Martin C. Barry
Quebec’s CAQ government will eventually take up Ottawa’s $345 million offer to pay for extending Autoroute 19 from Laval northward to the North Shore, says Sainte-Rose CAQ MNA Christopher Skeete.
But before that happens, Quebec will continue waiting to see updated plans for the long-anticipated highway completion project, adds Skeete.
Quebec was absent
Skeete was invited by the Laval News – as he was preparing for an announcement in Laval last week – to comment on the CAQ government’s conspicuous absence from a press conference held in Bois-des-Filion on the North Shore recently when the federal government announced its funding offer.
Effectively, the Liberal government in Ottawa has stated its willingness to open its purse in order to release as much as $345 million for Quebec’s CAQ government to spend on the agonizingly long-awaited A-19 project, whose history dates back to the quasi-prehistoric 1970s.
Notably missing at the announcement was François Bonnardel, the CAQ Minister of Transport who is normally expected to be present for major announcements such as that one.
As some observers have suggested, the absence could be framed in the context that relations between the CAQ government and the federal Liberals haven’t been great since Ottawa began voicing concerns over Quebec’s controversial Bill 21 that would curtail the display of religious symbols by public employees and officials.
“It’s not because we’re not committed to the project – we actually are,” Skeete said last week. “We just want to make sure that we have a completed project before we start making announcements.
“I understand the federal colleagues: they have incentives to go a little bit faster – you know, with a looming election,” he added. “For us, it was a question of making sure that all the i’s are dotted, all the t’s are crossed before we start making announcements.”
Over the decades, so many government announcements about the A-19 have been made that most observers have become cynical. Some have also noted that the issue has been tossed back and forth with great political convenience from the PLQ to the PQ – and now the CAQ government.
In the meantime, no one has ever taken a firm resolve to move forward with the project. As recently as last fall when future Premier François Legault was campaigning in Laval for the October provincial election, he pointed out that successive governments made promises about completing the A-19 without ever fulfilling them.
Legault pledged it
“I think that one of the big demands being heard concerns the 19,” Legault said then, as reported by TLN. “It’s going to be done with us. And it’s going to be done within the parameters they want – with reserved lanes, based on the demands of the mayors from the North Shore. It will be done within a reasonable period of time.”
For his part, Skeete said last week that public cynicism was “one of the reasons why we didn’t want to be there for yet another announcement. It’s nine times the 19 was announced. People don’t want another photo-op. What they want is some crews digging.
“The 19 will go forward,” he insisted. “My estimation is it’s time to get to work. Our plan is to start working on that as soon as we get the updated plans.”