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Study launched on Calgary-to-Banff passenger rail service

The Alberta government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to assess the feasibility of a new passenger rail service between Calgary and Banff

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The government of Alberta is exploring the feasibility of building a rail line between the Calgary International Airport and the town of Banff.

“The Alberta government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to assess the feasibility of a new passenger rail service between Calgary and Banff,” the government said in a release Tuesday afternoon.

The cost of the feasibility study will be paid for by the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

The government said Banff National Park attracts about four million visitors a year with about 23,000 vehicles travelling Hwy. 1 in both directions at the Banff National Park gates every day.

In February 2019, it was reported such a rail service was feasible and it would cost $660 million to build.

A study — which was commissioned by the towns of Banff, Canmore and Cochrane, as well as the City of Calgary and Improvement District 9 — examined mass transit as a way to reduce vehicle congestion along the Bow Valley corridor and in the national park. 

 The study said a passenger rail service could have eight round trips per day and transport between 220,000 and 620,000 passengers per year.

The study said the train could make stops in downtown Calgary, adjacent to the planned Green Line CTrain stop at 9 Ave. S.E. and 4 St. S.W.; at Keith Yard, near the overpass of Stoney Trail N.W. along Bearspaw Dam Rd. N.W.; and in Cochrane, Canmore and Banff.

“The growing number of visitors to the area is increasing traffic congestion on highways and local roads,” said the government release Tuesday.

“Our government is creating an environment where investors and job creators can succeed in Alberta. We are pleased to be partnering with the CIB to complete a feasibility study for the Calgary-Banff Rail project. The CIB brings expertise and experience that is needed for a project of this scale. We look forward to learning more about this exciting project and hearing from our community partners about how this opportunity can support our tourism industry and get our economy back on track,”said Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver.

Michael Sabia, board chair, Canada Infrastructure Bank, said: “We are pleased to be building a strong partnership with the Government of Alberta. An important part of the CIB’s role is to work closely with governments across Canada to advance new infrastructure opportunities. The Calgary-Banff Rail project is the first of many potential projects for the CIB in Alberta.”

Tanya Fir, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, said: “We were elected with a platform commitment to double the size of our tourism industry, and this type of project is the type of bold and innovative strategic thinking that we need to consider if we want to properly show off Alberta’s majestic landscapes and scenery. We know that Alberta’s tourism industry is world-class, and we will build it to new heights.”

Area politicians also welcomed the proposal.

“I have been a huge advocate for this project within our government since being elected last spring. The potential for a beautiful passenger rail service running through the Rocky Mountains poses a tremendous opportunity to attract international visitors and grow our tourism economy here in Alberta and is an opportunity I am extremely excited about,:” said Miranda Rosin, MLA, for Banff-Kananaskis.

“At a time in our history when many tourism economies have been effectively devastated by COVID-19 travel restrictions, I believe there is no better time to consider this strategic investment in our tourism industry and give hope to our industry operators than right now.

“Today’s announcement serves as a vote of confidence from our government that we support Alberta’s world-class tourism industry and are committed to helping it grow to its full potential over the course of our governance.”

The CIB uses federal funding to attract private sector and institutional investment into revenue-generating projects that are in the public interest. 

In 2017, Alberta saw $8.9 billion in tourism expenditures – an increase offive per cent from the previous yearwith a total of 36.9 million person-visits – an increase of 6.1 per cent from the previous year

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard and the Vice-President: News Division of Western Standard New Media Corp. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Independent Alberta MLAs call for emergency debate on forced vaccinations

And the pair said they will not be revealing their own vaccination status, calling it a personal issue

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Alberta’s two Independent MLAs are asking for an emergency debate in the Legislature over the issue of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies, especially for health workers and the RCMP.

Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine, joined his colleague Todd Lowen, MLA for Central-Peace-Notley in making the call to Premier Jason Kenney.

And the pair said they will not be revealing their own vaccination status, calling it a personal issue.

Barnes said he was particularly worried about the impact on the RCMP, especially in rural detachments where he claimed few officers had been vaccinated.

More than 33,000 RCMP officers and support staff have signed an open letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki opposing mandatory vaccinations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said all federal workers, including the RCMP, must be vaccinated of face job consequences. But government memos say two-thirds of the civil service could be exempt.

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Vax deadline for BC health-care workers looms overhead

In BC, roughly 5,500 unvaccinated health-care workers will be stripped of their jobs on October 26 if they do not get their first shot.

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Health-care workers have been praised for their efforts surrounding COVID-19 for nearly 20 months, however, the ephemeral display of gratitude comes to an end tomorrow.

On October 26, roughly 5,500 unvaccinated health-care workers in British Columbia will be stripped of their jobs, as set forth in a public health order.

