Francis Vachon Archives Le Devoir The mayors of Chaudière- Appalaches want to convince those on Île d'Orléans, seen here in the background, to rally behind the bridge project.
François Legault's exit on the third link between Quebec and Lévis did not change much in the strategies of the mayors of the South Shore. While the rest of Quebec thought the project was well buried, they continued to mobilize and put pressure on it to happen.
“We have not stopped working on the file,” explains in an interview the prefect of the MRC of Bellechasse and mayor of La Durantaye, Yvon Dumont. They hoped the government would reconsider its decision, he said, “but not in the circumstances in which it happened.”
Even before the October 2 by-election in Jean-Talon, elected officials from the Chaudière-Appalaches region had planned a meeting with their counterparts from Île d'Orléans in order to rally them behind a road link project passing through their territory, says the prefect of the MRC of Lotbinière and mayor of Val-Alain, Daniel Turcotte, whose municipality is 70 kilometers from the capital. “We wanted to find a strategy, bring a bridge, do something, push the issue even further. »
The local CAQ deputies, Stéphanie Lachance and Isabelle Lecours, have never stopped relaying these concerns to the government, affirm the two prefects.
In Beauce too, interest in the third link has never dried up, according to the deputy for Beauce-Nord, Luc Provençal. Even after the motorway tunnel project was abandoned, the MP continued to work on its completion. “I have never hidden the fact that, personally, from the moment there was a decision [to abandon the project in April], I worked on this file,” he told journalists on Thursday .
And added that last week, the caucus of elected officials from Chaudière-Appalaches discussed it to develop a strategy aimed at pushing the issue. “We need a road link,” he maintains.
An opportunity for the PCQ
According to the poll aggregator Québec 125, the Party Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ) would win in the two Beauce ridings if a provincial election took place today. In Bellechasse and Lotbinière, the PCQ and the CAQ would be face to face.
In the constituencies of Lévis and Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, which are represented respectively by Bernard Drainville and Martine Biron, the findings are less damning, but local pressure remains strong.
Wednesday, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Greater Lévis urged the government to prove its good faith. “To prove his sincerity, and above all to make up for lost time, we ask [him] to quickly set up a monitoring committee on which the Chamber of Commerce will sit. »
Meanwhile, the mayor of Lévis, Gilles Lehouiller, was at it again on Radio “The population will not give up on this project, and every day we see proof of it. This morning, at 8:30 a.m., I was on Highway 20 towards Saint-Nicolas and I was having trouble getting around Saint-Romuald. For what ? Because everything is clogged at the head of the bridges. »
A “mobility project” or a bridge
Thursday morning, Martine Biron remained vague on the form that the project could take, evoking a “mobility project for Greater Quebec”.
But the local tenors are only in favor of a bridge passing over the island of Orléans. “We never asked for a tunnel,” says the prefect of Lotbinière, Daniel Turcotte. Even if his MRC does not benefit directly from it — it is at the other end of the territory, to the west — he believes that a new bridge to the east would improve the flow of road traffic.
Asked about the possibility of this taking another form, the prefect of Bellechasse jokes that we could always bet on… a helicopter. Like MP Luc Provençal, Yvon Dumont justifies this choice by the need to be able to transport goods more efficiently. “The South Shore has a developed industrial sector. To distribute your products, you must make them as accessible as possible by reducing transport costs. »
Support on the island of Orléans?
MM. Dumont and Turcotte further argue that the people of Île d'Orléans are less opposed to a bridge than one might think. “From what we heard through the branches, there was interest in a third link going through them,” mentions Mr. Turcotte.
Joined Thursday, the prefect of Île d'Orléans, Lina Labbé, did not want to comment. She is “waiting to have more developments before responding to the media,” said a spokesperson for the MRC.
The idea of a bridge is nothing new. This is what was originally called for as a third link in the 1960s. In 2017, mayoral candidate Jean-François Gosselin campaigned for a bridge to the east. An idea that was supported by the Liberal Party of Quebec in 2015 then the CAQ until it took power in 2018.
The latter recommended a new bridge linking Quebec to the island, followed by a tunnel or another bridge connecting the island to the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.
Then, in June 2019, the Minister of Transport at the time, François Bonnardel, announced that he would instead finance a tunnel to the east to protect the historic district of Île d'Orléans. “It will not be necessary to disrupt the territory of Île d'Orléans,” he declared.
Six months later, another change of course: the government reveals that it is working on a new underground route connecting the city centers of Quebec and Lévis. It was the Capital Express Network, which connected the tunnel to the tramway.