Lisée will drop REM if elected in Oc­to­ber Un­veils al­ter­na­tive tran­sit plan...

Montreal Times - - News - By John Sy­mon mtl­

Jean-François Lisée prom­ises to scrap the pro­posed Réseau ex­press métropoli­taine (REM) train if his Parti québé­cois (PQ) is elected in the Oc­to­ber 2018 pro­vin­cial elec­tion. The Leader of the Op­po­si­tion made the an­nounce­ment on March 20 at the Mai­son du développe­ment durable (MDD), si­mul­ta­ne­ously propos­ing a de­tailed al­ter­na­tive to the REM, the elec­tric train an­nounced by the CDPQ in 2016.

Lisée claims that the REM tech­nol­ogy is “the most ex­pen­sive in the world” and in­sists the money is bet­ter spent else­where. He pro­poses re­al­lo­cat­ing some $7.4 bil­lion on 21 other tran­sit projects in greater Mon­treal and be­yond in what he calls “le grand déblocage” or “Big Break­through.”

The plan in­cludes tramways, ex­press busses, and im­prove­ments to ex­ist­ing com­muter trains. Be­cause the train tracks or high­way lanes are al­ready there, Lisée claims that these projects can be up and run­ning in very lit­tle time for a rel­a­tively mod­est cost.

While the REM will do lit­tle to re­duce traf­fic con­ges­tion, Lisée tar­gets re­duc­ing au­to­mo­bile traf­fic by some 133 000 ve­hi­cles or 10 per­cent with the Big Break­through.

“I don’t blame the CDPQ for not re­duc­ing traf­fic; it wasn’t part of their man­date for the REM,” ex­plains Lisée. He also con­grat­u­lates CDPQ for show­ing that Que­be­cers can dream big and build im­pres­sive projects in short time pe­ri­ods.

Lisée also pre­dicts green­house gas emis­sion re­duc­tions of 280,000 tons a year, eight times what the REM is pre­dicted to achieve. This is pre­sum­ably why he chose the MDD as the set­ting for his an­nounce­ment. Be­yond that, he sug­gests that much of the “rolling stock” (trains, trams, and busses) can be “made in Que­bec.”

Ni­co­las Marceau (MNA for Rousseau), also spoke at the press con­fer­ence, de­tail­ing how the PQ plans to fi­nance The Big Break­through. Both he and Lisée ad­mit­ted there will be fi­nan­cial penal­ties for can­celling the REM, con­struc­tion of which is sched­uled to start in a few weeks. But nei­ther claimed to know what these penal­ties will be.

Within hours, the CDPQ shot back, claim­ing that the penal­ties would add up to $1 bil­lion. Lisée then ac­cused the CDPQ of play­ing pol­i­tics and chal­lenged the pen­sion fund to re­veal the penalty clauses in its con­tracts, which are presently se­cret.

Trans­port Min­is­ter An­dré Fortin termed Lisée’s plan as “ir­re­spon­si­ble.” Valérie Plante, who crit­i­cized the REM be­fore be­com­ing mayor of Mon­treal, now claims there can be no ques­tion of aban­don­ing the project.

Jean-François Lisée an­nounces Grand De­blocage tran­sit plan to re­place REM ©John Sy­mon

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