Despite her many difficulties with the Réseau Express métropolitain (REM), Caisse embarked on another train project, this time in Alberta.
Late last year, two wealthy Alberta investors, Jean and Adam Watros, chose Caisse subsidiary, Plenary Americas, to help them develop a 130-kilometer rail line between Calgary Airport and the park.
If completed, it could be the first hydrogen-powered train in North America.
The project is valued at $1.5 billion, and the project will be 50% funded by the Infrastructure Bank of Canada (CIB), a federal crown corporation. The rest of the money will come from Liricon Capital, the Waterous couple’s company and private and public sector lenders.
However, supporters struggle to gain the support of the Alberta government, which they consider essential.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney expressed support for the project last year, but will step down soon after losing support within the Conservative Party.
Liricon and Plenary are asking the Alberta government for $10 million to help fund design work for the project. The promoters and BIC promise to share the balance of the bill, which is $20 million. Alberta is then required to pay $30 million annually to the train operators.
The project has received support from four local mayors, including the mayors of Calgary, Banff and Canmore, as well as the chief executives of Canada’s five largest banks.
However, ecologists are concerned about the impact of the construction work on the national park’s ecosystems. Proponents argue that a future train would use the existing Canadian Pacific right of way and that doubling the tracks required for the project would not encroach on park land.
Oil and gas money
Adam Watros is a former Scotiabank Fund Manager who in 2017 established an investment fund specializing in the hydrocarbon sector. He also owns the Mount Norquay Ski Resort in Banff.
La Caisse acquired Plenary Americas in early 2020 from Australian group Plenary. Public Sessions of the Americas is worth more than $1 billion, according to the foundation’s latest annual report.
“We are not involved in the day-to-day development of Projects for the Americas,” Caisse spokeswoman Kate Monfit told the newspaper.
The Plenary of the Americas has approximately 40 completed or in progress projects in its portfolio.
- Last week, CDPQ Infra, another Caisse subsidiary, postponed the operation of most REM stations until the end of 2024.
Project in brief
- 130 km rail link between Calgary Airport and Banff
- Seven stations
- Expected cost of $1.5 billion
- Planned commissioning in 2025 or 2026
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