with Calgarians' needs is going to be an issue," Smith said.
He also clarified that he never suggested a cancellation of the project, only a review to make sure it works for Calgarians.
"I think we need to make sure that our priority is to move people and I’m not sure the way it sits right now accomplishes that," Smith said, reminding reporters that the original plan was supposed to reach 46 kilometres in length –for the same cost.
On Friday, at the Legislature rotunda, Alberta Transporation and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason said that should Calgary city council decide to revisit the Green Line alignment, they'd in turn have to review the work – and their $1.53 billion funding.
"I’ve been very clear with the mayor and the city in general that we were not going to give a carte blanche approval of one and a half billion dollars of provincial public money," said Mason.
He went on to say that they've worked hard with the city to find a Green Line route they were satisfied with that aligned with their provincial priorities, and a rethink could start that process from scratch.
"If they have a different proposal, we’re going to have to start some of that work over again," said Mason.
"There’s no guarantee, ultimately, that we’re going to reach a conclusion where we’re satisfied with the proposal."
Nenshi said the Green Line consultation took hundreds of hours for the city, the public and was discussed at length before being approved "overwhelmingly" on council's floor.
"For someone who has never before raised a question about it in any of the forums, to come out and say something so uninformed, it's actually reckless, it's dangerous, it runs the risk of snuffing out our fragile economic recovery," Nenshi said.
Smith's response to Nenshi's comments were straightforward.
“I didn’t think it was dangerous,” Smith said.
“I just thought it was common sense when I looked at the map.”