The CAQ government is boasting that the infrastructure plan it released with Thursday's budget is "the most ambitious" one yet, totaling $115.4 billion in spending over the next decade.
From widening highways to refurbishing tunnels and bridges, the government intends to spend $24.6 billion to repair and upgrade Quebec's road network over the next 10 years — including $2.37 billion in the next 12 months.
The CAQ says it is keeping one of its key electoral promises by moving ahead on the construction of a third bridge or a tunnel to Quebec City's south shore.
A $325-million fund has been set aside to carry out studies and elaborate more definite plans on the so-called "the third link."
"It shows that this project is important to us. [It] is now in the planning phase, so we're moving forward," said Transport Minister François Bonnardel.
That envelope includes $20.5 million set aside by the former Liberal government to study the viability and necessity of a third link.
Even though the results of those studies have yet to be published, it's clear where Bonnardel and his government stand.
"This project is extremely important for all of eastern Quebec, not only for Quebec City and Lévis, to ensure the safe travel of people in the east," Bonnardel said.
Tramway still in limbo
The CAQ argues a third link is the best option to cut down on the region's traffic woes, paired with a proposed $3-billion tramway network connecting both shores.
The budget confirms the CAQ's earlier promise to invest $1.8 billion in the tramway project while it continues to press Ottawa to pitch in an extra $1.2-billion — although that's far from a done deal.
In Tuesday's federal budget, Quebec municipalities were promised a $500-million share of the Federal Gas Tax Fund to go toward new infrastructure projects.
Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume was hoping Ottawa and Quebec would have come to a firm agreement by now.
"We are extremely disappointed," said Labeaume, "They should let the provinces decide what to do with the money."
With the exception of the Quebec City tramway project, the amount set aside for public transit initiatives has hardly budged, hovering around $1.04 billion for the coming year.
The 10-year infrastructure plan does commit to studying the extension of the Yellow Line to Longueuil, as well as looking into adding reserved bus lanes on the Metropolitan Highway in Montreal and on Highway 116 in the Montérégie. However, no dollar figures are attached.
The budget makes no mention of Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante's proposed Pink Metro line expansion project.
Plante said Thursday evening that the lack of investment in public transit shows Quebec is headed in the wrong direction in the fight against climate change.
She pointed out that the share of new investment in public transit dropped from 31 per cent in the last budget to 27 per cent.
"The choices made today are contrary to what we must do," Plante said Thursday evening at City Hall. "If we don't reverse the ratio of investment between public transit and cars, it's impossible to move ahead."
That sentiment is shared by Québec Solidaire's parliamentary leader, Manon Massé.
"This is not the way that we can fight climate change," said Massé. "It's insane."
The budget comes just days after students from across the globe walked out of class to demand action on climate change, but environmental activists said it's clear the CAQ government isn't paying much attention to that movement.
"This budget reinforces the status quo in favour of road transport and even drags us backward," said Karl Mayrand, the director general of the David Suzuki Foundation for Quebec and Atlantic Canada.