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Construction of REM station at Trudeau airport eligible for funding under new government program

Click to play video: 'Ottawa backs funding for REM airport station' Ottawa backs funding for REM airport station
WATCH: Where one government has left off, the other has picked up. The federal government announced on Monday that it plans to provide funding the REM light-rail train station at Trudeau airport. Global’s Tim Sargeant reports – Nov 30, 2020

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s first mini-budget, unveiled on Monday, held some good news for Aéroports de Montreal (ADM).

The airport authority has been struggling to find funding to build a station at Trudeau airport in Dorval for Montreal’s light-rail train network, known as REM.

In a document outlining the Liberals’ multi-year plan to rebuild the economy battered by COVID-19, the government is proposing the establishment of a new $500-million transfer payment program.

Read more: Uncertainty surrounds construction of future REM train station at Montreal’s Trudeau airport

The six-year investment aims to “support large airports in making critical investments in safety, security and transit infrastructure,” the Fall Economic Statement 2020 document reads.

The REM station is cited as a specific transit project that would be eligible for funding under the new program.

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ADM had previously announced that it would pay for construction of the train station itself, but faced with pandemic-related revenue shortfalls estimated at $600 million for 2020 alone, it was forced to seek financing in the form of loans from both the federal and provincial governments.

In mid-November, however, after five months of negotiations, the Quebec government pulled out of talks.

Read more: Coronavirus: Aéroports de Montréal slashes 30 per cent of its workforce as pandemic continues

At the time, Quebec Premier François Legault said it wasn’t the provincial government’s responsibility to pay for the station.

“It has to be payed by the owner. The actual owner, ADM, or the preceding owner which was the federal government,” he said.

“It doesn’t make sense that a big city like Montreal doesn’t have a station at their main airport. We can bring the REM to the airport but the station has to be paid either by ADM or by the federal government.”

Quebec has already invested $1.28 billion in the REM, not including $192 million for the implementation of mitigation measures, while Hydro-Québec has also contributed $295 million.

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for ADM said the new program for airport infrastructure funding and other measures announced Monday, including the deferral of rent payments, will provide “some form of temporary relief to the country’s airport authorities.”

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And despite welcoming the news, ADM stressed it does not “currently have the financial capacity to cover the costs associated with the REM station at Montreal-Trudeau airport, estimated at $ 600 million.”

Read more: Mount Royal tunnel explosion and other issues cause REM delays

Montreal’s upcoming light rail network (REM) will include 67 km of tracks that will link Montreal, the south shore, the West Island and the north shore and provide a direct link from the airport to the city’s downtown core.

That the airport be connected to the network is viewed as critical component of the project.

“As we all know, most airports, if not all the major airports in Canada, have a direct link to the downtown area,” said Jospeh Huza, president of the West Island of Montreal Chamber of Commerce.

“I think it’s vital…the West Island business community and the community itself will depend highly on a competitive airport.”

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