Several Quebec City citizen groups are denouncing the Legault government's decision to reject the latest plan for the provincial capital's long-awaited tramway project.
"We're asking Mr. Legault: 'Change your mind. It's not too late,'" said Nora Loreto, co-founder of a local citizens' group, Québec désire son tramway.
"Quebec still wants — and will fight for — its tramway."
On Wednesday, Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand met with Premier François Legault and presented an $8.4-billion Plan B to build the tramway project, with the city as the prime contractor and the province covering 50 per cent of the costs.
Legault didn't go for it.
Quebec City resident Nora Loreto says the Legault government is making a massive mistake. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)
"It's not really surprising," said Jean Mercier, a retired professor in the department of political science at Université Laval and author of the book, Comment survivre aux controverses sur le transport à Québec?
"The CAQ is not comfortable with the project, and was never comfortable with the project," said Mercier.
"[The mayor] did what he could but a lot of things were working against him, even though I think myself he was quite convincing."
Mercier says the fact that polls indicated only 36 per cent of people in Quebec City were in favour of the project likely contributed to the province's apprehension.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed," said Marchand following the meeting with Legault.
Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault announced the government would be turning to the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec to produce a feasibility study on the tramway.
The province's pension fund manager has a subsidiary, CDPQ Infra, that has started building and operating large infrastructure projects, like Montreal's new light-rail train, the REM.
'A slap in the face,' says Québec Solidaire MNA
The mayor said he and Legault both agree that the city needs a major transit network. Locals, including Loreto, say it can't wait.
"After 20 years of work, this is so obviously just a delay tactic," said Loreto, who says the CAQ may think it will gain voter support by ditching the tramway, but "as someone who watched politics very closely, I think they're making a massive mistake."
She says the provincial government's approach is short-sighted and will be costly in the long run.
"This is a question of, do you want a world-class city?" said Loreto.
"When it takes 35 minutes to go two kilometres in St-Foy, that's a problem," said Loreto."It is not going to be fixed by putting more cars into a city that was built for horse and buggy. It's not that complicated."
Étienne Grandmont says the CAQ's decision is a "slap in the face." (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)
Étienne Grandmont, Québec Solidaire MNA for Taschereau riding and the party's transportation critic, says dismissing Quebec City's newest proposal shows a lack of respect.
"Hundreds of people are working for years now," said Grandmont.
"I don't understand why the CAQ is just flushing, putting in the trash all this expertise. It's a slap in the face for all cities in Quebec.
'Very sad to see this,' says local MP
Angèle Pineau-Lemieux, spokesperson for Accès Transports Viables, a group that promotes public transit, says the government is not learning from its mistakes.
"Unfortunately over the past 20 years, we've had the bad habit of continually questioning things and never doing anything about it," said Pinot-Lemieux.
She said there will be a rally on Nov. 12 at noon in Parc de l'Amérique-Française to protest the decision.
Angèle Pineau-Lemieux announced that there will be a rally on Sunday to denounce the government's decision. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)
The MP for the riding of Québec, Jean-Yves Duclos, who is also the federal procurement minister, said the province handing off the project to the Caisse de dépot was effectively a way to "sabotage" the community's involvement and efforts.
"It's very sad to see this," said Duclos.
"People everywhere, in my riding, in Saint-Jean-Baptiste, in Saint-Sauveur, in Saint-Roch, in Montcalm, who have been working for so long and so hard," said Duclos, "we have to keep going because we can't afford to be left behind."