Adaptation to climate change | Montreal renounces a large check from Ottawa

Valérie Plante’s administration gave up nearly $30 million in federal money by canceling a flood basin project that Ottawa had promised to finance, we have learned The Press.

The opposition accuses the mayor of leaving a fortune “on the table” at a time when she is starving, while the elected official in charge says she is convinced of being able to obtain an equivalent grant for a replacement project.

The abandoned project, never made public until now, consisted of building stormwater retention basins under McGill College Avenue.

This is a “portion of the city center vulnerable during an exceptional storm,” according to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

The work would have been carried out between the construction of the underground station of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM), which is due to end in 2024, and the transformation of the artery into a public square, planned for the coming years.

Last summer, Ottawa promised to contribute $28.9 million, or 40% of the bill.

Avoid “a street under construction for 12 years”

However, the complexity of the subsoil in the heart of the city center and the multiplication of works in this sector then convinced the administration to give up on this project, indicated Maja Vodanovic, responsible for water on the executive committee.

“It’s super complicated in that area,” she said in a telephone interview. “It’s full, full, full of things under the ground. There are tunnels, the enormous REM station, the tunnel [du REM]. »

McGill College Avenue has been closed since 2018, underlined Mme Vodanovic, indicating that he did not want to “end up with a street under construction for 12 years”.

Work on the development of the future McGill College Square, whose concept won an international design competition, must begin in 2025. The avenue “will become an imposing pedestrian public square over its entire area, between Cathcart streets and Sherbrooke,” indicates the City of Montreal.


Concept of the future McGill College place

As for the retention basins which were abandoned, “the plans and specifications were not made”, added Maja Vodanovic. “It was very, very little progress. » The City is currently preparing a replacement project in another location in the same sector, undisclosed for the moment, and Mme Vodanovic is convinced of being able to recover an amount equivalent to that offered by Ottawa: “Normally, we always have it [l’appui du fédéral]. It goes without saying: when we build retention basins, the federal government always offers us funding. »

“I have trouble following the administration”

The official opposition at city hall does not hear it the same way.

“I have a hard time following the Plante administration,” said infrastructure spokesperson Alan DeSousa in a written statement.


Municipal opposition infrastructure spokesperson Alan DeSousa

On the one hand, she is asking for more money from [ordres] senior governments to adapt our infrastructure to face the impacts of climate change, but on the other hand, it leaves tens of millions of dollars on the table in a federal program financing the adaptation of our infrastructure.

Alan DeSousa, municipal opposition infrastructure spokesperson

It was the official opposition who discovered the existence of this abandoned project by sifting through a report from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

“Before asking for more money, Projet Montréal should ensure that it carries out projects for which funding has already been approved by the government,” added Mr. DeSousa.

Ottawa’s financial commitment came from its Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DAAF). Last year, Radio-Canada reported that this envelope was melting visibly, with the increase in extreme weather phenomena across the country.

“Each project submitted to Infrastructure Canada’s funding programs is evaluated according to merit-based criteria,” said Caleb Spassov, communications manager for Infrastructure Canada. “In order to maintain the confidentiality of our partners, the Ministry does not offer details on projects that are not publicly announced. »

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