Supporting the development of Calgary’s new arena and entertainment district is high on the to-do list for Transportation and Economic Corridors Minister Devin Dreeshen.
Premier Danielle Smith issued a lengthy mandate letter to to the Innisfail- Sylvan Lake MLA on Tuesday that prioritized delivering on the UCP’s election commitment of up to $300 million for road and bridge construction, LRT connection, site utilities, site reclamation and other supportive infrastructure for the project. Another $30 million from the province will help fund a 1,000-seat community arena neighbouring the main arena.
“As an Oilers fan, demolishing the Saddledome is going to be quite interesting,” joked Dreeshen who resumes his position as the minister of transportation and economic corridors, a title he has held since October 2022.
But the never-ending part of his job is to look after 64,000 km of paved highways and nearly 5,000 bridges, as well as working with municipalities on their bridges.
Improvements to Central Alberta roadways were not included in the four-year mandate, but Dreeshen said there’s already a lot of road projects going on in the region, as well as Red Deer Airport’s $30-million capital project in the 2023 provincial budget.
The multi-pronged mandate identified exploring ways to work with Indigenous and Métis people on issues including implementing the First Nations Regional Drinking Water Tie-In Program.
Dreeshen said a lack of commitment by the federal government to provide clean drinking water is a concern among Indigenous people.
“We feel that even though it is a federal responsibility we still need to step up and where possible work on regional drinking water tie-in projects to make sure they also have access to clean water and a functioning treatment system.”
Developing an integrated water program for increased water treatment and distribution for residential, industrial and agricultural water use across Alberta was also part of the mandate.
“They’re not flashy public buildings or arenas. It’s pipelines under the ground so once it’s built you don’t see it or think about it, but they’re vitally important to make sure that our communities can continue to grow,” Dreeshen said.
Some of Dreeshen’s other tasks include:
• Expanding economic corridors across Alberta and Canada to increase employment, economic growth and non-renewable resource revenue for Albertans. Work should include securing corridor agreements with provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners to Hudson Bay, the Pacific and the Arctic.
• Exploring cost-sharing arrangements with the private sector and/or municipalities that support economic investment in Alberta’s transportation network, including public transit, heavy rail and bridge infrastructure that better connects the Calgary and Edmonton airports to their downtowns, regional communities to Calgary and Edmonton, and Calgary to the province’s Rocky Mountains parks system. This must initially include completing the Blue Line link to the Calgary airport.
• Examining the feasibility of a province-led Metrolinx-like model for commuter rail service using heavy rail on the Canadian Pacific rail line from Airdrie to Okotoks and the Edmonton International Airport to downtown Edmonton, with a view to developing a commuter rail system. Part of the feasibility study should include the use of hydrogen-powered trains.