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  • Writer's pictureCarey Tate

Beaconsfield's noise barrier supporters remain cautiously optimistic, despite controversy.

It was an animated question-and-answer period during the City of Beaconsfield's council meeting on Monday, August 22nd.

Michel Rheault, president of the Beaconsfield Polluted Corridor Initiative (BPCI), has been awaiting this meeting to hear the initiative's fate; "My understanding is that recently, with all of the movement we have generated with this, we have found some kind of support from outside the City," Rheault shared the morning before the meeting.

PHOTO: City of Beaconsfield; Michel Rheault (left) and Mayor Georges Bourelle (right) at the August 22nd council meeting.

His speculations were realized during the meeting when Mayor Georges Bourelle shared that the City had reached out to the Ministries of Transport (MTQ) and Health to seek confirmation on the highway's health impacts. If it is, in fact, a matter of public health, the wall will government funded.

"Considering the new information and these contradictory positions, I have written twice, in June and July, to the responsible ministers of Transport and Health, François Bonnardel and Christian Dubé, asking them for clarification," Mayor Georges Bourelle said in the press release.

Mayor Bourelle referenced a letter by Dr. David Kaiser, the physician responsible for environmental health at Montreal Public Health, who had voiced concern that residents living within 150 meters of the highway could experience adverse health effects.

At the top of the agenda was the mention of the Léger 360 survey that was conducted to receive public opinion and understand support levels based on districts.

Among the City's total population, the level of agreement with building the noise barrier project is 41%, of whom 26% strongly agree. Among the residents of Beaurepaire and Sussex streets, the number sits at 82%, of whom 79% strongly agree. However, in response to the question, are the project production costs acceptable, 69% somewhat or strongly disagree with the statement. Among the residents of Beaurepaire and Sussex streets: 21% somewhat or strongly disagree.

PHOTO: City of Beaconsfield

Rheault noted that the results of such a survey could be skewed; "The repercussions of the highway do not directly impact two-thirds of the population, so to ask everyone if they want to pay more taxes to fix a problem they are not hurt by, what do you think the survey or referendum will say?"

"The Mayor sees this as a personal problem instead of a community's problem, and as a money problem rather than a health problem,"stated Rheault.

Under the current offer from the Quebec government, the MTQ would pay 75%; the remaining 25% would be paid by the City. According to MTQ estimates, the noise barrier would cost around 60 million dollars, meaning 12-15 million from the City's pocket. The Mayor has not applied for subsidies for the remainder of the cost; Rheault claimed that the Mayor said he should ask for the subsidies himself.

Rheault sent requests for subsidies to Environment Quebec, Environment Canada, Transport Canada, Transport Quebec (MTQ), and the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services. His request was a subsidy of 2-4 million from Environment Canada and Quebec, funding in full from the MTQ, and a request for a subsidized study from the federal transport ministry. It is, however, impossible for a citizen to request a subsidy; only the City may do so.

Rheault has proposed putting money aside from the City's welcome tax, approximately a million a year, to save towards the barrier, and he has requested the subsidies beforementioned. He has suggested placing solar panels along the south side of the 4.8-kilometre wall to generate electricity that could be reduced from the electricity invoice or be sold to Hydro Québec.

PHOTO: Beaconsfield Polluted Corridor Initiative (BPCI)

Rheault sees two arguments to justify the MTQ's total funding of the wall, the first being the data provided by Dr. Kaiser, and the second, he claims, is the history of the MTQ's knowledge of the situation; "Back in 1998, they should have paid for 100% of the wall because they were actually completing a rebuilding of the noisy 20, and that happened after they had already measured deafening noise levels in 1985-87."

Those opposed to the wall made their opinions known during the question and answer period, when a petition against the financing of the wall was presented, with 966 signatures.

Others voiced concerns about the environmental impact of building the wall and the deforestation that would have to take place. Rheault argues that new trees can be planted along the wall.

"After the elections, they will have to sit down and address this. For years we have been fighting alone and fighting Mayors, but now we have the minister of health who is on our side. We have made giant steps in the next few weeks," concluded Rheault.

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