A bridge to Quebec – too far?

EDITORIAL

The busiest bridge in Canada is in dire need of repair, and repairing it is exactly what our government plans to do. The Champlain Bridge spans the Saint Lawrence River and Saint Lawrence Seaway, connecting the Montreal boroughs of Verdun and Le Sud-Ouest to Brossard on the South Shore. It measures at six kilometres long and has almost 160,000 crossings every day, making it, as NDP leader Thomas Mulcair recently stated, “the most important bridge in Canada”. As such, the federal government will be footing the bill for the repairs through taxpayer funds. Surprisingly, not everyone (and specifically those outside of Quebec) agrees. Politics Columnist Michael Smyth at The Province calls it “a slap in the face”, as well as a “key test for Harper, as he faces the latest political demands of a pampered province and its servant politicians”.

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What’s more surprising is how the columnist refers to Canadians and Quebecers, or Montrealers, as separate identities in the same sentence. It should be noted at this point, Quebec is still a part of Canada. Shouldn’t we treat them as such? Until such a time that the province actually separates from the country, or at least forms a legitimate representation of citizens who want to separate, shouldn’t we do everything we can to act as one united country? In Mr. Smyth’s defence, he does make an excellent and sensible point that the bridge, once built with $5 billion federally taxed dollars, should indeed have a toll. Mulcair, the Premier of Quebec, and the mayor of Montreal all believe that the bridge should be tollfree for those who cross it. Senator Percy Downe, in a letter to the editor in The Guardian, points out that Mulcair’s policy is likely due to his party holding several seats in the area of the Champlain bridge.

However, economically, it doesn’t make any sense. Tolls and bridges go hand-in-hand, mainly to pay for the maintenance of the bridge. For such an important bridge, the latest maintenance of which cost $2 million, a toll should be non-negotiable. However, the larger issue with the arguments continue to be how Quebec and the rest of Canada are separated from each other without good cause. Comments on these columns range from “Oh, so now Quebec wants to be a part of Canada?” to referring to the Montrealers as “white flag waving snotty Frenchmen”. The toll-free policy is surely troubling, but that’s at the hands of those already heavily invested in the French province. Based on the usual practices of politicians, what else is to be expected? Canada is paying for this bridge (which, for the record, is federally owned and maintained), and for the time being, that includes Quebec.

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