Following the scathing BAPE (environmental review board) report on the REM (light rail network) and alleging a flawed consultation process, a broad coalition of citizens and groups interested in transit filed a motion in Montreal Superior Court, asking a judge to halt the REM project and go back to the BAPE for a proper consultation that is transparent and respectful of Quebecers.

“The motion asks the Court to protect the right to proper consultation, which is protected by the law, the Charters and the Supreme Court. The applicants want to expose the flawed process established by the Government and to try, as much as possible, to restore respectful relations between the Government and its citizens,” declared Ricardo Hrtschan, lawyer for the file. The applicants denounced the project, which is distanced from the population and transit corporations and which currently has an estimated cost approaching that of five Olympic stadiums. The motion also notes that the consultations lasted a total of three days at a time when all the essential details of the project were, and still are, unknown.

The motion raises a red flag concerning the project’s innumerable risks, both environmental and financial. No information has been offered by the Caisse and the Government on the impacts of the REM on taxes and travel for residents of Montreal, or those of Blainville and Boisbriand, and on the decline in service and increase in costs for transport users in Montreal, Saint-Jérôme and Mascouche.

The BAPE

The motion also points out the shortcomings of last fall’s BAPE hearings, stating that they “were held under conditions that did not respect the rights of the applicants to a real consultation on a project that presents a serious risk of harmful impact on the health, life, economy and environment of the population.”

The BAPE has criticized the REM project, because it lacks essential elements that would enable the overall evaluation of the project. Premier Philippe Couillard announced that the Government intends to proceed, whatever the cost. The applicants also seek to nullify the agreement between the Government and the Caisse, on the grounds that they consider it to be an abdication of parliamentary independence for purely commercial reasons.

“This is being handled with a lack of respect for democracy and environmental laws and it is, above all, a dishonourable way for the Government to behave,” denounced the applicants for the motion, while stressing the need for a significant injection of funds into Montreal’s public transit. “Nobody is above the law, not even the Government.”

Among the groups filing and supporting the motion are the Montreal Climate Coalition, the Coalition Trainsparence, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the group Pour un meilleur projet que le REM.