A new Leger poll, commissioned by the City of Quebec, reveals a drop in support for the tramway project, which now stands at 41%. Far from being discouraged, Mayor Bruno Marchand is confident of turning things around.
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Now more than one in two people (52%) disapprove of the project in the capital. The results of this new sounding, carried out online with 500 respondents from the Léger panel between January 15 and 18, were broadcast for the first time by FM93 this afternoon.
The City of Quebec, which will take stock of the progress of the project on Tuesday, confirmed these results at the beginning of the afternoon by means of a press release.
Support for the tramway project has never been so low, in all polls, in the past. A more recent survey conducted in July by the same firm, on behalf of the Lévis Chamber of Commerce, rather indicated support from 52% of the population of Quebec.
An “unknown” project
Surprisingly, 43% of respondents say they are little or not at all familiar with the project, which has been widely talked about in recent years, particularly during the last election campaign. This figure reassures the new mayor of Quebec – who was elected by promising an “improved” version of the tramway – and allows him to believe that he will be able to convince new followers.
“For us, this is a good starting point and we are convinced that increased communication efforts and greater transparency will help to make the project better known and to increase the membership rate (…) We must be better so that all citizens can discover and appropriate this one. We want the population to dream this project with us”, reacted Bruno Marchand.
Far from denying the results of the survey, the Marchand administration recognizes that the last months and the last years “have hurt the project”.
“It is essential for the future to put the citizen back at the heart of the project”, adds Maude Mercier Larouche, the elected person in charge of relations with the citizens for the tramway project within the executive committee of the City. “For us, the orientation is clear: our communication efforts will be very important and frequent. We are going to multiply the meetings so that the citizen can understand and contribute to the project”, she added.
“Buses are enough”
Opponents of the $3.3 billion project (which could perhaps even reach close to $4 billion), judge in a proportion of 62% that the tram is simply not the right type of vehicle for Quebec or although the buses are sufficient.
Many anticipate even greater traffic congestion (38%) due to the insertion of the tramway, while others mention the high cost of the project. (35%). Tree cutting (19%) was also cited as a reason for opposing it.
Conversely, those who support the project believe that the tram will improve mobility in Quebec (37%), that it is important to invest in public transport (36%), that the tram is a modern and adapted mode of transport Quebec’s needs (26%) and that the project will have a positive impact on the environment (26%).
It is in La Cité-Limoilou (47%) and Sainte-Foy-Sillery-Cap-Rouge (46%) that support for the tramway is the highest and it is in Haute-Saint-Charles (32% ) that it is the weakest.
Quebec salutes the mayor’s effort
Invited to react to the results of this survey, the office of the Minister of Transport, François Bonnardel, reiterated that “the tramway is an important element of the Réseau express de la Capitale, which includes a tunnel linking the city centers of Québec and Lévis” .
“We will continue to work with the City of Quebec to provide the Capitale-Nationale with a structuring public transit network. We welcome the mayor’s desire to intensify his communication efforts with the population,” said Minister Bonnardel’s press attaché, Claudia Loupret, in a written statement.
A source in high places, however, suggests that the federal government is slow to follow suit. In Ottawa, a source familiar with the matter confirms to us, however, that the federal government has not received a request from the Government of Quebec to absorb any cost overruns for the tramway. Note that the latest agreement concerning the tramway provides that cost overruns are shared equally between the three levels of government.
For her part, the head of Transition Québec Jackie Smith – who also ardently campaigns for the tramway – said she was not surprised by the results of the survey. “The tramway project has not been well communicated in the past. I pledge to redouble my efforts with my colleagues at City Hall, both to ensure transparency in the project and to expose its benefits to the population,” she said.
– With the collaboration of Marc-André Gagnon and Taïeb Moalla