UCP govt propose Calgary–Banff rail line after a week of lobbying

After just 1 week after one of Danielle Smith’s former Wildrose MLAs registered as a lobbyist for a Banff-based holding company trying to get a rail line built, Smith started advocating for the very thing the lobbyists were lobbying for.

Yesterday, Alberta premier, Danielle Smith announced that she had written to Jyoti Gondek, Calgary’s mayor, about the possibility two new transit options in Calgary.

The first one was a direct LRT connection between Calgary’s downtown and it’s international airport in the northeast. The second possible project is a rail link between Calgary and Banff.

Both of these projects seem like good ideas at first glance, but there is some context you should know, dear reader.

At the beginning of the month, Alberta a company by the name of Liricon Capital hired Alberta Counsel to lobby the provincial government on their behalf for the next 6 months.

You can see the return that Alberta Counsel filed with the Alberta Lobbyist Registry at the end of this article.

According to this return, Alberta Counsel intended to “collaborate with the Government of Alberta and highlight the opportunities brought by the railway project between the Calgary International Airport, Downtown Calgary, Cochrane, Canmore, and Banff.”

And that sounds a lot like the two routes Smith is trying to put into Gondek’s ear.

Alberta Counsel was founded by Shayne Saskiw in 2015, shortly after he announced he would be stepping down as MLA for Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills. He had won the 2012 provincial election running under the Wildrose banner, while Smith was leader of the party.

Prior to 2012, he had served a year as executive director of the Wildrose Party.

Not only that, but according to CBC News, Saskiw was the person Smith chose to reach out to the PC Party to discuss merging the two parties just before the two parties lost to the NDP in the 2015 election.

Since stepping down from politics, Saskiw donated over $3,600 to the United Conservative Party. He also donated $3,500 to the Wildrose prior to Jason Kenney merging it with the PCs.

Back to Liricon Capital. They are a holding company based out of Banff that has been advocating for a Calgary–Banff rail line for over 5 years.

Liricon’s founder, Adam Waterous, has been a strong supporter of both Wilrose and UCP. He donated $20,000 to the Wildrose during the 2015 provincial election, as well as $4,575 to the UCP in 2018 and 2019.

I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Smith, in her letter to Gondek, said, “I would also invite the city to work with the province, and potentially private industry, to explore options for the creation of a rail link between Calgary and Canmore/Banff.”

I wonder who that “potentially private industry” might include.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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