Tag Archives: Federal Building

Small town cheap? Tories secretly cut public ice rink and plaza from Federal Building renos

The public entrance of Edmonton's Federal Building (photo credit: forester401)

The public entrance of Edmonton’s Federal Building (photo credit: forester401)

It it weren’t sitting north of the Legislature Grounds, the architecturally beautiful Federal Building would cast an ominous shadow over the capital landmark in Edmonton. Abandoned after the Government of Canada relocated to Canada Place in the early-1980s, the beautiful art deco building sat empty after 1989 until the Government of Alberta began renovations in the late 2000s. The building was originally expected to be reopened and house government employees and MLAs in 2011 but the project was delayed and costs are overrun by $100 million. It is now expected to be reopened in 2015.

Federal Building Edmonton Alberta

The Federal Building under construction (photo credit: Mack Male)

But the most public elements of the renovated building appear to have been quietly removed from the construction plans. According to a report from the Edmonton Journal, plans to include a new ice skating rink, lower plaza and improved landscaping were cancelled in April 2013. The skating rink would have been built above the renovated building’s 650-car parking lot and provided a stunning view of the Legislature Grounds. The proposed landscaping would have included improved fountain pools north of the Legislature.

Located between the two most densely populated neighbouhoods in Edmonton, the new ice rink, plaza and landscaping would have provided activities for the general public to enjoy. Cutting the public elements, including a Zamboni to maintain the ice rink, are reported to have only removed a meagre $10 million from the expected $375 million project.

If the Federal Building sounds familiar, it is probably because it was the location of the much-loathed 11th floor Skypalace private penthouse suite that Premier Alison Redford had secretly planned to occupy. The penthouse, built as a residence for the former premier and her teenage daughter, would have included a library, dining area with a butler’s pantry, and a private elevator from the ground floor. Government documents show that contractors made more than $760,000 in changes to the 11th floor in June 2013 to build the private suite.

Former Infrastructure Minister Wayne Drysdale and former Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver both claimed to have cancelled the Skypalace project at different times, but Premier Jim Prentice told reporters in September 2014 that no more money would be spent renovating the penthouse. The already modelled residential suite is now expected to be used as meeting space instead.

But back to the public space. It is a shame the PC Government chose to, more than a year ago and in secret, axe the elements of the renovated Federal Building and the Legislature Grounds that could have become a destination for the general public and an important part of the revitalization that is happening in downtown Edmonton. Hopefully they will see the error of this short-sighted decision and re-introduce the public elements in future renovations. Our Legislature Grounds are beautiful and we should be striving to create new ways to make it a more vibrant gathering spot for Albertans.

Tory culture of entitlement a big problem for Jim Prentice

Jim Prentice David Dorward Moe Amery Selfie Alberta

A PC Party selfie with MLAs David Dorward, Moe Amery and leadership candidate Jim Prentice. (photo from @DavidDorward on Twitter)

Whoever leads Alberta’s long-governing Progressive Conservatives into the next election (probably Jim Prentice) will have some serious challenges to deal with.

After more than forty years in office, Alberta’s natural governing party has become accustomed to getting its way, regardless of who stands in their way.

Perhaps realizing how much damage this has caused his party, interim PC leader Premier Dave Hancock apologized to attendees at high-priced party fundraising dinners in Calgary and Edmonton.

“I’m sorry we damaged Albertans’ confidence in our party,” Mr. Hancock said. “I apologize for losing touch with our grassroots, for not listening to you the way we should have. This behaviour is just not acceptable.”

Delivering this type of apology is a big step for any PC leader, even an interim one. After years of public controversy and internal turmoil under previous leaders, the PCs hope that Albertans will forget their misdeeds and elect them to office for a fourteenth term.

But apologies need to be followed up with action.

Last week, more than 400 representatives of the Alberta Teachers’ Association unanimously stood in a non-confidence vote against Education Minister Jeff Johnson. The Tories have slowed down their drastic reforms to public sector pensions and backed down on legislative threats to impose a contract on public sector workers, but Mr. Johnson’s recent attack on front-line educators appears to be off-script.

Even the secret Skypalace in the Federal Building, which Albertans had been told was cancelled, is still being built (albeit without the bedrooms). A strong case can be made for an official residence for the Premier, and especially official meeting spaces to hold functions and host dignitaries. But for some reason, even when they claim to be upfront and transparent, the Tories still do not feel they need to justify these expenses to the public. They continue to operate in secret.

