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Expropriations linked to the Eastern REM | Suncor takes Quebec to court



Suncor dragged Quebec to court and scorched the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) in the process, accusing them of wanting to put an end to gasoline distribution activities on the island of Montreal.

In a request containing some astonishing assertions, the Alberta oil giant denounces the notices of land reserve and expropriation that have targeted three of its gas stations since 2018. Quebec has requisitioned these businesses from the Petro-Canada brand to make way for the REM de l’Est and the extension of the metro’s blue line.

Suncor argues that the land reserves are really for purposes “other” than the delivery of transit projects. “The real reason pursued by the respondent is the closure of three gas stations,” says the company valued at 60 billion dollars on the stock market.

The motion filed on March 31 in the Superior Court mainly targets the Ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ). Under the law, the MTQ is responsible for carrying out expropriations on behalf of CDPQ Infra, the Caisse subsidiary that manages the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) in the East, and the STM (line blue).

” Not only [le MTQ] does it exercise the power to impose a reserve for purposes other than those invoked, but moreover, the real end pursued by the exercise of this exorbitant power is an improper and illegal end,” argues Suncor.

“Neither the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec nor the Société de transport de Montréal are authorized to exercise their powers for the sole purpose of ending gasoline distribution operations on the island of Montreal”, adds the group in his request.

Suncor’s Quebec lawyers declined to provide further explanation on the shocking assertions contained in their motion, since “this matter is before the courts”. The group’s spokeswoman declined to comment for the same reason.

Eastern REM

This procedure follows a land reserve notice sent in February 2022 to Suncor by the Attorney General of Quebec, on behalf of the MTQ. The gas station in question is located on land designated for a REM de l’Est station, at the corner of Sherbrooke and Saint-Jean-Baptiste streets. CDPQ Infra’s 32-kilometre light rail project will connect downtown to the eastern tip of the island of Montreal.

Suncor is asking the Court to declare this notice “invalid, void and illegal”. Among its arguments, the group argues that Quebec “does not have the power” to impose a land reserve on this service station, since it is located near the refinery operated by Suncor in the east of the metropolis. .


The Petro-Canada gas station located at the corner of Sherbrooke and Saint-Jean-Baptiste streets

The company recalls that this is the third time that one of its service stations has been targeted by such a maneuver since 2018 in Montreal.

The MTQ first targeted a gas station located in the borough of Saint-Léonard to make way for the extension of the blue line. The formal expropriation notice was sent in 2018, the transfer of ownership took place in 2020, but “no work has been undertaken on this site and no timetable has yet been sent to the applicant”, deplores Suncor.

Quebec issued two other land reserve notices in February 2022 on Suncor buildings located at the corner of Jarry and Lacordaire streets, still as part of the blue line project, denounces the company.

The MTQ would not comment on Suncor’s request due to the ongoing legal process, while the STM directed our questions to the Ministry.

Costly expropriations

The cost of expropriations linked to the blue line project has almost quadrupled from 2018 to 2021, reaching 1.2 billion. Quebec ordered a slimming cure, which led to the announcement of a new version last month. The revised budget for the 5.8 kilometer extension will be between 5.8 and 6.4 billion, and commissioning is expected in 2029.

The fate of the Eastern REM, meanwhile, is up in the air. The CDPQ Infra project is the subject of a major dispute because of the aerial mode chosen for most of the route. The environmental study which was to be held this spring has been postponed until the end of 2022, while the City of Montreal has demanded to have a say in the next stages of development of this project valued at 10 billion.

Without commenting directly on Suncor’s request, Emmanuelle Rouillard-Moreau, spokesperson for CDPQ Infra, points out that “the land required for the project was established on the basis of technical criteria, depending on the alignment and geometry of the route, the position of the stations to maximize traffic, the analysis of soil constraints and/or the presence of other infrastructures”.

She adds that the planning of the REM de l’Est is continuing and that “the objective remains to limit the impacts on the required land as much as possible”.

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