Quebec Sees Montreal Light-Rail Project Financing Deal This Year

  • Caisse de Depot seeking permission to build 67-km line
  • Federal minister Garneau calls project `very interesting'

Quebec expects financing for a proposed C$5.5 billion ($4.3 billion) light-rail system linking downtown Montreal to several suburbs and the city’s airport to be finalized this year, Transport Minister Jacques Daoust said.

Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec is seeking permission to build the 67-kilometer (42-mile) light-rail network, provided the federal and provincial governments both chip in. Canada’s second-largest public pension-fund manager said last month it’s willing to invest C$3 billion, leaving C$2.5 billion for governmental contribution.

“An agreement on the financing should come quickly,” Daoust told reporters Friday at a Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal conference. “We need an answer by the fall.”

Under the timeline put forward by the Caisse, construction will probably begin in the spring of next year, with service at the end of 2020. Quebec is prepared to put up half of the C$2.5 billion sought by the Caisse, and wants the federal government to match the amount, Daoust said.

‘Good Project’

“The goal is to do a 50-50 split” with the federal government, Daoust said. “It’s a good project, and I’m convinced the federal government will back it.”

Canada will “definitely” consider the Caisse project, according to Daoust’s federal counterpart, Marc Garneau. Speaking to reporters at the Montreal board of trade event, he called the proposed rail system “very interesting.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the Caisse rail project in a recent visit to Montreal. "These are exactly the kinds of projects we’re excited about and we look forward to working with them on establishing it," Trudeau told reporters on April 30 in Montreal.

Federal funding will be studied as part of Phase 2 of the federal government’s infrastructure spending plan, meaning money wouldn’t be allocated this year, Garneau said. Phase 1 of the plan -- unveiled in March -- earmarked C$11.9 billion for infrastructure over five years, and Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget committed to announcing phase 2 “in the next year.”

Phase 2 “is for year 3 to year 10, and my understanding is that this project would be eligible,” Garneau said. “If that is the No. 1 priority of the province and of the municipalities, and if everybody is in agreement with it, we will look at it with respect to federal funding.”

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