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Scott Strasser

University of Calgary receives $160 million for infrastructure projects

By Scott Strasser, September 9 2016 —

The University of Calgary made its second federal funding announcement in less than a week on September 9.

After announcing a $75-million energy-related research grant on September 6, the U of C announced September 9 at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning that the Canadian government will pledge $78 million toward eight U of C infrastructure projects.

The $78 million comes from the Canadian government’s post-secondary institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF).

Alongside SIF, the U of C received an additional $82 million for the same projects from a combination of provincial funding, philanthropic donations and the university’s infrastructure budget.

Projects that will receive funding include redevelopments for the Engineering Complex and Science A, as well as expansions to the High Density Library and the Veterinary Medicine Clinical Skills building.

Other infrastructure projects that will receive funding include the first phase of a utility reduction program and upgrades to the Barrier Lake Field Station in Kananaskis.

U of C president Elizabeth Cannon said the chosen projects align with the university’s capital priority plan.

“We looked at that plan to determine what would fit within the criteria of the program,” Cannon said. “We looked at where the priorities are and where the funding criteria would match in terms of driving innovation and ‘greening’ buildings. From that we determined which ones we would actually submit.”

Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains made the official announcement on behalf of the Canadian government on Friday in front of a crowd of about 75 people.

Bains said that with low interest rates, now is the time for the Canadian government to invest in infrastructure.

“Growing the economy is our number one priority,” he said. “Those infrastructure investments will create jobs for today. It’s a huge multiplier, [and] it creates good quality jobs in the construction industry.”

Bains said investing in post-secondary has benefits for the future as well.

“We’re making investments in our academic institutions that allow us to bring the best and brightest researchers and allow us to invest in young people and their ideas, so they can start their own companies,” Bains said.

Alberta Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt also spoke at the event. He said infrastructure investments like this are “more than just bricks and mortar.”

“It’s really an investment in the future of Alberta and the rest of the country,” he said. “The research and the learning that goes on here at the U of C will have impacts on the future of the country. This is where the technology of the future is going to be developed. It’s going to make Alberta a much more sustainable and prosperous place.”

U of C geoscience professor and Canada Research Chair Masaki Hayashi said the funding will help modernize and upgrade the Barrier Lake Field Station in Kananaskis, the homebase for the U of C’s research on mountain environments.

“[Students’] discoveries will establish the U of C as a world leader in alpine hydrology and will benefit billions of people around the world whose lives are critically dependent on water supplies from mountain rivers,” Hayashi said.

The projects need to be completed by April 2018 — another reason why the specific projects were chosen.

“There’s always things we’re looking at — we do have deferred maintenance on campus and we do have plans for new buildings. But some of those were not feasible within the scope of this particular program,” Cannon said.

According to a U of C Management Discussion Analysis from 2015, deferred maintenance at the university was an estimated $450 million by March of that year.

SIF will provide up to $2 billion over the next two years to accelerate infrastructure projects at universities and colleges across Canada.

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