By Scott Strasser, October 30 2016 —
The University of Calgary Debate Society (UCDS) kicked off their new series on municipal issues with a discussion surrounding the Green Line light rail transit project at the Calgary Central Public Library on Oct. 27.
Debate participants included Calgary city councillors Shane Keating (Ward 12) and Evan Woolley (Ward 8). Panelists included U of C PhD in transportation engineering Willem Klumpenhouwer, Masters graduate of the U of C Faculty of Environmental Design Charlene Wilcock and City of Calgary communications strategist Emma Stevens.
According to UCDS executives, the role of the municipal series is to help educate the public on city-wide issues leading up to next year’s municipal election.
“We don’t think there’s a lot of substantial conversations around some of the municipal issues,” UCDS vice-president events Benjamin Sasges said. “There’s a lot of focus on federal issues or provincial, but there’s a lot going on in our city that people are not necessarily aware of.”
The Green Line is a 40 kilometre LRT line that will run from Keystone in north-central Calgary to Seton in the deep south-east. The line will connect directly to the South Health Campus, the National Music Centre and the red and blue lines downtown. The project is still in its early development stages.
The total cost for the Green Line is estimated to be between $4.5 billion and $5 billion, but funding for the project has been an issue.
While the City of Calgary and the federal government both committed over $1.5 billion each to help fund the project last year, the Alberta government has not yet promised to pay for the remainder.
“With the municipal election coming up, people need to really look at their city and think about what issues need to be resolved, think about where they want to see Calgary in the next 10, 20 years or so,” UCDS vice-president external Frank Finley said. “It’s important for people to have an outlet where they can go and find out information about things like the Green Line.”
The Oct. 27 event began with a panel discussion on the Green Line’s potential effects on the city. Much of the discussion focused on the environmental benefits of public transportation, the Green Line’s sustainability and how both urban and suburban life will improve with the new LRT line.
Following the discussion was a debate portion featuring Keating and Woolley. The two councillors answered questions on how to ensure the provincial government commits to help fund the Green Line, why Woolley voted against a recommendation to bore a tunnel under the Bow River for the project at a city council meeting in early October and how to include adequate parking at new LRT stations.
While Keating and Woolley both support the Green Line, Sasges said it was educational to hear different perspectives on why the project is valuable to the city.
“Getting two councillors who actually agree on a certain issue, but seeing the different ways in which they tackle it, that’s interesting to me,” he said.
Although the Green Line will not directly service the U of C, Keating said the project is worth paying attention to for university students — especially those who live in suburban neighbourhoods.
“If you look at the university and all the post-secondaries, they’re well-served by transportation if the station is close to it,” Keating said. “But if you take my area, there are students who are forced to drive to get to their post-secondary.”
The second debate in UCDS’s municipal series will be on the CalgaryNEXT project, a proposed multi-use athletics venue that would house multiple professional sports teams in Calgary. The debate will take place on Nov. 23.