François Carabin and Sébastien Tanguay in Quebec
The government has pulled the rug out from under the City of Quebec and its tramway: it is now up to it to clean up the mess. On Thursday, the mayor of the capital, Bruno Marchand, made it clear that it is now up to the CAQ to determine the fate of the many projects underway in the city.
For several years in Quebec, machinery has been tearing up the streets and clearing land to prepare for the now canceled arrival of a tramway. The City had already pledged $527 million in contracts — not counting the $569 million awarded to Alstom to manufacture trainsets that the government no longer wants.
These projects represent several years of work, suddenly put on hold. “This morning, at the City supplies, the phone almost exploded because everyone was calling to ask: “What are we doing? We continue, we don’t continue, what happens?” said Bruno Marchand. What happens with the project office, with salaries, with expropriations? These are elements for which the government had no answers yesterday. »
During his meeting with François Legault, Geneviève Guilbault and Jonatan Julien, Wednesday evening, the mayor exposed the consequences of this abandonment on the current projects, while imposing an ultimatum for the future. “We will tell you everything that entails, then you will have to make decisions,” explained the elected official from Quebec. Now you are carrying the ball: you don't divide it in two to keep part of it. »
Bruno Marchand reiterated his desire to collaborate with the government despite his obvious disappointment. “It would be far-fetched for the mayor of Quebec to say: “since it’s not my project, I’m leaving.” This would perhaps be doing what I have criticized others for,” he said. The CAQ and the Caisse de dépôt will not, however, have carte blanche: out of the question, insisted the mayor, to let anything be imposed on them as a structuring network.
In his eyes, the next version of the structuring network must serve the entire territory. “People across the city, and I’m going to go even further, from the region and the South Shore, need to understand where we’re going with this. It takes a vision,” said the mayor.
“There is also a time constraint,” he continued. You can’t start from scratch based on everything that has been done and say to yourself: “it doesn’t matter if we lose another five years”. »
The network must also ensure the development of new neighborhoods and its implementation must also respect the autonomy of the City, insisted Bruno Marchand. The local economy will also have to benefit from this. “We talked about a minimum of $5.6 billion invested in Quebec and Quebec businesses. This is important for our economic development. »
“If we cannot find an interesting solution to ensure these elements,” the mayor stressed, “it is certain that we will support those who say that this is an attempt to go nowhere. »
“An attempted sabotage” according to Ottawa
Entrusting the Caisse de dépôt with the mandate to reimagine the Quebec City tramway amounts to sending the capital's structuring transportation project “into the scupper”, rails the opposition in the National Assembly. In Ottawa, Minister Jean-Yves Duclos fears an “attempt at sabotage.”
The day after the decision of François Legault's government to send the ball into the court of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Quebec (CDPQ), opposition groups accused the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) of precipitating the funeral oration of the tramway.
The Legault government entrusts the Quebec tramway to the Caisse de dépôt
“There have been studies on this for 20 years, consultations by people from Quebec. There were consultations in neighborhoods. Then there, the CAQ finds another way of trying to send this into the scupper. It freaks me out,” said Jean-Lesage’s supportive MP, Sol Zanetti, visibly exasperated.
On the social network “The attempted sabotage of the tram project further delays the modernization of our public transportation and will increase costs,” he wrote.
According to him, federal government funding is more fragile than ever. “Our national capital is at risk of seeing the largest Canadian investment in its history slip through its fingers,” he added. Mr. Duclos said this week that Ottawa would be ready to spend up to $4 billion for a structuring transportation project in Quebec.
Statement by Jean-Yves Duclos, Member of Parliament for Quebec.
“I am sad and disappointed with the about-face announced yesterday. It has now been more than five years since the Canadian government promised to be there and support Quebec City's modern public transportation project.
— Jean-Yves Duclos (@jyduclos) November 9, 2023
On Thursday, the Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, reiterated that the tramway remained “an option among the others”, even if the $8.4 billion plan B of Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand was rejected.
But by removing the City of Quebec's right to be a project owner, the government is putting “municipal autonomy” at risk, according to Jean-Talon's PQ elected official, Pascal Paradis. “There was a tram project that was on the table, which could be realized with reasonable costs,” he said. “It’s not a good day for public transit, it’s not a good day for the nation’s capital. »
The interim leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec, Marc Tanguay, chose a simple expression to take stock of the CAQ in public transport in Quebec: “it's potato with the CAQ”. “At the end of their mandate, at the end of their eight years, it’s going to be doom and gloom, François Legault, in the national capital. Zero then one bar. He will not have delivered anything for eight years,” he said.