How to spend 7 billion without arguments

If Éric Duhaime has a better economic case than you, it really is time to question yourself.

Posted at 6:00 am

The conservative leader, whose reputation as a demagogue and populist is second to none, has his sights set on the Quebec region.

But he too – he! – finds the CAQ government’s arguments for building a two-barrel “third link” tunneling machine crazy. Like some experts, he favors a new, cheaper bridge.

This means.

I can hear them howling against the prevailing west wind from here: we know in Montreal etc.

I beg you, friends of Quebec City and region, let us not fall into the trap of false regional rivalry, as Transport Secretary François Bonnardel would like us to.

Indeed, he has provided the media with a new statistic that is absolutely unprecedented: the number of bridges per million inhabitants.

Isn’t this an objective measure of justice between regions? The number of hospital beds per inhabitant is well calculated. Why not the bridge ratio? You had to think about that!

It turns out that Montreal has 8.7 bridges per million people, while Quebec only has 2.44.

They will tell me: Montreal is an island, it is normal that it is better equipped with bridges. Others will note the shocking lack of bridges in Rouyn-Noranda.

But seriously, is that François Bonnardel’s argument? Is this the record presented to the nation’s public to justify such a gigantic work?

We can talk about the transport. We can talk about urban planning. We need to talk about the environment. We can talk about regional development.

But for now, I just want to address one thing: This administration is preparing to assume $7 billion of state responsibility without serious economic and scientific arguments.

Car traffic has increased in Quebec, as everywhere else. Current bridges are saturated compared to projections 40 years ago. Even in Montreal we recognized that.

This raises several questions: Is this really a special problem? I mean, is Quebec’s traffic bad enough to justify building another “link”? And if so, are two 8.3 km tunnels in an unknown basement really the right solution? What impact will these new buildings have? Are there other possibilities?


PHOTO PATRICE LAROCHE, THE SUN

Quebec Mayor Bruno Marchand and Lévis Mayor Gilles Lehouillier during Thursday’s presentation of the new version of the Third Link project

According to Lévis Mayor Gilles Lehouillier, whose dispute with Quebec has blocked several projects, no sprawl is to be expected. Zero. Why ? Because the tunnel would connect two existing motorways. Isn’t that logical? We would only speed traffic between congested streets.

But this is the very definition of sprawl: the more road infrastructure you build to keep traffic flowing, the more you encourage traffic to remote areas because transportation costs go down. It’s math. The suburb will simply expand into a larger belt.

It is, mind you, a possible “societal” decision. It is said !

But don’t say it’s neutral, doesn’t change anything, or even better, “it makes public transport more attractive”. Mr Bonnardel actually said that. Without laughing. We entered two dual lane tunnels, we don’t know exactly how public transport fits in there, but for some unknown reason it makes public transport more attractive…

That’s really the only issue here: what is the rational basis for public policy? Is there a minimal scientific basis for the decisions of our governments? Are we really talking about bridges per million population criteria?

Quebec Mayor Bruno Marchand puts it so clearly, so simply: what is data? What is the basis for justifying such a project?

In his presentation on Thursday, Minister François Bonnardel cited the evolution of travel between 1997 and… 2017. Plus forecasts for the next 15 years.

It’s weak, very weak. Even if it claims to take into account the evolution of teleworking, a concept that was almost unknown two years ago.

We all understood that the government maintains a perfect constitutional way out: the federal government must provide 40% of the funding. François Legault cannot “believe” it will be rejected. The proof: The Vancouver tunnel is co-financed by the federal government. We forget to mention that this is a tunnel from 1959, so it is being repaired and not new infrastructure. In truth, it’s pretty obvious Ottawa won’t be spending any money on it.

If we do the genealogy of this “third link”, we find that although it has long been dreamed of in Lévis, it became a political issue when certain Quebec radio stations decided to make it a fight. The CAQ candidates complied. It has become a regional promise. So much so that we initially announced this tunnel, the widest in the world, without the slightest study. Realizing that it didn’t make sense, they came back with this new version. Because the project must not die.

In short, the solution was announced before the problem was seriously analyzed.

And we’re still waiting, like the good Mayor of Quebec and so many others in the area who dare not say so. What are we waiting for ?

facts. Counting. Science.

Seems to me that being scientifically implanted by Éric Duhaime doesn’t have to be funny?

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