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Potential return of 3rd link in Quebec City takes politicians by surprise

While heavyweight ministers in the CAQ government remain cautious about a possible return of the third link, MNAs from the Chaudière-Appalaches region are welcoming the premier's about-face.

"Personally, I never gave up hope," said Beauce-North MNA Luc Provencal. "I have continued to consult the people in my community and we are working on a project.

Asked for his thoughts on the project, the MNA replied: "We need to think more about heavy traffic."

A highway tunnel under the river would not have allowed trucks carrying heavy goods to cross for safety reasons.

"From the outset, what the people of Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches have wanted is to be heard and listened to. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and that's what's going to happen," said Bellechasse MNA Stéphanie Lachance. "As you know, there is no public transport in Bellechasse, so inevitably people have to travel by car, so it's a necessity for them."

The MNA for Beauce-South, Samuel Poulin, said that discussions on the subject had already taken place.

"We have been discussing how to improve traffic between Quebec City and Lévis for the past few months (...) certainly on the link between Quebec City and Lévis how it could be improved," he said.


In the wake of his crushing defeat in Jean-Talon on Monday, Premier François Legault rekindled hopes for the third link.

He said he wanted to consult the people of Quebec City on the subject.

"All options are on the table, which means we could see the return of the motorway section of the project," he said.

On Tuesday, several ministers seemed surprised by their leader's statements.

On Wednesday, they remained cautious.

"All the options are on the table, including possibly -- there is no commitment, there is a willingness to listen -- and if we listen, it could mean that indeed, there is the option of the third road link," the minister responsible for Chaudière-Appalaches Bernard Drainville finally said.

"We're not ruling anything out at the moment. We're going to consult people, listen to what they tell us about mobility and projects in general," said Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault.

Arguing that post-pandemic traffic no longer justified such a project, the government announced last April that it was abandoning the highway section in favour of a tunnel reserved for public transport.

It was the Minister for Transport who had the heavy responsibility of announcing the government's decision.

Following the announcement, Drainville apologized to his constituents with tears in his eyes.

Minister Martine Biron did not want to talk about resurrecting the third link project, but she did say that the subject would be part of the discussions.

"The defeat was difficult on Monday, and we all said to ourselves that we should perhaps open a reflection, a conversation about what we could do for the greater Quebec City region," she said.


On Wednesday, Quebec Solidaire (QS) tried, unsuccessfully, to get a motion passed in the national assembly to point out that the Minister of Transport had abandoned the motorway section of the third link, claiming that this was a "pragmatic" and "responsible" decision.

QS doubts that the government ministers were aware of this about-face.

"Who was aware of this decision? Was it the premier alone in his office who decided to bring back this project? Was the Minister of Transport (Geneviève Guilbault) aware of this decision, or the Minister for the Capitale-Nationale (Jonatan Julien)?" asked QS MNA Vincent Marissal. Marissal believes that this is a diversionary tactic on the part of the government.

"I think $10 billion is an expensive diversion," said PQ MNA Pascal Bérubé.

In his view, the premier's statements put the CAQ MNAs from the Capitale-Nationale and Chaudière-Appalaches regions in an "untenable situation."

"We're playing yo-yo with them, and I think it's going to be complicated for the next few weeks," he said.

The Liberals have roundly criticized the premier and his desire to bring back his third link project.

Interim Liberal leader Marc Tanguay described the premier as a "national whirligig."

His colleague, MNA André Albert Morin, said he was surprised by Mr Legault's statement, believing it to be a bad joke.

"But it looks like he was serious," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Oct. 4, 2023. Top Stories

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