Ottawa wants to cede the Bonaventure Expressway

Ottawa wants to get rid of the Bonaventure Expressway, reveals a federal briefing note obtained by The Press through Access to Information Act. The document also paints a critical portrait of the Plante administration’s record regarding the development of social and affordable housing.

“As you know, the federal government is interested in getting rid of the Bonaventure Expressway”: this is the message that Infrastructure Canada suggested sending to the Director General of the City of Montreal, during a meeting held in last September. “The Jacques-Cartier and Champlain Bridges Company Incorporated (JCCBI) and my representatives will contact the City of Montreal in the coming months to continue the discussion on this subject. »

The document notes that the 2021 federal budget mentioned Ottawa’s intention to explore the possibility of selling this infrastructure.

The federal Minister of Transport and Justin Trudeau’s lieutenant in Quebec, Pablo Rodriguez, however, did not say a word about it last December, announcing the transformation of a section of the artery into an urban boulevard, for 300 million. Currently, “it’s ugly, it’s from another era,” explained Mr. Rodriguez, praising the linear park that could be developed along the river. However, the project does not affect the elevated part of the highway, between the Lachine Canal and the Victoria Bridge.

JCCBI led The Press to Infrastructure Canada. The Ministry did not respond to our request for information.

Valérie Plante’s cabinet argued that it did not want Ottawa’s desire to cede the highway to have repercussions on the “bold project to transform the Bonaventure highway into an urban boulevard, aiming to bring it back in the 21ste century”, in which Montreal participates. “This is a beneficial agreement for all parties involved; an agreement that we obviously wish to keep intact. »

The Bonaventure Expressway was built by Ottawa in 1966, just in time for Expo the following year. It was partly built on land reclaimed from the river after serving as a dump for decades.

Criticism of housing

Furthermore, the same briefing note from Infrastructure Canada paints a portrait of the various priority issues in Montreal, so that senior federal officials are informed.

The document is particularly critical of the results of Montreal’s regulation for a mixed metropolis, adopted in 2021, which forces developers to include 20% social housing, 20% affordable housing and 20% family housing in each project.

“Since the adoption of the regulation, 150 new projects from private developers have created 7,100 housing units. Of these, none were affordable housing,” notes the document. “The vast majority of developers chose to pay a penalty rather than create affordable housing,” but “the 24.5 million that were raised in penalties are considered by housing experts to be insufficient to even finance only one project.

The document continues: “the Montreal experience could demonstrate the need to invest more in aid to organizations that provide non-market housing and in social housing, rather than asking private developers to build affordable housing.”

Infrastructure Canada did not respond to the message from The Press.

“The note indicates […] the importance of directly financing non-market social and affordable housing, and this is exactly the path that the City of Montreal is pursuing,” argued the office of the mayor of Montreal, through the press secretary Simon Charron. He noted that the fund financed by penalties had increased since this note was written and that seven lots had been transferred to the City.

“We have proposed adjustments to adapt the regulations for a mixed metropolis to current economic reality,” he continued. The City is adapting and other partners must also follow suit by financing social and affordable housing projects. »

With William Leclerc, The Press

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