New Champlain Bridge causes political squabbling

The construction on the new Champlain Bridge hasn’t even started yet, and it’s already the subject of squabbling between the municipal, provincial and federal governments involved.

Municipal and provincial government representatives say feds aren't cooperating with cities, province

Longueuil Mayor Caroline St-Hilaire said she seriously doubted whether the federal government would actually cooperate with the municipal and provincial governments on the construction of the new Champlain Bridge. (CBC)

The construction on the new Champlain Bridge hasn’t even started yet, and it’s already the subject of squabbling between municipal, provincial and federal politicians.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, Longueuil Mayor Caroline St-Hilaire, Quebec Transport Minister Sylvain Gaudreault and Quebec's Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier joined forces Monday to insist on there being no tolls on the new bridge.

Federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel was in Montreal on Monday to announce the new Champlain Bridge project will be put on the federal tendering website. (CBC)

The group said a meeting held this morning between all the parties concerned shows the federal government is not treating the municipal and provincial governments as partners in the construction of the new bridge.

Coderre said that the bridge may be federally funded, but the municipalities need to be involved because it is to municipalities where residents complain when something goes wrong.

St-Hilaire said the federal transport ministry was supposed to announce a business plan, but instead presented its vision for the bridge.

“This morning he told us that we were so lucky to have a new bridge, but that it’s us who will pay for it,” she said.

She was skeptical of Transport Minister Denis Lebel’s intentions to work in partnership with the local governments, adding that she should have stayed on spring break instead of coming out to listen to what the transport minister had to say.

Call for tenders

The provincial government also said it wanted the federal government to finance a light rail line on the new bridge. Around $20 billion a year in international trade crosses the bridge every year, making it a very valuable investment for all levels of government.

Lebel, however, is holding firm on his pro-toll stance, saying the plans for the new Champlain Bridge have always come with the condition of tolls.

Lebel was in Montreal Monday morning to announce that the bridge project will be put up on the Canadian government’s tendering website on March 17 so that it can receive Requests for Qualifications.

Technical and financial proposals are then expected to be submitted in the summer of 2014, with construction beginning next year.

The bridge itself is expected to be completed by 2018, with the rest of the corridor due to be finished by 2020.