This past week, the members of the Tsuu T’ina Nation voted 60% to reject a plan put forward by the City of Calgary and Province of Alberta to trade land on the eastern edge of the reserve for other lands to be named later. The City wanted this land to build the southwest leg of the ring road around the city.
I can understand the Tsuu T’ina rejecting this, because of the concept of lands to be named later is pretty dodgy when you are dealing with politicians. Additionally, most of the land adjacent to the reserve is either privately held or part of provincial parks and natural areas – so where exactly was the province going to get these lands?
Of course, I also think that the Tsuu T’ina were unwise to reject this plan.
All the City and Province wanted was a relative narrow right-of-way for a freeway. The Tsuu T’ina should have negotiated to get a couple of exits built from this freeway into the reserve, where they could set up significant commercial properties – such as shopping malls or (additional) casinos. I personally think that a native-owned shopping mall would be anti-competitive, considering the non-taxable nature of Treaty 7… But this would have provided the Tsuu T’ina with both employment and earning capabilities, which could significantly improve their standard of living.
Of course, now the City and Province have basically got to decide how to expand either 37th Street across (or under) the Weaselhead (an environmentally sensitive area), which would run down the west edge of the city along the boundary of the reserve; or 14th Street, which runs though significant residential areas, past the Rockyview Hospital and would need a new and heroic bit of engineering to cross Fish Creek Provincial Park. Neither of these is very palatable – nor will be cheap.
The last alternative, which I always liked – would be to use Highway 22X and 22 through Bragg Creek – which runs around the west end of the Tsuu T’ina reserve. This makes the SW ring road quite long – about 40 km longer than the thru-city routes – but it avoids residential areas (except of course for Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows)… The Province already has a right-of-way across the NW corner of the Tsuu T’ina reserve for Highway 22 so that problem appears to be already resolved. Of course, this would place the terminals of the NW (Stoney Trail) and SW ring roads aboug 16 km apart along the Trans-Canada Highway.
This route would also open up one other option – extending 22X east as a freeway along Route 901 to Gleichen, creating a clean TransCanada bypass around Calgary. This would be good for truck traffic – which currently has to go through the middle of Calgary (beaucoup de traffic lights on 16th Avenue N) if not stopping elsewhere in the city.