(Quebec) At the same time as Quebec has just given it the mandate to review the tramway project, Minister Geneviève Guilbault affirms that CDPQ Infra has too much on its plate, which justifies its withdrawal from the REM extension project on the Rive -South.
“It’s a responsible decision (by CDPQ Infra), there’s no point in doing several things at the same time and not doing them well,” argued the Minister of Transport and Sustainable Mobility upon her arrival in question period on Tuesday. “(The Fund cannot) do everything at the same time, that’s what I understood yesterday from their reaction,” she added.
The Press reported Tuesday that CDPQ Infra, a subsidiary of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, withdrew from the REM extension project on the South Shore, a route along Taschereau Boulevard which has been under study for several years, mainly because it lacks resources.
However, Quebec itself filled CDPQ Infra’s notebook by asking it for studies on REM projects in Eastern Montreal, Laval and on the South Shore (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu). The Legault government has just given it the mandate to find the best structuring transport system for the National Capital, to replace the old version of the tramway, which has been the subject of numerous studies.
Tuesday, CDPQ Infra explained its decision, emphasizing that its teams are busy with the extension of the current REM and the study of a new structuring transport project in Quebec.
Does this mean that the South Shore project is less important than that of the Quebec tramway?
“Not at all,” retorted the minister. “We must increase our capacity to deliver projects, we must be able to do more than one or two at the same time,” she argued.
“Be more independent”
“We have to be realistic and the fact that the Caisse confirms that it will not do the project on the South Shore, that adds, in my point of view, the need to be more autonomous and more efficient in our own projects rather than to systematically depend on CDPQ Infra or other authorities,” argued the minister.
The future transport agency that Minister Geneviève Guilbault wants to set up could take over the project to extend the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) on the South Shore.
“What we want as a government is to deliver projects, (we need) one on the South Shore of Montreal, one in the east of Montreal (…) therefore, we must become autonomous,” said indicated the minister.
“It makes no sense to be dependent on external organizations over which we do not have direct control to deliver our public transportation projects,” she added.
The Legault government has its sights set on transferring part of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Transport and Sustainable Mobility to a new agency to accelerate the delivery of infrastructure projects.
The Prime Minister clarified last fall that the mandate of this future agency would primarily focus on public transportation projects.
A bill to create the future agency is also on the menu for the new parliamentary session, which opened Tuesday in the National Assembly. The goal is to table the legislative text in February so that the agency will be operational next fall.
For more than three years now, CDPQ Infra has been studying the structuring mobility project for the South Shore of Montreal, along the Taschereau Boulevard axis. The mayor of Longueuil, Catherine Fournier, had also shown signs of impatience in August, repeating that she had been waiting for news from the Caisse for a year and a half on this subject.
According to preliminary plans, this extension was to connect the Longueuil metro station to La Prairie, connecting between the two to the current REM network at Panama station, in Brossard.
A failure, says QS
For the spokesperson for Québec solidaire in terms of transport, Étienne Grandmont, the Legault government’s strategy for the development of public transport is a failure. He recalls that the extension of the REM on the South Shore was an electoral promise.
“The CAQ has placed so much emphasis on CDPQ Infra to carry out its public transport projects, we realize that it is not working. She put all her eggs in the CDPQ Infra basket and today we realize that the basket is full of holes,” argued the MP for Taschereau, recalling that the government also took the CDPQ Infra subsidiary out of the hands of Fund the Eastern REM project.
He is worried about the future of the public transport project in Quebec even though the government has given CDPQ Infra until June to present the best option. “CDPQ-Infra, their expertise, I wonder where it is. (…) It’s not very very strong. I wonder what added value there is in having the best project for Quebec City evaluated by the Caisse which is mandated by the CAQ and which does not deliver projects,” he said, emphasizing the difficult beginnings of the REM.
As for the future transport agency, “I am not convinced that this will be the best answer for the benefit of Quebecers”.
With Tommy Chouinard and Henri Ouellette-Vézina, The Press