You probably need a strong sense of humor to defend a project like the Quebec-Lévis tunnel.
This seems to be the case with François Bonnardel, Minister of Transport.
Usually not very talkative about the pharaonic project, he split a long letter on Tuesday. She was responding (without saying so explicitly) to Régis Labeaume, who had himself, in his final act of mayor, opened up about his doubts and criticisms of the third link.
M. Bonnardel’s missive appeared on the day when – pure coincidence! – the Ombudsperson filed a damning report on the massacre in CHSLDs, during the first wave. Classic attempt to crush bad news by opposing it with a strong communication gesture.
In fact, it was in his pro-third link letter that the minister spoke of carbon neutrality.
The opposition parties laughed at it, with good reason. Dominique Anglade thought that “it was a joke”.
The PQ leader, PSPP, saw it as a Justin-style technique: “Take an irresponsible gesture on the environmental level”, then promise to “plant 3 billion trees” … by never doing it.
In the entourage of the Minister, they protested: the carbon compensation mentioned concerned only the phase of “construction of the tunnel”. Mr. Bonnardel never said that the whole operation would be. But already, he insisted yesterday, the construction of the Turcot interchange was carbon neutral.
In ministry documents (dating from before the construction of the new interchange), it was specified that the objective would be achieved in three ways:
1. Through an effort to reduce emissions at the source. “Site facilities” and “mobile equipment” should have used “renewable energy” or “fuel other than common hydrocarbons”.
2. The plans were to reuse the floors and concrete from the old interchange to build the new one.
3. Finally, we promised to plant a number of trees “within the scope of the project”.
It was difficult to know yesterday, at the time of this writing, to what extent this promise of “carbon neutrality” has been fulfilled.
One thing is certain, it would be difficult to take over this Turcot plan in full during the construction of the third link.
1. The tunnel boring machines could hardly run on solar energy …
2. The third link being a new book, there would not be much material to recycle. (Which would be really carbon neutral? Stop asserting, like the minister, that the two bridges are “old.” Well maintained and periodically rebuilt in part, they can be “eternal”, say the engineers! The old Champlain Bridge in Montreal is not a benchmark, since it had a major design flaw.)
3. Compensator trees certainly could not be planted in the tunnel! But it would take a lot to compensate for this project of at least 8 km. (With the forest thus created, could we at least save our caribou?)
No reversible path
Mr. Bonnardel is definitely not lacking in humor. Another example: yesterday he definitively rejected the idea of installing a reversible lane on the Pierre-Laporte Bridge in order to increase road capacity during rush hour.
His argument: bridgeheads are not designed for that. They should therefore be completely reviewed, which, behold, would require “investments which would be extremely important”.
It is the thurifer of the third link at 10 billion $ who says it!