The future of the Train de l'Ouest is in doubt after Tuesday night's election put the Parti Quebecois, led by former Ile Bizard resident Pauline Marois into power in Quebec City, calling into question the Transport Ministry's commitment to the project, which would see commuter trains rolling in and out of downtown from the western suburbs every half hour from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The commitment to the project came in March, with then-Transport Minister Pierre Moreau confirmed the ball was rolling with a $22 million study being conducted by the Agence Metropolitain de Transport (AMT), the regional body charged with overseeing commuter-train service in and around Montreal. Moreau also announced he had set aside $800 million in the ministry's triennial budget to fund the project, which was planned to be complete by 2016.
Now, the future of that project is cloudy after the PQ grabbed 54 seats to form a minority government in the National Assembly, while Liberal leader Jean Charest announced his resignation from politics a day later.
The verbal go-ahead the Train de l'Ouest lobby group got from Moreau sure rings hollow today – and uncertainty is the overwhelming sentiment, group co-leader Clifford Lincoln said Monday morning.
"It's a whole new ballgame," Lincoln said. "What we're going to do is meet with the mayors, stay in constant touch with the AMT and wait for the PQ to appoint a new transport minister. That's the best we can do at this point," said Lincoln, the former MP for Lac St. Louis and MNA for Nelligan.
The group had also been I touch with the PQ when they were in opposition, and had the support of the PQ's transport critic Nicolas Girard, who lost his seat in the house when he was defeated last Tuesday.
"He was on board. He was very much on side with the project. It's very hard to say, though, what influence he'll have on the sidelines," Lincoln added, saying he was also a little nervous because the West Island is "a big non-PQ area."
Jacques Cartier MNA Geoff Kelley said although "it's far too early to speculate," because of the transition in government, he's confident the project will be supported by Pauline Marois' government.
"I'm sure the new government will share the objectives of removing come of those greenhouse-gas emissions from the road. We have to convince people to take public transit by making it convenient for them," he said.
Current Lac St. Louis MP Francis Scarpaleggia said the PQ has a responsibility to govern "for all Quebecers," but conceded the Train de l'Ouest lobby group must now lobby a new transport minister, whoever happens to receive that designation.
"Whenever there's a change of government, you have to remind the new government of the commitments made by the previous government," he said, adding the AMT report due by the end of the year "represents a concrete, tangible commitment to the project," he said.