The Champlain Bridge is crumbling down but for both the NDP and Conservatives, it isn’t a big issue. With the NDP only releasing a small statement and the Conservatives breaking their heads on how to deal with the documentation, bridge users – like myself – have absolutely no guarantee that the bridge will be replaced and there is no guarantee that the replacement will come before the bridge collapses and people die painful deaths as they plummet into the St. Lawrence.
This may now be considered as old news, but it certainly won’t be old for the many who use the bridge on a daily basis – particularly those who use public transportation as the bridge has bus lanes during rush hour periods.
However, given the impending danger, not only is the Harper government thinking about the political repercussions of the facts, they are also trying to find ways of dodging the issue.
If you don’t remember how the 2011 election campaign went down, you had Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals who vigorously campaigned for a new bridge as soon as possible, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives who ruled out replacing it – calling it too expensive – and opted to repair the bridge instead and Jack Layton’s NDP who very quietly agreed with the Liberals.
Of the three parties, the only party that is rigorously going after the new bridge is the Liberals. Interim Leader Bob Rae said that for the past 5 years, the Conservatives have neglected the aging infrastructure that is set to collapse in the next earth quake.
Federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel refused to release the Pre-feasibility Study Concerning the Replacement of the Existing Champlain Bridge, written in February 2011, a report on the condition of the bridge, this week and justified his actions by claiming that he wanted to avoid panic. Twenty-four hours later, he realized that he made the situation sound worst and released the documents. However, he didn’t release all of the information on the bridge and if he did, the traffic arteries in Montreal would become a headache as motorists flee the Champlain Bridge all together. It just goes to show how military jets and prisons stifle public safety every step of the way.
The report said that it could cost as much as $25 million to try to prolong the life of the 49 year old bridge and wouldn’t be enough to keep it from collapsing.
Meanwhile, the Liberals are stepping up their calls for the bridge to be replaced.
"The question is not whether or not a new bridge is needed, but rather when the working group's proposals will be submitted," Rae said in a statement Thursday.
"Even now we do not have all the information which is at the base of these reports," said Rae. "...The fact remains that we have wasted five years -- five years in which work has not been done."
Liberal Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Critic Denis Coderre said that even if the government were to decide to build the new bridge today, it would take years before the mandatory environmental impact studies were completed which would delay the time that the shovels would hit the ground.
The Bridge has about 160,000 crossings daily and is the busiest bridge in Canada – imagine a collapse during rush hour.
"Champlain Bridge users have had enough," concluded Rae. "They have the right to know the condition of the infrastructure they use every day, if the road they travel every morning and evening is safe and, above all, they have the right to know the government's time frame for finally building a new Champlain Bridge."
It is expected to take nearly a decade to build a new bridge which is expected to cost $1.3 billion or $1.9 to build a tunnel instead. Both estimates include the estimated cost of $155 million that is required to demolish the bridge.
While it is nice to see the Liberals take the initiative and fight for public safety, with only 34 seats in the House of Commons and spots of seats in Orange Dominated Quebec, it is likely that their roar right now will become nothing more than a whisper as the Conservatives and NDP shove them aside to fight more ideological battles.
Meanwhile, the NDP are tucked away and unheard of. Apart from a small statement issuing quotes from Olivia Chow, the NDP is unheard of. So where is Jack Layton? Wasn’t he supposed to represent Quebec and its needs? A new bridge should be at the top of the list – or he will have deaths to tend to. You would think that with his status as Official Opposition and his will to make things right, that he would jump on this case for every person who crosses that bridge on a daily basis – guess not.
So far, the Liberal Party is the only party who cared enough to come down to the bridge. Bob Rae spoke in Montreal – in front of the bridge – as he demanded its replacement. Meanwhile the Conservatives and NDP just don’t care.
I would like to remind all of the Quebec NDP voters, that they voted for this man to fight for their causes, and he is doing a miserable job. Regardless your ideology, regardless your agenda, Public Safety should come first and foremost. The Champlain Bridge is federally owned so the users have no choice but to count on you to make sure that they don’t plunge to their early graves because you decided to venture off into your ideological wars.
In this situation, the Liberal Party is certainly looking like the party that cares about my safety as I cross that bridge. Don’t forget that the Liberals were the ONLY party in the 2011 election campaign to actively promise a new bridge and are now proving to be the only party to enact on that promise.
Will it have to take my life, and those of the 160,000 others who use the bridge, before the government realizes that its purpose is to serve the people and not play political games?