Quebec City mayor rejects CAQ government’s new conditions for tramway
Mayor Bruno Marchand was visibly frustrated with the CAQ government Wednesday, calling new restrictions imposed on Quebec City’s proposed tramway project “an attack” on his administration and residents of his city.
“We don’t understand it all,” he said at a news conference. “They’re adding some new conditions that we never heard of before. We don’t accept it.”
On Tuesday, the premier’s office told Radio-Canada it won’t sign off on the $3.3-billion project unless the city changes course on a planned shared roadway along Réné Levesque Boulevard between the National Assembly and Université Laval.
François Legault’s office says the needs of drivers and public transit riders must be balanced, and Transport Minister François Bonnardel said he is worried cars, pedestrians, cyclists and the tramway all sharing a busy street will cause too much congestion.
Bonnardel said it appears Marchand has abandoned the project’s regional vision but insisted the government isn’t trying to bury the project altogether.
“If cabinet wanted to kill the project, we would have tabled a bill to do that,” he said. “We didn’t do that. We’re moving the project forward.”
Quebec City’s tramway was longtime mayor Régis Labeaume’s passion project but was passed on to Marchand when Labeaume retired from municipal politics in November 2021.
Quebec City and the province have gone back and forth for years on the proposed route — whether it will be part of an eventual third link between Quebec City and Lévis, and how the tramway will be incorporated into existing city infrastructure.
They finally reached a verbal agreement on a redesign just over a year ago.
Marchand needs cabinet to sign off on several ministerial decrees before Quebec City can put out calls for tenders and start construction.
Legault said the municipal administration needs to show it’s listening to the people the tramway will serve.
“There are citizens in Quebec who have questions about René-Lévesque Boulevard, the impact on Laurier Boulevard and Grande Allée,” said Legault. “I think these are legitimate concerns.”
Marchand disagrees with Legault’s assessment.
“When I heard the government say it’s going to be a parking lot on Laurier Boulevard, a parking lot on René Lévesque Boulevard, it’s not true,” he said. He said more than 1,000 Quebec City residents who participated in consultations supported the shared-road proposal.
Earlier Wednesday, opposition leaders at the National Assembly accused the Legault government of lacking the political will to see the project through.
Marchand says the city and the province are supposed to be working on the tramway together, and he’s tired of Quebec asking the city to go back to the drawing board at every step of the process.
He says the tramway is sorely needed to improve mobility, reduce emissions and boost the city’s economy.
“We’re asking the government to not [impose] any conditions at all,” he said. “We’re ready to move on. We need to move on.”