(QUEBEC) The year-ago bun between Quebec City and the CAQ government over the tramway project seemed a thing of the past on Thursday, during a tete-a-tete between Bruno Marchand and François Legault which took place all smiles.
The two men spoke privately for more than an hour about the growth of Quebec and the government’s ambitions to make it the second metropolis. They also discussed the tramway project, as the City enters the final stretch of negotiations to find a consortium and the final price is still unknown.
“There are discussions taking place to readjust the price. I think that’s still within the realm of reasonableness given the size of the population. We are continuing the discussions,” François Legault told reporters after the meeting at Quebec City Hall.
Mayor Marchand refuses to say publicly how much this project could cost. His bill was first estimated at 3.3 billion, then was increased to some 4 billion. The price could still go up.
But behind closed doors on Thursday, the mayor of Quebec gave the prime minister an outline of the final cost. “Mr. Legault has an estimate, of course, but that will be refined over the course of the negotiations,” said Mr. Marchand.
“Nobody has the final cost right now. Those who negotiate don’t have the final cost, he says. When you discuss the price with the consortia, there is necessarily a margin. One wants something, the other something else and we try to find a way through. »
The Prime Minister’s comment on the “reasonableness” of this price suggests that the government will not be surprised once the bill is known, which could happen very soon. Remember that the Quebec government must assume 50% of the cost of the tramway and Ottawa 40%.
Thursday’s meeting offered a stark contrast to a scene that occurred a year ago, in March 2022, still at City Hall. Bruno Marchand, then stung by the declarations of elected Caquistes of the Quebec region on the tramway project, had made an outing in good standing, asking the CAQ to “rise”.
Mayor Marchand now sees François Legault as an “ally”. “It couldn’t be better. Obviously we will see on delivery, we will judge the tree by its fruits. But currently the agreement is good. It reassures me enormously,” said the mayor.
Third link: studies this month
The other major mobility project in Quebec, the third link, was “very little discussed” during the meeting according to Mayor Marchand, who has often expressed reservations about this future highway tunnel.
The Prime Minister explained on Thursday why the government was always delaying presenting data.
“What happened in recent weeks is that the people responsible for the analysis, they were asked if they had taken into account the impacts of teleworking on traffic,” said François Legault.
“The answer was unclear. So we asked them to investigate this point, because we know that there is a drop in traffic attributable to the increase in telework since the pandemic, continued Mr. Legault. They told us that by the end of the month they will give it to us with the impact of telework. »
The Prime Minister has also undertaken to hold his diplomatic meetings in the capital as much as possible, as required by the city’s charter.
Mayor Marchand had denounced in January the decision of François Legault to hold meetings in Montreal rather than in the capital, in particular with Justin Trudeau and the leaders of the opposition parties.
“Sometimes it happens that for reasons of family-work balance, because I live in Montreal, meetings take place in Montreal,” conceded François Legault.
“But the vast majority of meetings and important meetings take place in Quebec. When we receive important people, when there are important meetings, it happens in the capital, ”he added.
Thursday’s meeting between the two elected officials took place on the sidelines of a ceremony to declare the Prime Minister “honorary mayor” of Quebec. The city’s charter provides that “every new premier of Quebec, as soon as possible after his swearing in, is received at the capital’s city hall to be made honorary mayor”.