Electric train network faces first legal challenge

Click to play video: 'Environmentalists ask for reassessment of Montreal electric train project' Environmentalists ask for reassessment of Montreal electric train project
WATCH: Environmentalists in Quebec are launching legal action to reopen public consultations on Montreal’s proposed electric train project. Global's Navneet Pall reports – Mar 24, 2017

A coalition of environmentalists and concerned citizens have launched the first legal challenge to the Caisse de Depot’s proposed electric train network.

Lawyer Ricardo Hrtschan filed for a declaratory judgement. If successful Quebec’s pension fund will have to restart the consultation phase.

“We introduced a motion to send back the REM project to the BAPE [Quebec’s environmental assessment agency],” Hrtschan.

Lisa Mintz, and environmental activist and opponent to the electric train, said they weren’t satisfied with the first round of hearings.

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Environmentalists claim the pension fund was not transparent enough with its environmental assessment.

“What is this going to do to the land around it and what is it going to do to urban sprawl,” Mintz said. “None of these things have been presented.”

With the motion filed, Hrtschan also planned on challenging the provincial government’s support of the train.

Last January, Premier Philip Couillard came out in favour of the project despite the BAPE’s refusal to support the proposed train network.

In a press conference in Montreal on January 27, Couillard said: “Let’s be very clear [the electric train] is going to go forward as planned.”

According to Hrtschan, the government isn’t acting in the best interest of citizens.

“It just shows that the members of national assembly have their hands tied by a commercial agreement,” Hrtschan said. “That’s not our democracy that’s not our Quebec.”

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The 6 billion dollar project is expected to receive governmental funding this year.

But environmentalists say the train plan is moving ahead too quickly and details are murky.

“Everything is changing every week,” Hrtschan said. “In the Bape consultations the frequency of the train was at six minutes. Before yesterday, [Caisse de Depot President Michael] Sabia announced it was at a minute and a half now.”

But Saint Laurent mayor Alan DeSousa doesn’t buy they’re reasons for a legal challenge.

“Are we in favour, do we want to see the project go through, is it a good one? I think the answer is yes. But can it be improved? Cleary there’s ways, and I’m counting on the Caisse de Depot to bring the biggest possible consensus.”

DeSousa’s borough is slated to have six stations built.

He believes legal interference could derail the project.

“It’ll have the impact of really slowing down, if not stopping the entire process,” De Sousa said.

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Environmentalists added they are all for public transit, so long as the process in which the network will be built changes.

The Caisse de Depot refused Global News’ request for an interview.

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