CUPE is highly critical of the federal government’s $1.28 billion investment in a Montreal transit project that will increase car use and greenhouse gas emissions, while preventing expansion of the region’s public transit system.
“There is an urgent need for investment in public transit,” said Denis Bolduc, President of CUPE-Québec. “But it’s unacceptable that, in 2017, we are wasting so much money on a project that has not been cleared by Quebec’s environmental review board.”
Only a few months after the review board (the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement, or BAPE) refused to endorse the light rail project because of many environmental and economic problems, the Trudeau government seems ready to do anything to set in motion the biggest privatization project in the history of Quebec.
“This project is on the road to major cost overruns, collusion and corruption: it has nearly unlimited public funds, unrealistic deadlines, and a project design that’s in constant upheaval. Municipalities, taxpayers and, above all, transit users are in for a nasty surprise,” said Bolduc.
The CDPQ Infra (the infrastructure arm of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which manages the funds of the Quebec Pension Plan and other public pension funds) and even several journalists continue to claim the project will cost $6 billion. But it is clear, the capital costs will actually amount to at least $8 billion. That does not include the value of several billion dollars in public assets such as the Deux-Montagnes line and the Mont-Royal tunnel.
The $6 billion price tag doesn’t factor in an additional $512 million in debt allocated to the Metropolitan Regional Transit Authority by Bill 137, an additional $300 to $400 million for new stations in the downtown core, some $350 million for the connection of roads and other infrastructure to the system, a $300 million Hydro-Québec grant, and hundreds of millions of dollars annually to cover operating costs.
It is also curious that Justin Trudeau claims this could be a good project for the new Canadian Infrastructure Bank, although we know very well that all of North America’s public transit projects require public subsidies to bridge the gap between fare revenues and operating costs.