Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois both agree a new bridge will be ready by 2018 — but the federal government insists it be a toll bridge.

“[Harper] said himself when he was at the Chamber of Commerce, maybe ten days ago: no toll, no bridge. He repeat exactly the same thing that we said the first day since we announced the new bridge on the St. Lawrence River — and we [didn’t] change our idea,” said federal minister of infrastructure Denis Lebel.

Harper and Marois met face-to-face Tuesday evening to discuss the new bridge.

li-denis-lebel

Denis Lebel, federal minister of infrastructure, says Ottawa is paying for a new Champlain Bridge, so it decides how it will be financed. (Radio-Canada)

“Prime Minister Harper [reminded] Premier Marois that this is a federal jurisdiction — federal is paying for 100 per cent of the cost to repair the actual bridge.”

But Quebec disagrees.

“It's absolutely not just for Mr. Lebel to determine to fix the toll on the bridge,” said Quebec’s transport minister Sylvain Gaudreault.

A joint office

The Quebec government asked Ottawa to create a joint office for the project  — where the provincial government, federal government and the Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT) would manage the dossier together.

“We can’t just have a new bridge, install it over the river in 2018, and then have to adjust the plans,” Gaudreault said.

“We are responsible for the portion that is on firm land. But for public transit, we can’t start to call each other and schedule meetings to verify if the train, or if a street corner, crosses the span to the other side of the bridge.”

Gaudreault said the Quebec government is expecting an answer from Ottawa about the joint office in the coming days.