Tramway in Quebec City: Federal-Provincial dispute over financial arrangement continues

Dialogue between the deaf continues between Quebec and Ottawa, who still do not agree on the financing modalities of the structuring transport network of the capital.

On the sidelines of a visit to a seniors’ residence in the Montcalm neighborhood on Monday morning, the federal Minister of the Family and Québec MP Jean-Yves Duclos confirmed that Ottawa will indeed participate in the financing of the tramway project. $ 1.2 billion.

Minister Duclos referred to a letter that his colleague from Infrastructure and Communities, François-Philippe Champagne, sent Friday to the Mayor of Quebec “to say exactly the expected and necessary contribution of the federal government.”

“The amount of $ 1.2 billion is black and white [in the letter], the mechanisms are there, the City is directly informed of the support of the Canadian government,” said Minister Duclos, while emphasizing that Ottawa would have liked this federal participation to appear in the Quebec budget “because the Quebec government has a more direct relationship with the City of Quebec”.

“But in the absence of that, Mr. Champagne wrote it black and white in his letter to the Mayor of Quebec,” he said, adding that the $ 1.2 billion will come from federal funding for infrastructure green ($ 800 million) and for public transit ($ 400 million).

According to Minister Duclos, this federal contribution “is not a surprise since the agreement [with the Couillard government] was signed 10 months ago”. “The Liberal government of the day had said several times that with what it had money from the federal government, it could commit to fund the tramway 100%,” said the member for Quebec.

In his letter to Mayor Régis Labeaume sent Monday to reporters, Minister François-Philippe Champagne stresses that “the Bilateral Integrated Infrastructure Agreement signed with Quebec in June 2018 provides that the province agrees to allocate Canada’s financial contribution to the Public Transit component to each end-user based on ridership “.

“According to this formula established with the other provinces, the allocation associated with the ridership of the Réseau de transport de la Capitale is approximately $ 412.5 million”, writes Minister Champagne, adding that the formula used for the determination Envelopes for each province allow Quebec to receive close to $ 5.2 billion, or more than 26% of the total Canadian allocation for this component.

For the remaining $ 800 million, according to Minister Champagne, it is important to prioritize the Green Infrastructure – Climate Change Mitigation sub-component of the program. “However, the Quebec government has publicly stated that it wants to prioritize other projects in this sub-component,” said the Minister of Infrastructure.

Mr. Champagne cites the example of the cities of Ottawa and Edmonton, which have benefited from this mechanism for the financial arrangement of their light rail projects. “This mechanism offers great flexibility for this type of situation and has been discussed and established in close collaboration with all the provinces … less than a year ago,” he says.

Minister Champagne reminds the rest that the last federal budget provides for an additional contribution of $ 2.2 billion to the Gas Tax Fund, which means for Quebec an amount of $ 504 million more “that will allow the development of municipal infrastructures, according to the priorities established by the Government of Quebec “.

“Let us manage the envelope”

For the government of the CAQ, the letter from Minister Champagne brings nothing new to the debate. “It does not change anything. This is the same financial package that the federal government has been proposing for several weeks, “says Myrian Marotte, press secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, Christian Dubé.

The Quebec government is refusing to invest in the green infrastructure envelope to fund transit systems. Transport Minister François Bonnardel is asking Ottawa to let him manage the $ 5.2 billion of the Bilateral Integrated Agreement (EBI) between the two governments.

“We could solve the problem tomorrow morning. Let us manage this envelope as we wish. Take this money, prioritize projects that are the most advanced, such as the structuring network and the blue line in Montreal, and it will be settled. We will stop bickering, “said Bonnardel on the sidelines of an announcement on Monday.

The Minister of Transport thinks that the federal government is putting a “spin on the wheel” by imposing traffic criteria to determine the distribution of the sums. In Quebec City, the current public transit system has a traffic that only allows it to fetch $ 400 million from the EBI. “We are complicating things as it can not,” believes Mr. Bonnardel, adding that in 2023, the ridership clause will no longer be effective.

Even if the torch still burns between the two levels of government regarding the financing of the streetcar, the bridges are not cut, he says. “We continue to negotiate, we continue to discuss.” With Patricia Cloutier

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