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Infrastructure Projects & Alberta’s Economic Future

Infrastructure Projects & Alberta’s Economic Future

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During the next four years, over three quarters of the Alberta government’s 2019 Capital Plan budget of $24.2 billion will be allocated to infrastructure projects including municipal support (32%), capital maintenance and renewal (17%), health (13%) and roads and bridges (13%). Although other sectors receive some funding — education (9%), service delivery (6%), public safety and emergency services (3%), agriculture and natural resources (2%), housing (2%), job skills (2%) and sports and recreation (4%) — it is clear that the provincial government continues to view the ongoing building and maintenance of infrastructure as one of its most important priorities.
At a time when oil prices are still relatively low, Alberta has been able to not only maintain but undertake new major infrastructure projects. Furthermore, independent studies have found that Alberta’s current capital stock per capita is above average when compared to other provinces and that Alberta’s capital grants to municipalities are over 20% higher than the national average.
Continuing major provincial infrastructure projects include:

  • Calgary Cancer Centre: The CCC will increase cancer care capacity in southern Alberta by consolidating and expanding existing services in Calgary to support integrated and comprehensive cancer care. The CCC has been developed in partnership with Infrastructure Alberta, Alberta Health and Albert Health Services. CCC is expected to open in 2023.
  • South Edmonton Hospital: The provincial government has approved funding for a state-of-the-art hospital and health campus in south Edmonton. Site work is anticipated to begin in 2020, and the hospital is expected to open to the public in 2027.
  • The Grande Prairie Hospital: The state-of-the-art regional referral centre for northwestern Alberta residents will be completed in 2020.
  • Edmonton and Calgary light rail transit: Edmonton’s Valley Line, a 27 kilometer urban light railline is currently under construction. Construction began on April 22, 2016 with completion of phase 1 set for 2020.Calgary’s Green Line is 46 kilometres in length and was approved by Calgary City Council in 2017. The first phase of the Green Line is 20 kilometres (with 14 stations) and budgeted at $4.65 billion. While the Alberta government has pledged $1.53 billion, the City is also raising $1.53 billion and another $1.53 billion has come from the federal government. The Green Line is considered to be the largest capital expenditure project in Alberta to date. Construction is expected to begin in 2020.

The Alberta government has continued to focus on the diversification of the energy industry by encouraging capital investment into petrochemical industry infrastructure. By processing oil and gas in the province, the need to build more infrastructure to transport raw materials is reduced. The government has appointed an Associate Deputy Minister for Natural Gas who will work with the natural gas industry to facilitate infrastructure for shipping Alberta gas to Asian markets.
The Alberta government has also created a $1 billion fund for Indigenous natural resource and infrastructure projects. The Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC) will loan money, acquire existing loans, issue loan guarantees, enter into joint ventures and purchase equity. Indigenous groups are eligible to apply for AIOC support. The AIOC is expected to be operational by 2020 and will be another source of funding for infrastructure projects, especially those in Indigenous communities.
In addition to the infrastructure projects listed above, the most controversial infrastructure project in the province — the Trans Mountain Expansion Project – is now under construction. The original Trans Mountain Pipeline was built in 1953. The expansion will add approximately 980 kilometres and will twin the existing 1,150 kilometre pipeline between Strathcona County (near Edmonton), Alberta and Burnaby, BC. This expansion will triple existing capacity by increasing throughput from approximately 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. Three new berths will be built at Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby. Once the new berths are completed and in service, the number of tankers loaded at the Westridge Marine Terminal could increase to approximately 34 per month. The expansion will add twelve new pump stations and 19 new tanks to the existing storage terminals in Burnaby, Sumas and Edmonton. The new pipeline will carry heavier oils and have the capability to transport light crude oils. The expansion will create 15,000 jobs during construction and 37,000 jobs during operation.

Trans Mountain Expansion Project Route 

Costs have already escalated for the Trans Mountain Expansion project. Originally calculated at $4.1 billion in 2016, the estimate then rose to $7.4 billion. Last year documents stated the cost would be as high as $9.3 billion through the completion of construction. Since the federal government now owns the Trans Mountain pipeline, it will be responsible for the costs of its expansion.

 Work has started on the Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline at either end – Edmonton and Burnaby
Although the pipeline has been approved for a second time and over 2,000 workers have been hired to date, environmental activist groups are expected to continue to protest. Legal challenges to the pipeline remain in play as well. Earlier this year, B.C. Premier John Horgan said the province is appealing a B.C. court decision that found the province had no jurisdiction to enact legislation that would restrict the contents of a federally regulated pipeline.


Over 2,000 employees have be hired since work began on the pipeline this summer.
Even though the Trans Mountain Expansion Project is one of many Alberta infrastructure projects moving ahead it is the most crucial project as its success determines whether Alberta can successfully reach other export markets with its oil and generate revenues that will pay for its other infrastructure projects.
Article authored by Beverley Brooks.


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