What some expected happened: Repeated emphasis on the ballooning streetcar bill, which had been promised to reach more than $4 billion for several months, accelerated the decline in support.
“Unfortunately, this decline continues,” stresses SOM pollster Eric Lacroix from the beginning.
Som scanthe sun Online polls conducted from August 29 to September 1 revealed that the percentage of 344 people lined up behind the mega project fell to 32% in the greater Quebec area.
A five-percentage-point decline in the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) since the last survey conducted in April adds to the seven-point decline already recorded since January.
In short, the social acceptance curve for trams, which reached 44% in the first days of 2023, has declined by 12% since the beginning of the year.
At the other end of the spectrum, the adversarial core remains stable over time, always fluctuating by approximately 60%. There remains the remaining 7% who do not comment.
However, the analyst cautions against too strict interpretation of the numbers, since the small statistical sample opens the door to a large margin of error. But “one thing is certain, things are not going back up, that’s clear,” explains the vice president and head of business strategy at SOM.
In the only region of the national capital, where the majority of people surveyed live in the greater Quebec City area, the numbers confirm that the support rate is around 33%.
On the other side of the river, where survey respondents are concentrated in Lévis, opposition to the giant public transport project reaches nearly three-quarters of the population. “There may be frustration with the story of the abandoned third link of the motorway in Lévis,” Eric Lacroix explains.
He points out that, above all, it is necessary to travel outside the Quebec region to observe greater social acceptance on the streetcar line.
Montreal is favorable
In Montreal, in particular, only a quarter of people (24%) said they were against creating a regulated transit network in the capital.
Conversely, people at the other end of the G20 support it in a greater proportion than in Quebec, at 44%. The fact remains that a third of respondents refuse to comment on the question.
“The project outside the region is less well-known, but in Montreal, there is a more established culture of using public transportation. This explains why they might say to themselves: ‘Quebecers, you deserve a better way to get around than in your cars or on the existing bus route,'” the organizer translates. The survey in light of the results.
Costs, other “brakes”.
To explain the defeat Regarding the social acceptability of the tramway, Eric Lacroix always points out the expected cost overruns. Data obtained during the previous round of the SOM surveythe sun The January poll showed that streetcar supporters, while willing to defend it, were not committed to doing so at any cost, and that the bill’s rise could undermine their support.
Over the months, it became clear that the appearance of a tram line on the streets of Quebec would cost upwards of $4 billion. After opening the door to the possibility that the project would be exposed to the repercussions of inflation, Mayor Bruno Marchand recently confirmed this beyond any doubt – and on several occasions – during his numerous public appearances.
The poll organizer points out that “the 32% that we measure today is not necessarily a big surprise.” The more cost overruns are announced, the more cautious people become in the Quebec region. »
Even as the pages of the calendar are turned, no one yet knows how much the authorities will have to pay for the tram. The “ambiguity” is likely to destabilize already fragile acceptance, according to Mr. Lacroix.
“The bottom line is the fear of cost overruns remains the greatest obstacle to social acceptance.”
— Eric Lacroix, Vice President and Head of Business Strategy at SOM
“What we have measured since January is that there is a clear sensitivity to cost overruns,” he recalls. Right now, we only know that it will cost more, so those who said they would stop supporting them regardless of the surplus are probably the ones getting off the train. »
So the decline is not necessarily over. The more noticeable the additional costs become, the fewer fans there will be, always predicts the Vice President and Head of Business Strategy of SOM.
“It’s really fear of the impacts on municipal taxes,” he explains. We’re in an inflationary context, where people are affected from all sides, so the extra dollars in the tax bill because of cost overruns, people are not willing to deal with that. »
In an editorial interview with the sun Last week, Quebec’s mayor attributed part of the tram’s shortfall in social acceptance to official opposition speeches at city hall and private radio stations. However, Bruno Marchand realized that the economic context represented the “biggest stone” in his shoe.
‘Other factors of concern’
The mayor’s political opponents accused him of complaining about the giant project since his return from vacation. This is enough to fuel the surrounding “skepticism”, according to Mr. Lacroix.
Meanwhile, Canadian Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre rejects the possibility of Ottawa funding its share of the additional light rail bill, if elected. “If he becomes prime minister, will there still be 40% of the bill paid by the federal government under a Conservative government?” he asks. “We are not sure, and this increases concern.”
In short, “worrying factors are accumulating,” he says, “which means it is very difficult to gain momentum in the region.”
“We are not seeing an increase in the numbers we currently have. The survey concludes that the situation is not stabilizing, because concerns remain.
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