Allison Hanes: In Quebec, transportation and the environment go hand in hand

New investment in transit in the capital region has dominated this election campaign, with only one party totally against the third link project between Quebec City and Lévis.

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A single infrastructure project in Quebec City has become a major flaw in the provincial election campaign, distinguishing which parties see transportation as a concern for commuters in specific regions and which see the issue as the key to addressing change. climate.

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The Avenir Québec Coalition is in favor of spending at least $6.5 billion to build a four-lane tunnel under the St. Lawrence River to connect downtown Quebec City, which has about 550,000 inhabitants, with downtown Lévis, with a population of 150,000. The so-called third link would save Lévis residents the headache of having to drive using the old, dilapidated and congested Pont Pierre-Laporte. (They also have the option of a short ferry ride).

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The Quebec Conservative Party also supports the link, although it favors a bridge that would desecrate the pastoral Île d’Orléans.

Quebec Liberals want to extend a proposed Quebec City streetcar to Lévis, though leader Dominique Anglade said he could not specify how he would do so until CAQ leader François Legault stops refusing to publish feasibility studies in the third link. And the Parti Québécois wants to tunnel under the river for a light rail line.

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Only Québec Solidaire is totally against the project, which opponents say would be disastrous for the environment, fostering greater reliance on the automobile alone, and promoting suburban sprawl at a time when we should be doing the opposite. Instead, the party would put a bus rapid transit lane on the existing bridge.

Half of Quebec’s population may live in Greater Montreal, but new transportation investment in the capital region has dominated this campaign.

Legault may accuse Montrealers of interfering and “disregarding” the concerns of Lévis commuters by questioning the need for a new multimillion-dollar stretch. But the third link is an issue that affects all Quebecers. Whether it is built and what form it takes may determine Quebec’s ability to meet even the most modest emissions reduction targets by 2030.

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The reality is that transport and climate change are closely related. The largest and fastest growing percentage of greenhouse gases comes from the sector, with most of it coming from tailpipe pollution. Quebecers are driving increasingly larger vehicles that consume more gasoline, a source of emissions that has proven difficult to control, even if electric cars are also popular. Whether we like it or not, getting more drivers out of their personal vehicles and onto public transportation, bikes or sidewalks is crucial to meeting Quebec’s climate goals.

But few of the parties present it that way, and most speak of projects as solutions to reduce the stagnation of the local population rather than pieces of a much larger puzzle.

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Québec solidaire has the most comprehensive transit platform and is committed to making transformational changes that will address the impact of climate change. Co-spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois promised a major expansion of public transportation in Montreal worth at least $47 billion, including extensions to the Orange and Green Lines, as well as a new Purple Line that would cut diagonally across the city. The party also has a $5 billion plan for transit in Quebec City.

On Tuesday, Nadeau-Dubois unveiled a $50 million proposal to expand car-sharing programs from urban centers to all regions of the province. QS is proposing to invest $13 billion for an intercity rail network connecting all of Quebec’s regions so that people have options other than driving on highways. The party is absolutely correct that Quebeckers in small towns, suburbs, and remote regions also deserve alternatives to car dependency, like their urban counterparts. Right now they have few.

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While all parties are proposing incentives for more Quebecers to use electric cars before the sale of new vehicles with gas combustion engines is banned in 2035, QS also plans to now tax fuel-guzzling SUVs. It’s an unpopular idea that Nadeau-Dubois has drawn criticism for, but at least he’s honest about where emissions can be cut.

Anglade and the Liberals promised free public transportation for seniors and students, which would go a long way in encouraging use of existing lines, much like PQ’s Passe-Climat, which offers fares of $1 a day.

But without big investments in new projects, Quebec will never reach its climate goals.

However, all new transport infrastructure must be assessed for its climate impact, be it the third link or the planned replacement of the Île-aux-Tourtes bridge, which inexplicably leaves no room for a future extension of the REM.

With Quebec’s 2030 goals on the horizon, transportation must be treated as a crucial issue in this election that goes hand in hand with the fight against the climate crisis.

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