News | Leader of opposition party forced to resign over Turcot project

New plans for controversial interchange to be released tomorrow

Following a meeting Thursday evening between Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay and Richard Bergeron, the leader of the Projet Montréal municipal party, Bergeron was forced to resign from his role on the Montreal Executive Committee. Tremblay asked members of his executive committee to unconditionally support the plan for the Turcot interchange developed by the Ministère des transports du Québec (MTQ), which Bergeron refused to do.

Bergeron was head of urban development on the executive committee, and threatened to quit last week if the Mayor went ahead and approved a provincial plan that was not in line with the city’s proposal concerning the interchange.

City hall’s project proposal was produced last April and approved by the heads of the three municipal parties. In the wake of his expulsion, Bergeron voiced his opposition to the Mayor’s demands.

“I think it was unfair,” Bergeron stated in a press conference Friday. He had not had access to the report for the past three months, but the last version he saw did not meet the demands his party outlined, including those for public transit. The plan was being reassessed during the past few months after being rejected by the province’s environmental commission, the Bureau d’audiences publique sure l’environnement (BAPE).

Darren Becker, a spokesperson for Tremblay, explained the Mayor’s choice.

“Mr. Bergeron has been making waves in the recent weeks about certain conditions for him to stay or leave regarding the project,” he said. “[The Mayor] wanted his executive committee to be united on the issue. Mr. Bergeron said that he couldn’t guarantee the Mayor that, so the Mayor said to leave.”

In response to whether opposition and special interest groups have had adequate say in the development of the Turcot plan, Becker said, that “The city of Montreal submitted a counterproposal in April done by Vision [Montréal] and Projet [Montréal], and the Mayor’s office, the Mayor’s team. So I mean they already had influence.”

A replacement for Bergeron’s position on the executive has not yet been announced.

“The Mayor didn’t say that he’s not open to looking at other members of Projet [Montréal] to fill this position,” said Becker.

The MTQ is set to unveil the new plans for the Turcot interchange on Tuesday. Although details of the plans have not been publicly released, Becker asserts that the new project “responds to important criteria that the city set out” concerning the issues of housing expropriations, and public transit, and embankments–building on lower instead of higher elevations.

Sources have suggested, however, that the new project plans will not serve to reduce traffic and will involve housing expropriations, according to Radio-Canada. The details will be confirmed tomorrow with the release of the official MTQ plan. Louise Harel, leader of Vision Montréal – the Official Opposition of the City of Montreal – has pointed out that constructing an embanked roadway will serve to isolate communities.

One neighbourhood which will be particularly affected by the project is St. Henri, in Montreal’s Southwest borough. Benoît Dorais, the borough’s Mayor, has said that if the plans do not meet the needs of Southwest citizens, there will be significant protests.