The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government is moving forward with an electric tramway project in the province’s capital even though not all of the funding has been secured to build it.
Transport Minister François Bonnardel tabled Bill 26 on Thursday at the National Assembly, which would give Quebec City power to construct the $3.3-billion transit network. The proposed legislation also promises that 25 per cent of the infrastructure will be constructed with Canadian material.
The green light comes while there is an ongoing argument over funding for the project. The province originally promised $1.8 billion, the federal government earmarked $1.2 billion and Quebec City would have to cover the rest — but the CAQ government insists there isn’t enough money from Ottawa to fulfil its pledge.
“The Liberals at that time, two years ago, said to (Quebec City Mayor) Régis Labeaume: ‘You will have $1.2 billion coming from the federal (government)’ — but that’s not true,” said Bonnardel. “We only have $400 million. We’re missing $800 million.”
As part of the plan, the province wants to use $800 million set aside as federal funding for public transit initiatives to complete Ottawa’s financing, even though that money is earmarked specifically for the City of Montreal.
Bonnardel said he believes he can convince Montreal city officials to hand over the funding.
“I don’t think there’s any conflict between Montreal and Quebec,” he said.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, however, argues it’s not up to her city to fix the problem. She reiterated this week that it is her responsibility to defend Montreal’s public transit needs and it is the provincial government’s mandate to find a solution.
“We want a solution where Montreal doesn’t lose and where Quebec City gets a helping hand,” she said on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Premier François Legault said he was willing to negotiate with Plante and offer the city what he described as a “good deal” as compensation. However, the province has yet to reveal what that would entail.
The Quebec City tramway is expected to be completed by 2026.
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—With files from Global News’ Raquel Fletcher