Cost of nearly a billion | Quebec draws the curtain on Blue Spaces

(Quebec) Realizing François Legault’s dream of building a blue space in each region of Quebec would have cost nearly a billion dollars, says Culture Minister Mathieu Lacombe. He draws the curtain on what was supposed to be the “nationalist legacy” of the Prime Minister, a real “fiasco”, according to the opposition parties.

What there is to know

  • The Legault government abandons the Blue Spaces. In 2021, the 17 museums, one per region, were expected to cost 259 million, but the bill now risked exceeding a billion dollars.
  • Of the four Blue Spaces projects unveiled, only one is certain to retain a cultural vocation, the one located in Old Quebec.
  • CAQ deputies Suzanne Blais (Abitibi-Ouest), Stéphane Sainte-Croix (Gaspé) and Kariane Bourassa (Charlevoix) have the mandate to find a use for the sites of Amos, Percé and Baie-Saint-Paul.

“We are certainly disappointed. It was a concept we believed in. […] But the cost itself was unreasonable. If this network had cost us 500 million, maybe we would have continued. But when we are around a billion, the nature of the decision is different,” says Mr. Lacombe in an interview with The Press.

Originally, in 2021, the Legault government had allocated a sum of 259 million to create 17 Blue Spaces, in all regions of Quebec. Announced with great fanfare, this brand new network of museums was to convince Quebecers to forget “Cancún or Puerto Plata” to visit the province.

“I want when we set foot there, to feel proud,” said the Prime Minister, according to whom “we must say to ourselves that the Quebec people are a strong and resilient people, who have managed to get through winters that were hard.”

At the CAQ, we felt that this network would be “an assumed nationalist legacy of the Legault government” and that it would help boost the pride of Quebecers in their history and their culture.

A “nationalist” cultural project in Old Quebec

For Mathieu Lacombe, this failure, which he first announced in the Sun, is explained by overheating in the construction industry. For the first three sites, the current bill is close to 124 million, including 92 million only for the Camille-Roy pavilion project at the Séminaire de Québec, and 25.5 million for the Frederick-James villa in Percé. The old Amos courthouse was renovated for 3.7 million, but the interior design was not done.

A fourth project, located in Baie-Saint-Paul, would have cost nearly 56 million to rehabilitate a wing of the former convent of the Little Franciscans, but it had not started. Quebec could postpone its purchase offer so as not to become owner of the building, but is committed to supporting a cultural project in the region. The deputy mayor of Amos, Pierre Deshaies, says his town is “heartbroken.” The mayor of Baie-Saint-Paul, Michaël Pilote, says for his part that he has several cultural projects that need funds.


For Mathieu Lacombe, this failure can be explained by overheating in the construction industry.

Mr. Lacombe consoles himself by pointing out that the unspent portion of the initial envelope of the project, i.e. 135 million, is still available for cultural projects. For the moment, however, no one knows what purpose the buildings in Percé and Amos will have; local CAQ deputies have the mandate to find one. But it might not be linked to culture. However, he believes that there was no waste, since these are heritage buildings that needed to be renovated.

In Old Quebec, it will be a “major cultural project” which will be “very nationalist”, promises Mathieu Lacombe. But it will no longer be a Blue Space.

With the failure of the Blue Basket, and the abandonment of the Blue Spaces, “I believe that among my colleagues [ministres]the next person who wants to do a project with the adjective blue will think twice,” jokes Mr. Lacombe.


The opposition parties, however, speak of a “fiasco”. PQ member Pascal Bérubé points out that criticism was made as soon as the project was announced. “It was a bad idea, we said so. He was keen to create new institutions when museums expressed needs. The result: we lost time and a lot of money,” he denounces.

Supporter Sol Zanetti asks Mr. Lacombe to take a break and “listen to the cultural community”. “The big problem with many CAQ projects over the past six years is that before consulting, they have prepared by saying to themselves, this speaks to the world. This is political marketing. It’s concept. But no one wants them on the ground,” he says.

However, he does not blame the government for having renovated heritage buildings, but before deciding what to do with them, he must “talk to the artists”. “I ask him not to make a mistake again,” he says.

Liberal MP Brigitte Garceau speaks of a “third cultural link”, referring to the highway tunnel project between Quebec and Lévis, abandoned by the CAQ last year. “Reality is once again catching up with this messy government. We have been questioning Minister Mathieu Lacombe about Blue Spaces for over a year and each time, the politician told us to wait and that everything was fine,” she lamented in a written response.

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