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