Glimmer of hope in industrial container terminal construction project in Contrecœur: Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra pledges “to find a solution” to ensure that the Montreal Port Authority (MPA) have the necessary funds for this project to go ahead as planned.
Minister Omar Alghabra made this commitment after discussing this file at length with the President and CEO of the APM, Martin Imbleau, on Tuesday. The Contrecœur project, which should see the light of day in the suburbs of Montreal, is considered crucial by the business world in Quebec and Ontario to consolidate the supply chain in the east of the country1.
“Our government, the Ministry of Transport and I understand the importance of the Port of Montreal, not only for the region, not only for Quebec, but for the whole country. As an Ontario MP, I know how valuable the Port of Montreal is to Ontario businesses and citizens,” Alghabra said in a scrum.
The financial package for this important project was turned upside down by inflation. Result: The original invoice no longer holds. Initially, the cost of the project was estimated to be between $750 million and $950 million. But inflationary pressures have forced the MPA in recent weeks to make an urgent appeal to Quebec and Ottawa to ensure that this project sees the light of day.
The Legault government responded to this call in its latest budget by putting an additional $75 million on the table. The MPA was crossing its fingers that Ottawa would also loosen its purse strings in its latest budget, to the tune of 150 million. But Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland did not say a word about it, fueling concern about the feasibility of the project.
The APM then announced that the missing funding had to be found by the end of April so that the project could be set in motion towards the end of the year2, as planned.
By releasing a new envelope in its budget, the Legault government supports the project to the tune of 130 million. The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) is also to offer $300 million in loans. The MPA as well as its private partner – which should be selected during the summer – must complete the financial package. Financial support from the Trudeau government, combined with the additional effort from Quebec, would make it possible to absorb the effects of inflation, according to the APM.
Reached by La Presse on Wednesday, the CEO of the APM, Martin Imbleau, said he was reassured by the words of the Minister of Transport.
“I spoke quite extensively with the minister [Tuesday]. He confirmed to me once again that the expansion of the port at Contrecœur was highly strategic for Quebec, Ontario and Canada. He told me that the Government of Canada intends to be there to financially support the project and he also told me that he was actively working with his teams and the government on the means to do so. He wants to make an announcement soon,” Mr. Imbleau said.
“It was a constructive conversation. Time flies. Time is running out and so it was a positive conversation that keeps us moving forward. We look forward to having confirmations soon,” he added.
Behind the scenes, influential ministers from Quebec within the Trudeau government have taken many steps to ensure that this file is treated as a priority. “It’s a matter of life and death for Contrecœur. Quebec is already there. We cannot not be there. It’s also a matter of fairness with the Port of Vancouver,” said a government source familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The Contrecoeur terminal should be able to handle 1.15 million “twenty-foot equivalent” (TEU) containers annually. The Port of Montreal, which can accommodate up to approximately 2 million metal boxes, is expected to reach full capacity in 2027.