3 visions for public transportation clash at 1st Quebec City mayoral debate

The ongoing public debate on the future of Quebec City's public transit system has become a main focus point for mayoral candidates. The issue was front and centre in the first televised debate held Tuesday evening.

Traffic woes continue to fuel candidates' sales pitch in 1st televised debate

(From left) Régis Labeaume, Anne Guérette and Jean-François Gosselin are three of the six candidates running for mayor in Quebec City. (Alice Chiche/Radio-Canada)

The three candidates vying for the mayor's seat in Quebec City's municipal elections seemed to agree transportation will be the key issue to win over voters.

​The solutions they are proposing are however worlds apart.

The first televised debate was held Tuesday evening on the local Radio-Canada television program.

Régis Labeaume, who's been the mayor of Quebec City for the last 10 years, faced off with Québec 21's first-time candidate Jean-François Gosselin as well as Anne Guérette, the leader of Démocratie Québec.

Guérette is placing her bets on an electric tramway system that would connect the Ste-Foy neighbourhood to the downtown core. 
Anne Guérette, leader of Démocratie Québec, has presented a $750-million project for a tramway system that would connect the Ste-Foy neighbourhood to Saint-Roch in the lower town. (Julia Page/CBC)

"It's relevant, it's the project we need," said Guérette who estimated the cost of the 11-kilometre line to be about $750 million.

Guérette criticized Labeaume for not having a concrete proposal in his platform after 10 years in the mayor's seat.

Labeaume, who saw his rapid-bus transit project fall apart only months ago, replied that he didn't want ''to lie to citizens."

"We won't draw up a new project on the corner of the table," said Labeaume during the debate.

Régis Labeaume answers questions from journalists after the Oct. 17 mayoral debate. (Julia Page/CBC)
The 61-year-old said that before committing to anything, the city has to find out how much it can gain from the federal Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, a $3.4-billion budget to be allocated to cities across Canada by March 2019.

Tale of 2 cities 

Jean-François Gosselin's message to citizens was that this election would be a decisive stand on public transportation.

"A vote for Guérette is a vote for the tramway. A vote for Labeaume is a vote for the SRB, or whatever he'll call it. A vote for Gosselin is a vote for a third link, to the East," he repeated.
Jean-François Gosselin, the leader of Québec 21 — Équipe JF Gosselin, during the electoral debate on Oct. 17. (Alice Chiche/Radio-Canada)

The idea of building a third bridge or a tunnel between Québec City and Lévis has taken on a life of its own over the past year.

In its last budget, the Quebec government committed $20,5 million for a permanent office committed to this ''third link''.

Gosselin said Guérette's tramway would only benefit people living in Quebec's upper-town, and would be of no help to those living in more subarban areas.

Spending on culture

Gosselin was also quick to point out what he sees as overspending at city hall.

The 42-year-old said he would have never spent $7 million for Robert Lepage's Le Diamant multi-disciplinary art space.

"How many little girls and boys could have taken theatre classes with $7 million?," he asked Labeaume during the debate.

Labeaume defended his previous mandates, stating that finding private funds for a project like the new Lassonde pavilion at the Musée national des Beaux-Arts requires some public investment.

''I think it's terrible that in 2017 the importance of the cultural industry in the economy isn't recognized,'' he said.

Citizen participation

Anne Guérette said these decisions have to be made in collaboration with citizens to reflect their priorities and needs.

Démocratie Quebec is proposing to set aside $27 million out of the city's budget for neighbourhood councils which would work closely with elected officials at city hall.
Jean-François Gosselin exchanged heated words with Régis Labeaume during the Oct. 17 debate. (Alice Chiche/Radio-Canada)

''Why do you refuse to give any power to citizens?'' Guérette asked Labeaume.

''Doing that you deny democracy — everybody is electing a councillor. Why would we give close to $30 million to a neighbourdhood council?'' replied Labeaume, saying the current form of public consultations allows citizens to speak their mind.

There are 6 people running for mayor of Quebec City:

  • Daniel Brisson — Alliance citoyenne de Québec
  • Claude Gagnon
  • Jean-François Gosselin  — Québec 21, Équipe F Gosselin
  • Anne Guérette  — Démocratie Québec
  • Régis Labeaume  —  Équipe Labeaume
  • Nicolas Lavigne-Lefebvre  — Option Capitale-Nationale