In Canada’s west, Alberta and governments queue up to build highway as needed. Canada wants to be more like U.S.

The move to build an expressway and other improvements on Highway 413 was first announced in November 2017 by the Liberals after long on and off discussions. Upon taking office a year later, the…

In Canada’s west, Alberta and governments queue up to build highway as needed. Canada wants to be more like U.S.

The move to build an expressway and other improvements on Highway 413 was first announced in November 2017 by the Liberals after long on and off discussions. Upon taking office a year later, the Ford government made a campaign promise to update the worst roads in Western Canada — including Highway 413, a route through southern Alberta and British Columbia.

Calgary Herald columnist Doug Thompson estimated construction of Highway 413, “would cost around $300-million to complete and cost $100-million a year to operate.” Since those numbers came from the Calgary Economic Development agency, it is no wonder the Tories are playing down the economic impact.

Doug Ford has committed an additional $100-million in 2017-18 and would provide a smaller amount of provincial funding in the 2019-20 budget. Another $100-million in road funds would come from the British Columbia government and municipalities. The provincial road repair levy is $38-million in British Columbia and $2.5-million in Alberta.

The Premier has promised $700-million in funding over five years from the federal government for the project. Mr. Ford has stated that “you should do better than that if you want to be treated fairly” when it comes to federal infrastructure dollars.

The mayors of the region were already eyeing another motive for their move toward construction: to make it more appealing to companies wanting to open up shop in southern Alberta.

After they took office in June 2018, several CEOs in northern Alberta left town and head office employment was down in the region by nearly 10 percent. Transporting goods to their northern locations via Highway 16, a lone expressway with conflicting speeds, made setting up a business difficult.

Electric cars seem to be taking over the streets in western Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is racing to keep up. Ford, the city of Calgary and the Calgary Chamber of Commerce all believe that a good public transportation system would help ease congestion and price tags on new homes and cars would be lowered.

Between Calgary, Fort McMurray, Edmonton and Lethbridge, numerous connections exist throughout this region and will soon with a single highway if the governments approve the government’s plan. The need for new infrastructure in Alberta is also not a partisan matter.

While Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Tory Premier Doug Ford are both insisting that money for the highway was already pledged, the government recently warned Ottawa that it needs the money right away. Without it, the province of Alberta and the cities will continue to have to deal with internal transportation problems.

Greg Haller is a corporate communications consultant. A former media relations executive for Enbridge Inc., and Alberta Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation under the Liberal government, he writes and speaks on public policy issues. His opinions do not reflect those of Enbridge.

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