By Philip Cross, May 26, 2023
The Quebec government of François Legault is taking a beating from pundits and in the polls for breaking its electoral promise to build a third link for automobiles crossing the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and fast-growing communities on the south shore. Besides adding much-needed capacity for drivers, a third link would provide a hedge against the decrepit state of the two existing bridges (Quebec City bridges have a distressing history of collapse). The government claims reneging on its promise is based on expert projections of declining demand, but the detailed reports behind this forecast were not released.
Therein lies the problem. Imposing a fait accompli on the public without publishing the supporting details is a hallmark of environmental policy-making, especially related to surface transportation. It is the polar opposite of the regulatory framework for energy and pipeline projects, where elongated public hearings and debate precede any decision.
There is every reason to doubt the impartiality of planners to forecast future automobile use because of a dogmatic attachment to the perceived need for radical changes to our transportation system and slowing global warming (forget for the moment that nothing Canada does matters if the world’s fastest-growing emitters in Asia don’t alter their commitment to economic growth).