You can imagine my surprise after reading a news release Friday that stated the city would be acknowledging a $270-million boost for Calgary Transit infrastructure, only to find out the money was already announced last year.
Indeed, MP Jim Prentice, MLA Jonathan Denis, and Mayor Dave Bronconnier buried a time capsule in a groundbreaking ceremony at the new City Hall LRT station Friday. Similarly, on May 19, 2009, Bronconnier, MLA Alison Redford, and Prentice held a news conference at the Stampede LRT to announce the funding.
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There have also been announcements in between for various projects from the same pot of money, such as the southeast BRT.
Confused over why this money has been celebrated so many times, I called Alyson Robb, communications special assistant to Prentice, and Marc Henry, chief of staff to Bronconnier.
Both told me this latest ceremony was to indicate, in Robb’s words, “construction is underway,” and “everything is moving forward and due to be complete on time.” Henry also said it’s about “showing where the money’s going.”
Fair enough — construction just began on two gateway LRT stations on 7th Ave. So I guess when those stations are complete, we’ll probably need some more pomp and circumstance mentioning the $270 million again. Fourteen suburban LRT stations will be lengthened to accommodate four-car trains as part of this funding, meaning it’s likely that we’ll be seeing a lot of Prentice.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for celebrating transit investment, but it gets a little confusing to have the same numbers celebrated repeatedly. It does help politicians get as much mileage out of every penny though — a cheque-delivering ceremony here, a groundbreaking ceremony there, perhaps a progress ceremony and, of course, cutting some ribbon to inaugurate the completed project.
I wonder how many other people get confused and assume each mention of money equates to a new injection of cash?
Sometimes we get the funding announcement but no accompanying funds.
Case in point: The Green Transit Incentives Program (Green TRIP). The $2-billion program -- part of the province’s highly touted climate change action plan -- aimed to promote the use of local, regional and inter-city public transit, was first announced in July 2008, then again in February 2009 and most recently this past February. No funding has ever been distributed though.
I think politicians should spend more time addressing transportation issues and less time milking photo ops.
Adrienne Beattie is a Calgary-born writer who has covered urban issues since 2001 and has an English degree from the University of Calgary.