Expressways and Skyscrapers in Quebec City for Whom?

– Claude Moreau –

What is Quebec City's "third link"? It's the Legault government's proposed expressway tunnel between Quebec City and Lévis, under the St. Lawrence River east of the Pierre-Laporte and Quebec Bridges, which are the first two "links." It began as a Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) election promise during the 2018 Quebec election. Since then, the project has expanded. Premier Legault is now talking about two tunnels, smaller in diameter, from downtown Lévis directly to downtown Quebec City.

The transportation and real estate sectors and their interconnections are always very complex to examine and comprehend. However, there are definitely big financial interests at stake, often foreign.

When you arrive in Quebec City by the Miche coast in the east, or from the west by Autoroute 40, you can see the pollution over the city. The riding of Jean-Lesage is surrounded by three expressways: Henri IV, La Capitale and Dufferin-Montmorency. The cloud of pollution over the city is due in large part to transportation. Diesel emissions from truck, train and boat transport in the Old Port contribute to lung cancer related to air pollution. Traffic jams, a nightmare for drivers, extend in all directions, from the south to the north shore, to Pont Rouge and Ste-Catherine de Portneuf.

And then there are the two existing bridges in Quebec City. Currently, the federal government, the Canadian National Railway Company and the Quebec government are bickering over the need for repairs to the deteriorating Quebec Bridge. As for the Pierre-Laporte Bridge, a recent report urges the replacement of all its cables, "the sooner the better." It requires urgent repair because of the deterioration of the suspension cables supporting it. For its part, the government "reassures the population" that the bridge is safe and is using its emergency powers to award expensive contracts in case of an emergency... a power it extended for five years after invoking it during COVID-19.

It is now obvious that in transportation, the same vision that led to the current crisis is being put forward according to this model of capitalist development of cities with expressways and skyscrapers. While the first and second links are in danger and poorly maintained, the Legault government is presenting its third link project. This project reflects the vision of "developers and decision-makers" behind whom are hidden hedge funds such as Blackstone, MACH and Canderel, who participated in the buyout of Cominar (a private company specializing in commercial real estate). It's the selling out of the country to foreigners, the plan of the elites to place all the resources at the disposal of the financial oligarchs. Note also that Brian Mulroney sits on Blackstone's board of directors. What all this reveals is that the power of people to decide is sorely lacking.

Collective Memory

In the '70s, while doing door-to-door work, I witnessed the destruction of houses in the St. Roch district. Mechanical shovels wrecked houses to make way for the expressway. The vision presented by promoters at that time -- not that of ordinary people deprived of decision-making power -- was that progress would be made through expressways and big hotels. It was said that a certain Mr Racine, a Quebecker, was the promoter but it turned out that the interests behind this "development" were from the U.S.

Planning and Urbanism for Whom?

Cominar is a major player on the modern urban planning scene. The company owns 190 buildings in Quebec City. Its plans for the city include a 65-storey skyscraper nicknamed "the Lighthouse." The name associated with the Lighthouse project was Dallaire, a Quebecker. He was eyeing the last remaining farmland in Beauport to build on. He faced fierce citizen opposition which won the day. The Legault government was forced to buy back the land from the Sisters of Charity and to promise to keep the land zoned as agricultural. Citizens remain vigilant.

The saga doesn't end there. What made it clear for me was then Mayor Labeaume's response which was to finance, from the city's budget, the expansion of Hochelaga Boulevard from four to six lanes between Laval University and the future site of the Lighthouse.

In all these things one can see the answers to the questions "why" there should be municipal mergers, a big city, a big mayor, more power. To make it easier for "developers, decision-makers" to have all the resources of the region at their disposal. Who is going to foot the bill for the installation of water, sewage, electricity, and surely a planned structured transportation network? We wonder.

Do we want a Quebec City of expressways and skyscrapers, as we see in many Canadian cities? I don't think so. Vigneault, our national poet, used to say that there are two kinds of desert, the one where the sand stretches out before us and the other that rises vertically, the concrete of skyscrapers.

Meanwhile, Legault presents himself as the defender of drivers. Disinformation can be in the form of false information, but also what is not said. I'm convinced that the situation will worsen for drivers and for residents. Where are the studies to support Legault's third link, people ask. Hello? Is there anybody there? At first glance, everything tells me that even physically it's not good.

There's definitely room for improvement. According to some, the capacity of the two existing bridges could be better utilized. A petition is currently circulating to oppose the third link. I invite you to review and sign it here

Claude Moreau is the PMLQ candidate in the riding of Jean-Lesage.

(Map: Wikipedia)

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 24 - October 3, 2022

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