Coalition heads to court to stop REM
Published Friday, March 24, 2017 2:54PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 24, 2017 9:51PM EDT
A coalition of citizens’ groups, environmentalists and a labour union has filed a motion in court to stop Montreal’s electric train project.
The group wants to ensure that there is a proper environmental review of the REM that would link the West Island, downtown, and the South Shore.
In January, Quebec’s environmental review board BAPE raised several red flags, including the fact that there were many unanswered questions in documents submitted to the provincal authority.
In particular, the board pointed out documentation on natural habitats was missing, which means necessary studies have not been done.
The provincial authority also wants to know exactly how the project is being financed.
That has prompted a coalition, driven by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, launching a legal bid.
They want to argue in court that the government should be required to go back to the drawing board and answer the questions from the environment review board for the full environmental review
"We will have a debate on bascially the right to a proper consultation for a project which is already announced at $6 billion," said coalition lawyer Ricardo Hrtschan.
Environmental groups agree, saying the environmental strains have never fully been demonstrated.
“Is Montreal going to be hostage to a private company for its number one method of transport? Those things were never, never questioned. The information was never supplied, and we’re asking the court – if we’re going to have a consultation, make it a real consultation,” said Hrtschan.
There is also opposition to the concept of the train financed by a private entity, the Caisse de Depot.
We didn't have all the information required during the BAPE [environmental hearing] to make sure the population knows what is at stake," said Alex Turcotte.
The Trainsparance Coalition pointed out the REM's figures for the number of users seem very low.
"It seems that most of the people who will use the REM are already people who use public transport," said Alison Hackney.
Other critics say that the REM will actually have less room for passengers than the existing AMT trains currently using the tracks.
The case will be heard in court in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile public funding is slowly being confirmed for the project.
One media outlet has reported that there will be about $1.2 or $1.3 billion set aside to finance the light train when the provincial government tables the budget next week.
La Presse is also reporting back-room deals with Ottawa to finance another $1 billion of this project – money that was not in this week’s budget, but the media outlet said talks will lead to a deal between Ottawa and the Caisse de depot.