The leadership vacuum is only one of the problems facing the big-tent PC Party. Their next leader will inherit a party with a severe cultural problem that becomes prevalent in any long-governing party – an entitlement problem. And this cannot be fixed simply by changing who is sitting in the premier’s office and it will certainly not be changed with platitudes and soundbites.

Albertans deserve better than what the Tories are offering. The Tories need to prove Albertans can have confidence in their party. They need to prove that Albertans can trust them to govern in the interest of the province, not in the interests of preserving their own political dynasty.


As the PC Party and the Alberta New Democrats begin their leadership races, I will be taking a short break from political punditry to enjoy the salty breeze and down-home hospitality of Canada’s Maritime Provinces. In my absence, I recommend you follow my colleague David Climenhaga at his excellent AlbertaDiary.ca blog.

The All-Calgarian PC Party leadership race

Ric McIver Alberta PC Leadership Race

Ric McIver

Another Calgarian has entered what has been, at least so far, an all-Calgarian Progressive Conservative leadership race.

Announcing his candidacy in the contest to become the next PC Party leader and premier, former Infrastructure minister Ric McIver declared he would bring a “common-sense new approach to replace insider, establishment thinking, with new common-sense thinking.”

The first-term MLA and former three-term Calgary Alderman brandishes a rhetorical brand of meat and potatoes conservative populism not seen in a PC Party leadership race for some time. Mr. McIver’s style may be reminiscent of former Premier Ralph Klein, but can the dated “common-sense conservative” message resonate with PC Party members in 2014?

Ken Boessenkool

Ken Boessenkool

Despite serving as a senior cabinet minister in Premier Alison Redford’s government for two years, he appears to be running against the controversial record of the previous premier. This is probably not a bad strategy for a party with a track record of denying victories to candidates seen as too close to the “party establishment.”

Mr. McIver has tapped Conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool as his campaign manager. Mr. Boessenkool is the former chief of staff to British Columbia Liberal Premier Christy Clark and briefly served as the spokesperson for the “Alberta Blue Committee.”

Jim Prentice Alberta PC Leadership

Jim Prentice

Unanswered questions remain about Mr. McIver’s role in the Skypalace – a penthouse suite that was secretly being constructed for Ms. Redford in the Federal Building. Mr. McIver claims he cancelled the construction project, but the same claim was made by his predecessor, Wayne Drysdale.

Meanwhile, front-runner Jim Prentice has yet to officially announce he will be entering the race and is already gaining support among PC MLAs. Mr. Prentice has the endorsements of Human Services minister Manmeet Bhullar, Education minister Jeff Johnson, Flood Recovery minister Kyle Fawcett, Municipal Affairs minister Greg Weadick and backbench MLA Neil Brown. It is rumoured that he could soon receive the endorsement of Finance minister Doug Horner, who will make clear his own political intentions on Friday.

Former Municipal Affairs minister Ken Hughes was the first Calgarian to enter the race. Non-Calgarians, including Labour minister Thomas Luksazuk (from Edmonton) and Energy minister Diana McQueen (from Drayton Valley) are also rumoured to considering their entry into the contest.

While rivalries between regions in Alberta are less relevant than they were twenty or thirty years ago, a leadership race gives a political party an opportunity to demonstrate its strength and support across the entire province. After losing ground in its traditional rural strongholds in the last election, a lack of regional diversity among the candidates would present a challenge to a PC Party struggling with internal strife and Alberta’s growing population.

A Premier Penthouse Suite: Where Luxury is Yours

Redford Penthouse Suite Alberta PC

Find your home away from home in Edmonton, Alberta in the newly renovated art-deco Federal Building. Elegant features throughout the Premier’s Penthouse Suite are designed to make a private place in the province’s capital as special as it can be.

This luxurious penthouse suite includes sleeping and grooming quarters with clothing storage for an adult and one teenager, a separate private study, a relaxed, social space for entertaining and watching TV, and a library area. The spacious suite features a seated formal and semi-formal dining room for 8 to 12 people, comfortable seating for meetings and entertaining, and panoramic views of the Alberta Legislature.

Whether your visit is for government business, family sightseeing or lounging in the TV room, your enjoyment is our priority.

For more information, see: Alison Redford ordered penthouse suite in Federal Building.