Analysis | The ubiquitous third link | Elections Quebec 2022

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Analysis | L’omnipré ;sent third link | ÉQuebec 2022 elections

The candidate of the CAQ in the riding of Lévis, Bernard Drainville, vigorously defends the third link project between Québec and Lévis.

Since the beginning of the campaign, rarely more than a day goes by without the file of the third link bursting into the daily press briefings of the head of the CAQ .

When will the studies be made public? What will happen if these studies confirm this or that hypothesis? And above all, could the government reconsider its plans?

Result: there are several headlines almost every day on this subject in the digital platforms of the major media.

Of course, this question is a big one. The third link is an expensive and contested project. Moreover, it conveys a vision of urban development and planning with which one can totally disagree. Debating it is perfectly legitimate, including in the context of a national election campaign.

This project has certainly become a pebble in the shoe of François Legault. Nevertheless, in many regions, the third link is much more a symbol than a real electoral issue.

The third link, with us, is really far. It has no impact on our world, it's really not a priority, confided to me in recent days a journalist colleague who works in a remote region. She found it hard to understand why this subject occupies so much space in the campaign at a time when substantive debates are rare.

It is indeed difficult to understand why, at the end of a pandemic which has caused thousands of deaths in Quebec, health occupies such a small place in the electoral debates. Of course, we have heard the usual promises in recent weeks: to increase access, to train more doctors, to give more autonomy to different professionals. The least we can say is that this theme did not arouse passions.

The same applies to the CAQ's commitment to create private mini-hospitals. Give more space to the private? At one time, we would have talked about it for days. Are we collectively tired of talking about health? Or would we have given up?

The situation is similar in education. Even if the learning of many young people has been severely hampered by the pandemic (the school results attest to this), this question arouses strangely little interest. Unions and interest groups – not to mention many columnists – have tried to bring this issue to the fore in recent weeks, however, with little success.

And so far, the list of subjects that have gone under the radar (in whole or in part) is long! Even the environment gets less attention than one might think…except from the perspective of the third link. As for the promise to reduce or even eliminate contributions to the Generations Fund, it caused talk for a few days before another call was made.

How to explain then that so much attention is given to the third link? Of course, it is the journalists who return to the charge day after day asking questions and publishing news on the subject.

But if journalists continue to dig into this file, it may also be because François Legault has not yet fully and definitively answered all the questions on this subject. Not to mention his refusal to reveal existing studies.

At this time, it is not clear how many studies will be made public, when they will be published. will be and what exactly each will be about. It's also unclear what they'll be used for as the government has already made its bed: it will be a four-lane, city-centre to city-centre tunnel.

Yet it was written in the sky that the question of the third link would resurface during the campaign. In fact, this project has been in the air since before the 2018 elections, precisely because the CAQ itself decided to make it an election issue. At the time, we wanted to annoy the Couillard government, but such is taken who believed to take.

And if François Legault's adversaries continue to fuel the debate, the CAQ itself has helped to give him a boost from the start: one need only recall Bernard Drainville's colorful outing on this theme during an ad that was about… health!

In recent days, we feel the CAQ in a slight trough, and the major place occupied by the third link in the media may have something to do with it. If the re-election of François Legault does not seem compromised, the fact remains that his campaign is losing its luster by dint of stumbling on the same questions.

The fact that François Legault now admits that it is first and foremost a political choice that he fully assumes will he allow to move on? Or will it prompt even more questions? In any case, opinions seem so crystallized on this issue that it is hard to see who could still change their minds, even if we were to continue talking about it until the day of the vote.

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