Quebec pension fund president hopes to ‘revolutionize mass transit’ with electric train project

Click to play video: 'Montreal REM project to revolutionize mass transit: Sabia' Montreal REM project to revolutionize mass transit: Sabia
WATCH ABOVE: Michael Sabia, president and CEO of Quebec's pension fund, spoke glowingly about Montreal's electric train network, saying he hopes the project revolutionizes mass transit. Global's Tim Sargeant reports – Feb 22, 2017

Michael Sabia, president and CEO of Quebec’s pension fund, delivered an impassioned speech about Montreal’s electric train network at the Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.

“This network is going to just simplify people’s lives. It’s just going to make Montreal work a lot better than Montreal works today,” he said.

“And because of that, we’re very confident that there will be a considerable amount of demand for this service.”

Outside, a couple of protesters were handing out pamphlets denouncing the REM project.

READ MORE: Concerned citizens denounce Montreal electric train project, support BAPE decision

Environmentalists fear the train proposal will damage local ecology.

They also argue it is too expensive.

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“This is a disaster for the public and they’ve gone way too far,” said Shaen Johnston, with the Montreal Coalition for Climate Change.

“We will be paying for years to come, financially, environmentally and they’re still going to be licking their chops for more.”

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec president received a different reception inside the luncheon, speaking before hundreds of people in the business world.

READ MORE: Caisse de dépôt, BAPE go head to head over Montreal electric train report

He spoke glowingly about how the electric train project will revolutionize mass transit in Montreal.

Nevertheless, the nearly $6 billion project, with 27 proposed stations running almost around the clock, is already facing challenges.

WATCH BELOW: Montreal’s electric train

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Some of the tracks have had to be rerouted to protect sensitive wetlands.

Sabia said he is promising to plant 250,000 trees.

READ MORE: Quebec environmental agency releases impact study on Montreal’s new electric train

He explained securing funds from the federal and provincial governments will likely remain the biggest challenge to move the proposal from the planning to the building stage.

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