Prairie Sky Gondola CEO: “This Project is Not Dead”

CEO says investors are willing to play the long game, even it means waiting until after the next municipal election
Rendering of the gondola's proposed station attached to the old Rossdale Power Plant. Rendering courtesy Prairie Sky Gondola.

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The CEO and president of Prairie Sky Gondola has a simple message: The project isn’t dead.

“Our investors have told us that they want to wait this out,” said Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson. “We owe it to the people who want to create a better city. We owe it to the city builders. This project is not dead. We owe it to the city to stick with this project.”

He said that the partners in the proposed 2.5-kilometre ropeway that would connect Old Strathcona to downtown via Rossdale are willing to wait until after the next municipal election, and bring it back in front of a new council.

In 2018, the gondola concept was the winning entry in the Edmonton Project, which was tasked with finding the next great city-building idea. Then, Prairie Sky Gondola became a real company with real investors, the majority of the money coming from outside of Canada. As part of a six-part strategy agreed to between Prairie Sky gondola and the previous iteration of council led by former mayor Don Iveson, the company would be tasked to undertake “robust” discussions with Indigenous groups, as the path would take it through the historically sensitive Rossdale area.

Things came to a head in an August executive committee meeting, which lasted from morning well into the night, with a long series of speakers lined up who both supported and opposed the project. There were Indigenous speakers on both sides. While Indigenous archaeologist Cody Sharphead told the executive committee that he did not believe there were burial sites on the gondola’s path, the public hearing also featured many speakers who spoke out against the agenda item, which was that the City approve a lease that would cover the gondola’s right of way.

Later in August, council voted 12-1 against going ahead with the project, but chose instead to take Prairie Sky Gondola’s submissions as information. This placed the project in limbo, but did not kill it.

Hansen-Carlson said that Sharphead was not financially compensated for his research on the Rossdale area. And he said his company did what was asked of them by the City’s administration: To keep their presentation short and concise. He believes that PSG had done what was asked of them by administration.

“The symbolism of what happened is a bigger issue,” he said. “It’s about how difficult it was. It was about how, if there’s enough misinformation on Twitter, that carries more validity than experts and facts.”