The order demands workers provide proof of having received one dose of vaccination against COVID-19 by the aforementioned date.

If they get their first shot before November 15, workers will be permitted employment seven days afterwards, provided they follow extra safety precautions until they get a second dose — which must be administered within 35 days of the first.

“We’re hopeful, of course, that people will move to get vaccinated and comply with the upcoming order,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

The roughly 5,500 employees do not include the unvaccinated long-term and assisted living facility workers who were forced out of their jobs by the province on October 12.

Similar policies have been rolled out across the country, but not without resistance.

In August, Alberta Health Service (AHS) announced that all employees, volunteers, and contracted health-care providers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Last week, the deadline was pushed until November 30.

Similarly, Quebec extended its proof-of-vaccination timeline for health-care workers by one month, with the new deadline falling on November 15.

BC’s deadline — which looms a mere hours away — seems to be fixed in its place.

“The government forcing health-care workers to become vaccinated is really problematic because — for one reason — these are the people most likely to have natural immunity,” Dr. Steven Pelech, chair of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Committee at the Canadian Covid Care Alliance told the Western Standard.

“This is the way the health-care system treats them… a year ago they were heroes for helping save lives, now they are discarded for being unvaccinated.”

Reid Small is a BC correspondent for the Western Standard
rsmall@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/reidsmall

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Chu sworn in as Calgary Ward 4 councillor

Chu was sworn in by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Rooke. Earlier Calgary mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek had said she would refuse to swear Gondek in over his actions in 1997 with a 16-year-old girl.

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Embattled Calgary Coun. Sean Chu has been officially sworn in again to the represent the area despite allegations of a 24-year-old sex scandal that erupted just before election day.

Chu was sworn in by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Rooke. Calgary mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek earlier said she would refuse to swear Gondek in over his actions in 1997 with a 16-year-old girl.

Gondek did not even mention Chu’s name during the ceremony.

In a media scrum following in the swearing-in ceremony, Gondek said council will be focusing on looking at the biggest priorities for each councillor in each ward and which councillor will be serving on the various committees, boards and commissions.

When asked why she chose not to swear councillor Chu in, Gondek said, “I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to swear him in.”

“I’m focused on working with new members of council and one that have returned and letting them enjoy this day of being sworn in. All of us are incredibly proud of what we have accomplished and we are looking forward to celebrating this day as ours. So I’m choosing to focus on that today,” said Gondek when asked if she plans to take Chu up on his invitation to speak with him in person about the resurfaced allegations.

“The future will dictate that. Today I’m incredibly focuses on my family and my collegues who’ve achived a great success,” Gondek said about meeting with Chu at a later date.

Gondek became the first female mayor of Calgary in history. Eleven new councillors and two former ones were also sworn in Monday.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek was presented with the Chain of Office by her husband Todd. Justice John Rooke is on the left.

The Chu allegation involved an incident where he met the girl at the King’s Head Pub. After hitting it off, the pair agreed to meet later when Chu was off-duty and in civilian clothes.

The pair went to Chu’s house where he admits they engaged in consensual sexual foreplay. The girl then asked Chu to drive her home, which he did.

The girl later filed a complaint alleging Chu sexually assaulted her.

According to documents obtained by the Western Standard, Chu’s accuser said he had sexually assaulted her while holding a gun to her head.

However, Insp. Debbie Middleton-Hope, the presiding officer at the disciplinary hearing in 2003, said testimony from the then 16-year-old minor was not credible and not to be believed.

“I find Const. Chu to be forthright in his description of the details and I find his evidence to be believed,” said Middleton-Hope, a well-respected, now-retired, Calgary policewoman, in transcripts provided to the Western Standard.

“Under cross-examination (the woman) had difficulty in recalling pertinent details,” said Middleton-Hope.

“I find her evidence not to be believed and I was not able to consider her evidence when deciding a sentence.”

Middleton-Hope also confirmed there was no evidence that would have indicated Chu was aware the woman was underage stating, “several witnesses said [the girl] appeared to be 19 to 21 years old.”

Although allegations of sexual misconduct were thoroughly investigated and dismissed over the investigation, Chu had a letter of reprimand added to his file for discreditable conduct for caressing the accuser’s leg while on duty and was ordered to undergo six months of ethics training.

Gondek and Premier Jason Kenney, along with most of the incoming council have called for Chu to resign.

Chu offered to meet with Gondek in person to discuss the situation and has vowed not to resign.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any harm,” Chu told the Western Standard in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

“I have always told the truth. My reputation is important to me and now my family is hurting,” said Chu.

Chu is now looking at his legal options and a possible defamation suit over some of what he called “false reporting.”

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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