Quebec says federal budget fails to support infrastructure projects

Despite some positives for Quebec in the 2017 federal budget unveiled on Wednesday, the province says the Liberals failed to show that they will support several major infrastructure projects.

"We are extremely disappointed and concerned that there's no clear signal in this budget regarding the great infrastructure projects that are the rapid bus system in Quebec City, the Blue Line of the Montreal Metro and the electric train in Montreal," said Quebec Treasury Board President Pierre Moreau in a French statement.

On Tuesday, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard had told reporters he wanted to see federal support for and participation in those projects in the budget. ​

"If there's a failure, it's on the federal part. They should have been there today, but they were not," said Moreau.

Each of the infrastructure projects carries a considerable price tag:

- Montreal's electric light-rail commuter train line is expected to cost $6 billion. Quebec's pension fund, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, is funding approximately half of the project.

- Originally estimated to cost, at most, $2 billion, the provincial government now expects the extension of the Blue Line of Montreal's Metro to cost closer to $3 billion.

- The rapid bus system linking Quebec City to Lévis should cost $250 to $350 million.

Quebec MPs should 'speak up'

Moreau said he has questions for the 39 MPs from Quebec who are part of the Liberal caucus and wondered if any of them lobbied for funding to be put aside.

"I would like to hear the Quebec caucus speak up on infrastructure projects that touch Quebec," he said, adding that doing so would show they are behind the province's plans.

There is one mention of the light-rail project in the 2017 budget. It's included in a list titled "Ambitious transit projects are expected to transform Canada's cities over the next decade." There is no direct reference to funding.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said in a news release that he was "very happy" the light-rail project was included on the list, even if there was no amount of money dedicated. However, he would have liked to see the Blue Line extension on the list as well.

Some positive points

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said one of the positives to come from the budget is the "accent on innovation and research."

The budget set aside $950 million over five years to create Innovation Canada, which will support innovators and build hubs for innovation known as "super-clusters."

Leitao believes the fund will help Montreal grow as a super-cluster, in particular for artificial intelligence.

The province will also benefit from the funding set aside for skills training, he said.

Coderre said he was satisfied with the $11.2 billion set aside over 11 years for affordable housing.

He said the budget touches on several other issues facing municipalities, such as public security, cultural infrastructure and the fight against homelessness.

"Evidently, we don't have all the details of how the investments will be split, but one thing is certain, the demands of cities were heard by this government," wrote Coderre.