Under heavy fire in Montreal over a plan to restrict religious accommodations, Quebec's minority government announced a plan Friday to spend at least $1.5-billion in the city on a long-anticipated subway extension.
The province and Montreal's regional transport agency said they will set up a project office with a $38.8-million budget to set up a financial framework and other planning so construction can begin in two years to add five stations to the blue line in the city's east end.
The announcement comes one year into the Parti Québécois's minority mandate, with anticipation building that an election is likely to take place late in the fall, or early next spring. Transport Minister Sylvain Gaudreault refused to answer a question about whether the announcement was an attempt to change the subject from divisive values debate, or win over Montreal. He did answer one question about whether the announcement was a signal an election might be called soon.
"We're not here working for the PQ, we're working for Quebeckers, and in this case, Montrealers. Look at it the opposite way. We are delivering on a promise from the last election," Mr. Gaudreault said.
The metro extension is planned for the east end of Montreal, where the PQ holds several seats and is competitive in several others. The government also promised Friday that the yellow line to the south shore would be next in line for an extension. That area is also rich in ridings the PQ holds, or is competitive.
The metro extension has been promised repeatedly over the past 40 years, including, most recently, in 2009 by the Liberal government under Jean Charest.
The PQ delivered Montreal's last metro extension, northward to the suburb of Laval, which was completed in 2007 after nearly a decade of development and construction. That plan cost $748-million for three stations, coming in at an average of $143-million per kilometre.
The new extension is to include five stations over more than six kilometres. The government says the price-per-kilometre will likely be $250-million to $300- million per kilometre.