Saturday March 28 2015
Laval's English newspaper since 1993.
Journal anglais de Laval depuis 1993.

Laval’s Quebec Liberals still committed to $46 million Place Bell pledge

From the left, Laval Liberal MNAs Gilles Ouimet, Guy Ouellette, Jean Roussselle and Francine Charbonneau are members of the opposition for the first time in years.

Laval’s four Liberal MNAs say they remain committed to a $46 million pledge that the former Liberal government made towards the Place Bell amphitheatre project while they were still in power.

This despite some misgivings about the subsidy that the new PQ government may have been expressing when it appointed a provincial auditor to examine the City of Laval’s bookkeeping.

Upholding a pledge
In a new year’s interview with the Laval News, Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellette, who is now the point man and leading spokesperson for the Quebec Liberals’ team of Laval MNAs, admitted that the PQ (which gained two seats in Laval in the Sept. 4 election) might find cause to refuse to honor the $46 million pledge made four years ago by the Liberals.
“For sure it’s a possibility because they’re trying to cut $7.5 billion in infrastructure (funding),” he said. However, Ouellette acknowledged that certain changes by the City of Laval to the project which were made rather abrubtly, such as a new location, haven’t helped matters.
“We were not informed when the (Laval) administration decided to change the place,” he said. “We don’t have any answers from them as to why it was taken from Chomedey and brought to Laval-des-Rapides. It’s still in Laval. It’s still $46 million of public money.”
While agreeing that the best thing is still for the project to go ahead, if not necessarily exactly as planned, Ouellette added that “it is not a bad thing to have the vérificateur from the Ministère des Affaires municipales to make sure there is transparency. Because, as you know, we are reading allegations every day and the goal of the four of us is to make sure that every contract has as much transparency as there should be and that people see it.”

Something to fight for
All the same, Ouellette left no doubt that the Liberals believe in the Place Bell project and would like to see it through to the end: “It’s a big project, it’s needed in Laval, and like Autoroute 19, it’s something that we will fight for to make sure that what was announced in 2009 and the provision of $46 million which was made will be delivered. They (the PQ government) better have really good reason if they don’t want that.”
Regarding an issue which has become a pressing concern for parents in the Sainte-Rose/Auteuil/Vimont areas, where children are attending English-language schools which have become overcrowded because of booming residential development, Vimont Liberal MNA Jean Rousselle said he recently met with parents from Terry Fox Elementary School.
“There is an increase in the anglophone population in Vimont and Auteuil, which makes that Terry Fox School is overpopulated,” Rousselle said, adding that as a consequence students from the school must be bused to an alternate Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board school in Duvernay. Rousselle said he brought the matter up with PQ Education Minister Marie Malavoy. “It is preoccupying the parents, and because of that it is also preoccupying me,” he said.

‘Takes a while,’ says Charbonneau
According to Mille-Îles MNA Francine Charbonneau, the process for obtaining a new public school follows a formula which is based largely on the number of students who require it, and the SWLSB has apparently started the process. “It takes a while,” she said. “But would a Liberal government hear it better than a PQ government? We can’t answer that right now because we don’t know how the PQ government is going to receive or answer this question.”
Regarding Bill 14, the PQ’s Bill 101 upgrade which could end up withdrawing bilingual status from certain Quebec municipalities, Ouellette was reassuring. “When a minister first deposits a bill, you can be sure that the bill won’t be adopted in the same way at the end,” he said. “That’s just the first version. Then after that, after we the MNAs have heard from the population and we’ve received the best advice, we propose amendments. It will be exactly the same for this and every other law brought before the National Assembly.”

PQ’s first 100 days
Apart from these issues, the Liberal MNAs, who find themselves in opposition for the first time since 2002, had much to criticize in the PQ’s first 100 days as a minority government. Among other things, they knocked the new government for closing Quebec’s only nuclear power plant, Gentilly-2, and for appointing, then buckling under public pressure to rescind the appointment of former PQ leader André Boisclair as an assistant deputy minister in the Quebec bureaucracy, when he had also been appointed the delegate general for Quebec in New York.

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