The childish politics of Bernard Drainville
It was pretty delightful to see Bernard Drainville cry today. The current MNA for Lévis let it all out as he explained that the dream of something called the 3e lien is over; he couldn’t deliver on his promise.
This week, the CAQ admitted that the mega project was impossible. This made Drainville cry. He trusted in God (Legault) that him deliver him. He didn’t and we all got to delight in Him crying.
Watching Drainville in this press conference was like watching a nine year old in a media scrum learn that there is no Santa Clause and, even worse, now that he knows, there will be no presents next Christmas because you’re a big boy now.
Poor little Bernie.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the 3e lien was the most expensive, most fantastical, most ridiculous public infrastructure proposal in Canada at the moment. It was right up there with Edmonton’s promise to transport people via slingshot or Halifax’s plan to bury the citadel so that the Killam Apartment REIT can build condos on top. Both of these examples though are not real.
Here’s how it was supposed to work: for some number of billions of dollars, Quebec would build a tunnel from the city of Lévis (population 150,000, children included) to the city of Québec (population 550,000, children included) under the St. Lawrence. This would be done to relieve pressure on the bridges that already connect the two sides (and that badly need work) and the ferry that also already connects the two sides.
After years of fiddling with how they would do it, the proposed plan, from the slope looking like something drawn by a clown to the proposed trajet literally looking like a hamster run, the 3e lien was unworkable by any adult measure. It would have been just over 8 km, or more than five times the length of the Lafontaine tunnel in Montreal (I am making myself laugh just writing this. Imagine!) It would require tunnelling both under the St. Lawrence River and the bedrock of Quebec City’s upper town. And it would surface in the middle of a residential quarter. And then, once they surface, people would use their cars and enter a city downtown that was literally built for horse and buggy.
If you’re wondering who could have ever cooked up such a stupid idea, well the answer is Quebec City’s uniquely, allegedly, proto fascist radio sphere. Seeing increasing calls for better public transit, one station in particular produced stickers to support something called the 3e lien — a third link over, or under, the St. Lawrence. The campaign didn’t specify what it would be but it would ensure that people would continue to spend time in their car, prisoners of listening to their radio stations.
And oh boy, did they manage to convince Quebecers that this was a good idea. Never mind that it already took less than 30 minutes to go from downtown Lévis to downtown Québec City (it’s about 25 KM and is mostly uhhh residential where ummm speed limits force people to slow down). And never mind that there has never been a demonstrated need for it; it was always just about public opinion surveys. Never mind these things. The 3e lien was popular. So popular that it, surprise, was used in two elections by the CAQ to sweep the regions.
Years ago, before the hamster run proposal had been made but after the CAQ had promised to build a 3e lien, I asked a friend of mine who was a bureaucrat if there was any workable option. Aside from putting a highway down the middle of Ile d’Orléans and then replacing the Pont Félix Leclerc, a plan that actually makes some (some) sense but that would have been political suicide for the CAQ, there was nothing. There was no magic that the bureaucrats could work to make this thing happen. It was pure fantasy but it didn’t matter because it was popular.
So here we are: one year after the last provincial election and the CAQ’s ability to use the 3e lien to get votes is drying up. They wouldn’t have been able to maintain the charade much longer: at some point, drilling would have to start and someone would be caught on tape admitting that this would never happen. And so what better timing than now? Any later and it might impact the CAQ’s success in 2026.
But let me get back to Drainville. This will not likely destroy his political career and so I’m honestly not sure what he’s crying over. And, as far as political failures go, this one at least didn’t threaten to drive Muslims and Sikhs out of the province through a racist and ridiculous religious charter of values.
However, just before he cried in a press conference, Drainville did what he has done before over the course of his shitty little political career: he pivoted and attacked religious minorities. You see, Drainville announced that he, as Minister of Education, will ban children from praying in public school. No student will be allowed to pray at school: not to pray Zuhr in a quiet space in the building, not to sit quietly in a room and ask the spirit world for help, not to come together with your siblings one afternoon and hold each other and ask for God’s mercy when you find out that your grandmother has just died.
Will students still be able to stare at the ceiling and pray to St. Jude in the middle of math tests? Will my kid still sing Mass at the basilica as part of the music program (yes, literal Mass, with communion and all)? Will the public schools of my neighbourhood — St. Jean Baptiste, St. Patrick, Saint Sacrement, St. Malo, (St.) Marguerite Bourgeoys — will they be renamed? Will the cross come down outside of École Joseph Perreault?
Drainville, crying, standing in the National Assembly under the watchful eye of Jesus himself in the midst of the ecstasy of public torture by crucifixion answers this question for us: of course not. He’s only interested in attacking Muslim kids.
Mr. Drainville, Minister of being a baby Lala la couche, discovers Santa was François Legault all along and decides to take it out on actual, literal children. Like the racist hack that he, it has been alleged, is.
But hey, shoutout to Marwah Rizqy who had the chance to tell Drainville to get his emotions under control after he stormed out of a debate, later on.