The links between the Caisse de dépôt and Alstom are invited to the tram trial

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The links between the Caisse de dôt and Alstom invite themselves to the trial on the tramway

The Quebec group deserves better calls for a referendum on the tramway project.

Lawyers for Quebec deserves better allege that the Legault government was in a conflict of interest when it gave its approval to the tramway project because of the investment of $4 billion realized by the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec (CDPQ) in Alstom, the company best placed to obtain the contract for the rolling stock of the future transport network.

The lawsuit filed by opponents of the tramway project against the Government of Quebec and the City of Quebec opened Monday morning at the Quebec City courthouse.

The plaintiffs want to force the Municipality and its partners to consider other modes of transportation that are less invasive than the tramway. They are also calling for a referendum on the project.

A good part of the morning focused on the links between the CDPQ and the French transport giant Alstom railway.

One of the group's lawyers, Me Guy Bertrand, referred to a press article that had not been filed in evidence.

The French giant Alstom is the sole bidder to build the tramway rolling stock. (Archives)

Entitled “Quebecers finance the giant Alstom”, the article by journalist Sylvain Larocque was published on February 18, 2020 on the Journal de Montréal website.

The article mentioned the acquisition by the Caisse of 18% of the shares of Alstom at a cost of 4 billion Canadian dollars. After quoting the article, Me Guy Bertrand referred to transport expert Jean-Marc Charoud, who was appointed to the board of directors of the Caisse in March 2021 after having acted as a consultant to the ministry. des Transports du Québec in the tramway file.

For plaintiffs' counsel, there is a conflict of interest there which explains why the Government of Quebec chose to implement the tramway project, despite the BAPE's refusal to recommend it.

Judge Clément Samson warned Me Bertrand that, if he intended to continue to allude to this alleged conflict of interest, he would be obliged to postpone the trial so that the persons targeted by these allegations could defend themselves.

Me Guy Bertrand intends in particular to demonstrate the “illegal” nature of the tramway project.

Counsel for the defendants, for their part, stressed the importance of the newspaper articles presented in Court being presented for what they are, that is to say the account of events and quotations made by a journalist. In other words, the quoted statements, they argued, should not be construed as direct testimony.

After a pause, it was agreed that the article in the Montreal Journaland those of other media could be presented in evidence, provided that the parties agree that what is reported in these articles would have been declared by quoted persons.

In scrum at the dinner break, Me Guy Bertrand denied having mentioned a conflict of interest. He claimed to have stated only facts.

The Caisse de depot, for Alstom to buy Bombardier, had to invest 5 billion. In return, we gave him 16.5, 17% of shares, then after that, Quebec must pay another 5 billion for the project [de tramway] and which will be done by Alstom. That's facts. Where will it take us? Well, wait for the end of the trial, then wait for the pleadings, indicated Mr. Bertrand.

The first day of the trial was mainly reserved for the hearing of the plaintiff's witnesses .

The founding member of Quebec deserves better was the first called to the bar. Recalling that the construction of the tramway would require the felling of 1,584 trees, she criticized the promoters of the project for having chosen the most destructive mode of transport for humans and for life.

Quebec deserves better denounces the felling of 1584 trees, necessary for the development of the tramway. (Archives)

The resident of René-Lévesque Boulevard, in downtown Quebec City, is one of the citizens whose land will be expropriated to allow the construction of the tramway.

We show up here gagged , hands tied behind his back. We violate our rights by taking our land without consent. We are being deprived of our life's work by stripping us of our possessions, denounced Doris Chabot.

His testimony was followed by that of former journalist Donald Charette, who acts as spokesperson for Quebec deserves better.

He maintained that the holding of a referendum was the best way to verify the social acceptability of the tramway. In the event that such a popular consultation was organized, Quebec deserves better would respect the result, whatever happens, assured Donald Charette.

If we lose, we lose. It's respect for democracy, he said.

Donald Charette and Doris Chabot were the first two witnesses called by the plaintiff. (Archives)

Like Doris Chabot, Mr. Charette criticized the City of Quebec for having hustled the expropriated citizens, without further consideration for the human element .

I attended a meeting for those expropriated from René-Lévesque Boulevard. They expressed their distress. They are being expropriated without having too much recourse, being pushed around by the City, denounced Donald Charette.

He also criticized the Municipality for not being able to answer simple questions from the population. He gave as an example the case of traders on the tram route who, according to him, are unable to know if the trucks will have enough space to continue their deliveries, once the network is in service.

Me Guy Bertrand then called to the bar Fanny Tremblay-Racicot, associate professor at the National School of Public Administration (ENAP), as an expert witness in the integration of transport and land use planning.

Based in particular on several findings of the BAPE, she argued that the cost-benefit analysis of the tramway project had been truncated from the start.

Fanny Tremblay-Racicot asserts that the tramway project will not contribute to the achievement of the objective of the Quebec government to reduce the level of GHGs by 37.5% below 1990 levels by 2030. (Archives)

Ms. Tremblay-Racicot recalled that the City of Quebec had commissioned the firm Systra to conduct a comparative study of different modes of heavy rail transportation 14 months after announcing the project.

La ENAP professor sees it as a perfect example of decision-based evidence-making, a term borrowed from English used to designate the tendency of certain organizations to commission studies to justify a decision that has already taken.

It's supposed to be the opposite. We want projects that are based on evidence, not on political decisions, pleaded the expert witness.

In doing so, continued Fanny Tremblay-Racicot, the promoters of the tramway overestimated the benefits of the project and minimized the risks. This is the modus operandi of all catastrophic projects, she asserted.

Then, Clément Gosselin, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Laval University, testified in turn. He claimed that the tram project had not been thought out in the rules of the art of engineering.

We started the project with a solution rather than 'with a problem, which you never do with an engineering project, noted Professor Gosselin.

“We put the cart before the horse. From an engineering project perspective, it doesn't make sense to do it this way. »

— Clément Gosselin, mechanical engineering expert

The plaintiff's expert argued that the tramway as designed by the City of Quebec, with its catenaries and his rail system, used a technology from another time whose lack of flexibility will ensure, according to him, that we will suffer the impacts for decades.

Clément Gosselin believes that the City of Quebec must give up a technology that relies on rails and power supply using catenaries.

The holder of the Canada Research Chair in Robotics and Mechatronics has called for the project to be halted and replaced with a 21st century, trackless system nor catenaries.

Clément Gosselin invites the City of Quebec and the Legault government to follow the recommendations of the BAPE, starting with the one consisting in evaluating in depth the different modes of transport. Although a lot of money has already been invested in the tramway, he says there is still time to stop the project.

Not stopping this project now is going to be much more damaging and expensive than if we go ahead, even if [we have] already invested money. It would be a disaster not to stop it, warned the professor of mechanical engineering.

The Quebec citizen group wants its tram demonstrated in front of the courthouse. About fifteen members of the group had set themselves the objective of defeating the trial by showing that the tram enjoys strong citizen support.

Some members were inside the room to hear the arguments of Quebec deserves better.

A group of citizens who are members of Quebec want their tramway demonstrated in front of the Quebec City courthouse on Monday morning, to mark the start of the trial.

Nora Loreto, spokesperson for Quebec wants her tramway, is convinced that the project will be beneficial for the capital.

We need it for the city, to facilitate our movements, she underlines. She adds that downtown Quebec was built for horses, so there's a limit to how many cars you can fit into the city.

Avec the collaboration of Olivier Lemieux and Colin Côté-Paulette

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