Montreal mayor says provincial budget signals 'good years ahead'

The provincial government's 2018 budget, which increases total spending by 4.7 per cent, includes a boost to a plan to extend the Montreal Metro's Blue line, among other infrastructure projects.

Valérie Plante gives stamp of approval to province's investments in public transit, infrastructure projects

Mayor Valérie Plante said she is encouraged to see the province invest in public transit and infrastructure projects in Montreal. (CBC)

The City of Montreal is welcoming the provincial government's fiscal plans, with Mayor Valérie Plante saying she's encouraged to see fresh investments in public transit, infrastructure projects and economic development.

Speaking to reporters after the province tabled its budget on Tuesday, Plante said she appreciated Quebec's investments in infrastructure projects, which includes a plan to extend the Metro's Blue line.

"We welcome this budget very favourably," Plante said.

For public transit in Montreal, the province set aside $365 million to help plan the Metro's Blue line extension project

With an estimated total budget of $3.9 billion, the project involves adding five metro stops to the line over 5.8 kilometres to reach Anjou in the city's east end.

The province is banking on the federal government to cover a portion of that amount.

She wasn't worried that the Pink line, a new Metro line she proposed during last year's mayoral election campaign, was not included in the budget.

"The stars are aligned for good years ahead of us," Plante said.

The Blue line extension project involves adding five metro stops to the line over 5.8 kilometres to reach Anjou in the city's east end. (Charles Contant/CBC)

"With the infrastructure money being invested, and the mobility money, there's potential — there's the possibility for us to get some money for the Pink line."

Plante said the city will be unveiling a "Pink line bureau" in the coming weeks to better present the project.

Infrastructure, public transit money

Earlier on Tuesday, Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitão said the province still backed an investment of $6.3 billion to build a light-rail project (REM).

"The REM will get Montreal into the 21st Century," he said during a press briefing.

The budget also includes plans to:

  • Renovate the Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel.
  • Extend Highway 19 between Highways 440 and 640, from Laval to Bois-des-Filion.
  • Extend Highway 35 from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu to the U.S. border.Plante said the city favoured an urban boulevard, instead of an extension to Highway 19, however.
In its new budget, tabled on Tuesday, the Quebec government set aside $365 million to plan the project to extend the Montreal Metro's Blue line. (Alison Northcott/CBC)

Plante said she hoped additional funding in infrastructure and education — which is getting a five per cent boost across Quebec in the coming year, for a total of $18.9 billion — could lead to more schools downtown.

"In the infrastructure envelope, which is quite big, we will be able to get some money build schools, because downtown and across the island, we need schools," she said.

Artificial intelligence hub

Montreal will also get $5 million from the province for a pilot project to test autonomous cars, the city said.

The province also intends to allocate $5 million to create an office of the World Organization of Artificial Intelligence in Montreal, as Leitão reiterated his commitment to turning the city into an AI hub.

Plante said Montreal "has the wind in its sails" when it comes to artificial intelligence research and development.

"We're very happy to receive this new AI organization in Montreal," the mayor said.

The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal also welcomed Quebec's investment in the burgeoning industry.

The head of the organization, Michel Leblanc, said in a statement investing in AI "has the potential to propel the city's economy to the forefront of the planet's innovation hubs."

Cannabis legalization

Plante also said she was happy the province has pledged major funding to improve public security when cannabis is made legal.

The budget commits $40 million provincially and the mayor estimated it would cost between $5-10 million to boost policing in the city.

"We are the metropolis so I'm really confident we'll get our fair share," Plante said.

With files from Benjamin Shingler, Kate McKenna and Radio-Canada