CUPE Quebec’s presentation to consultations on the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec’s Réseau électrique métropolitain (REM) project outlined the many reasons why the project should be derailed. The consultations are being held by Quebec’s environmental review board, the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE).

“While we’re clearly all in favour of major investments to improve public transit services in the Greater Montreal area, we’re convinced that privatizing the planning and funding of this massive project has forced the Caisse to make a number of choices that go against the public interest and the environment,” said Denis Bolduc, president of CUPE Quebec.

CUPE has joined a new coalition, Trainsparence, made up of environmentalists, biologists, union activists, and citizen’s groups who say the project is not the right choice for the environment, taxpayers, public transit users, or for the socio-economic development of Montreal’s metropolitan area.

“There are many problems with the REM, starting with their choice of technology. Since the network will be run without a driver, it will need to be completely separated from pedestrians. Every station will have to be built in a tunnel or elevated, which would cost a fortune and require an enormous amount of concrete. According to an expert in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the concrete needed for this project would generate close to one million tonnes of GHGs in the form of CO2,” said Bolduc.

In addition, the infrastructure branch of the Caisse is planning to spend more than $1.2 billion on the Deux-Montagnes line, to replace one electric train with another.

“If the goal truly is to reduce the number of cars and GHG emissions, wouldn’t it be more responsible to spend several hundred million dollars to buy double-decker vehicles and increase the capacity of public trains? Wouldn’t it be wiser to invest this $1.2 billion in expanding the capacity of the existing public transit system, rather than dismantling it and building exactly the same thing again, this time privately?”, said Bolduc.

Read CUPE’s brief to the BAPE (available in French only).

CUPE Quebec’s Conseil provincial du secteur du transport terrestre (CPSTT) has close to 7, 100 members working in urban transit in Montreal and across Quebec.