What Montreal does not understand

What Montreal does not understand
What Montreal does not understand

(Lévis) As he arrived an hour and a half late, and as he was arriving from Quebec, I told the mayor of Lévis that he did not need to do the same to prove the need for a tunnel between the two cities.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

At 69, Gilles Lehouillier purrs with political happiness. Re-elected with 74% support last year after two terms, he has become the key ally of the Legault government in the Quebec region.

Oh, of course, this former and brief Liberal MP (2008-2012) does not take a position. But as candidate Bernard Drainville says, the question of the ballot box in Lévis is the third link. And Mayor Lehouillier does not hesitate to say that the CAQ tunnel project is “spectacular”.

The Conservative Party, represented by one of its former municipal councillors, Karine Laflamme, is in second place here. Instead, it proposes bridges and a highway crossing Île d’Orléans. But “touching Île d’Orléans, a heritage site, it’s going to be a terrible battle,” said the mayor.

Québec solidaire is against a new link. The Parti Québécois, yesterday still opposed, speaks of a public transport link. Liberals prefer to avoid the subject.

In short, guess why the mayor was so smiling when he welcomed François Legault on Saturday, and guess who this neutral mayor is going to vote for?

What we do not measure in Montreal is to what extent this city of 150,000 inhabitants is in turmoil. Seventh in importance in Quebec — now ahead of Saguenay — its population is growing faster than that of other large cities, according to the Institute of Statistics. Economist Pierre Fortin has measured that the Quebec City region is the one that has experienced the strongest GDP growth of all metropolitan regions in Canada. And Lévis counts in the equation, even if it is three times smaller than Quebec.

In one of the industrial parks, you can see one of the biggest technological projects in Quebec growing. This is the first phase of eight for the company QScale, which is building a data center there with “supercomputers”. An investment of 1 billion. Greenhouses for tomatoes and fruit will be added, heated with heat from computers.

At the other end of this municipality, which stretches over 55 km, the shipyard is experiencing a new lease of life.

If the Davie is recognized by December as part of the Canadian shipbuilding strategy, and it is almost 100% certain, we are talking about 18 billion in contracts. People even here don’t realize what it is. It will be like aerospace in Montreal. We will attract a lot of manpower, with good salaries.

Gilles Lehouillier, Mayor of Lévis

Gilles Lehouillier knows what that means. His father, his brother, his friends worked at Davie, when this part of town was called Lauzon.

The working town merged in 1986 with Lévis, where more white-collar workers lived, office workers at Desjardins, civil servants in Quebec.

Microsoft bought last year the former golf course of Charny (former merged city), a huge space that it intends to use for its data storage services. It has made several other acquisitions in the Quebec region, moreover.

“Basically, do you see the city less and less as a dormitory suburb of Quebec? »

Oh my question pleased the mayor.

“That’s it! Our city generates its own economic activity. »

What was his surprise (and his secret joy) to see that for the first time in its history, Lévis experienced a “positive migration balance” with Montreal!

Lévis is a disparate amalgam of 10 municipalities, whose main occupation ranges from heavy industry to agriculture. More than 70% of the territory is zoned green and will remain so, assures the mayor. We find on the territory the “Plée bleue”, an immense peat bog also an ecological reserve. It has been preserved less by environmental vision than by the impossibility of building anything there. But it is a local pride. Like the urban parks along the Chaudière and Etchemin rivers and what the mayor calls the “place of identity”: the quai Paquet. The entire sector of the crossing has been redeveloped, a new station has been built, with water jets, etc.

He shows me on the map a perimeter of urban densification, as if to counter the argument of urban sprawl caused by the third link. “We have room for 25,000 housing units. We were planning 800 per year, but it’s 2000.” All that without dezoning.

But with a new highway entering the center of Quebec, the sprawl won’t be so much in Lévis; there remains Beauce, just to the south, and all of the South Shore.

***

“What don’t Montrealers understand?

“They should understand we’re playing catch-up. The government has an obligation of fairness in infrastructure. »

We guess that the concept of Greater Quebec “second metropolis” promoted by the Legault government makes him melt with pleasure. For him, the region in Quebec that will experience the greatest growth is Quebec City — including Beauce.

He tells me about the “happiness index”, apparently very high here.

“Be careful, it looks silly, but I realized with this happiness index business there, to feel that the community is happy, dynamic, proud, it brings investments. It’s crazy what I’m telling you here!

“If your community doesn’t believe in the future, if people describe your city negatively, do you sincerely think that people are going to be interested in developing it?

“Are you talking about Montreal here?”

He doesn’t take the bait.

– I speak in general. I love Montreal. I think it’s a beautiful city. What I’m saying is that we have the highest belief score in the future of Quebec’s big cities. »

After this inspiring portrait, I suggest to the mayor that he will no longer need a third link, since the city will be autonomous. He didn’t really find it funny. Travel is still two-thirds of people from the South Shore to Quebec.

For him, he is “100% certain” that the third link will be made. Not only because both bridges are at capacity, but because they are old. And there is this famous “horseshoe”: the center of Lévis is far from the bridge, and the bridge is far from the center of Quebec.

With the route proposed by the government, “we connect the two city centers in 10 minutes. wow. Have you thought about it? You stay in Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce. You say: OK I’m going to go see, I’m going to talk about an old band that I know, Led Zeppelin, at the amphitheater. You come here. Incentive parking. Phew. You embark below, my friend, 10 minutes. You have returned. Don’t wait an hour! That’s it. »

He refuses to describe himself as a new convert, but until 2017, he favored a rapid bus service (SRB) in connection with Quebec. He finally turned his back on the project, which enraged Régis Labeaume. This is where the third link promoted by several radio hosts has become a major political issue, promised in 2018 by the CAQ.

Studies, he explains, showed that the SRB was not going to alleviate traffic or travel times, in addition to being too expensive. Useless, what.

“You’re still stuck with the horseshoe!” »

Speaking of studies, it would be nice to see those on the third link, just to convince the skeptics…

“There is going to be a review of the BAPE [Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement]we’ll see it all there, ”said the mayor, as if to say: stop getting upset with the details, the case is settled.

His happiness index is also really very high, no need to study.


The article is in French

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