(Quebec) The Prime Minister says he does not know the estimated cost of the new public transit tunnel project, which he is now making a commitment. François Legault admitted on Wednesday that he had not seen the unredacted version of the studies that reveal him.
The Prime Minister made this astonishing revelation when he was hounded by the parliamentary leader of Québec solidaire during the study of the budgetary appropriations of the Ministry of the Executive Council.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois asked him if he had had access to the unredacted version of a study on the third link, in which there was a summary estimate of the cost of four different options, including that of a tunnel 100% dedicated to public transport.
François Legault said he saw a “short version” of this study which did not contain costs. “I got the summary from the Minister of Transport. […] I could have had access, but I did not consult the long version and even less the redacted version,” he explained on Wednesday.
“I didn’t see [the numbers], it was in the long version that I didn’t see,” Legault said.
His cabinet confirmed after the credits that a summary of the Third Link studies was presented to the Prime Minister on April 5 and that this summary did not contain the estimated costs of the four scenarios.
The question of cost, however, weighed heavily in his decision to abandon the highway tunnel project – which would have been close to 10 billion dollars. On Tuesday, he claimed that “the significant drop in travel times” no longer justified the project financially.
He also maintained on Wednesday that he “could not say” if the estimate of 10 billion that was put forward by the Minister of Transport Geneviève Guilbault last week comes from the study carried out by the consortium Union des rives, which makes a rough estimate of the project cost of the four options assessed.
The Prime Minister refused Québec solidaire’s request to make these scenario costs public. “I would first like to ensure that these figures are valid […] I would not want to start a public debate on figures that are not validated,” he explained.
“When we have a valid, valid and validated estimate on the new Quebec-Lévis tunnel project for public transit, we will make it public”, assured the Prime Minister who later mentioned “questions of possible tenders ” for the project.
Another surprising revelation: Mr. Legault said he was unaware that the study, commissioned in April 2022, looked at four scenarios, including that of a tunnel entirely devoted to public transport.
Statements that startled the solidarity leader.
“When the Prime Minister […] during the election campaign said that the scenario the government was considering was a […] road tunnel, he did not know that his own government had commissioned a study which envisaged a 100% public transport scenario. replied Mr. Nadeau-Dubois.
François Legault doesn’t consider his about-face on the third link to be “a broken promise.” However, Minister Bernard Drainville apologized to the citizens of Lévis for not being able to respect the commitment made in the campaign. Minister Martine Biron also claimed that the government had “not kept its commitment”.
According to Mr. Legault, this is a “matter of interpretation”. “The promise was made based on a number of data. As long as the data [on which] one relies to make a promise changes, I don’t consider it a broken promise,” he said.
Moreover, he replied in the affirmative to the interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, Marc Tanguay, who asked him if he was making his new tunnel project 100% dedicated to public transit as “firm” a commitment as that of the motorway link.
“There will be a third transit link,” he said Wednesday. Mr. Legault did not provide any details on the timeline of a future project or on the means of public transport he would favor.
François Legault also revealed that 28.6 million has been invested since 2018 in the third link project office, which includes salaries and professional fees.