Laval plans bold bid to save Mirabel

By Robert Frank

Laval intends to ask Quebec to complete Highway 13 all the way to Mirabel Airport, which it wants the federal government to keep alive, David de Cotis told The Suburban.

“We’re working on a memorandum that will ask the Montreal Metropolitan Community to support fast-tracking the project,” the vice-chairman of Laval’s executive committee said in an interview.

“It will reduce congestion on Highway 15 and encourage other companies to come to Laval, because it will be the perfect place to import to and export from by air freight,” de Cotis enthused. “The land there was already expropriated a long time ago. Why not take advantage of that?”

When the federal government decided to build Mirabel in 1970, air traffic was growing rapidly, year after year. No one foresaw that a Middle East oil embargo, two years later, would send jet fuel prices through the stratosphere, dramatically raising the cost of air travel and putting paid to the feds projections.

Then, in 1976, René Lévesque’s first Parti québécois government halted construction on Highway 13. Initially intended to spark a spat with Ottawa, successive Quebec governments have failed to complete the highway beyond where the North Shore meets Laval. A planned high-speed rail line that was to link Montreal to Mirabel also came to naught.

De Cotis disclosed the plan in the wake of a steady stream of criticism from political opponents over the city’s handling of Laval’s economy.

Last week, defeated mayoral candidate Jean-Claude Gobé sent a letter to the Laval chamber of commerce calling for an investment and development summit.

“We want to gather key Laval stakeholders to stimulate development,” opposition spokesman Jean Desautels told The Suburban. “Laval is experiencing an economic crisis, and we need to come up with new ideas about how to stimulate the economy [here].” 

“The pending provincial budget should have an impact on Laval, and Laval should be active in asking for more credit toward development, but we will have to wait for [newly appointed Finance Minister] Carlos Leitão to table his budget to find out,” Desautels said in an interview.

“Gobé’s accusations are absolutely false,” countered de Cotis. “Mouvement Desjardins ceo Monique Leroux recently told the chamber of commerce that her economists predict that Laval will lead Quebec in economic growth.”

“We were very encouraged that right after we took power, Standard & Poors increased Laval’s credit rating,” he added. “In 2014, we’re looking at starting to build Place Bell. The Grande bibliothèque project is in the design phase. We’re proposing building a trade centre in Laval unlike anything that currently exists in Quebec, and sometime during the next few weeks, we expect to announce a new, $100 million investment here.”

“When we were elected, we inherited something that we’re trying to change,” concluded an upbeat de Cotis. “It’s going to take time, but we’re moving much more rapidly than anyone could have anticipated. We’re very positive and anticipate that 2014 will be a great year for Laval—and that that will be just the tip of the iceberg for us.”

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