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Minister Guilbault tables the bill creating Mobilité Infra Québec

Photo: Francis Vachon Le Devoir Quebec Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, explained the objectives of her project to the editorial team of “Devoir” in Quebec on May 3.

Isabelle Porter in Quebec

Published yesterday at 10:55 a.m. Updated yesterday at 5:13 p.m.

  • Quebec

The Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, tabled Bill 61 on Thursday creating Mobilité Infra Québec so that major public transport projects land faster and at lower cost.

The future agency will have the mission of “opportunity analysis, planning and implementation of complex transport projects”. But only when the government entrusts him with responsibility. Mobilité Infra Québec, which Ms. Guilbault nicknames “MIQ”, will therefore have no power of initiative and it is not she who will choose which projects to prioritize. According to the wording of the bill, the agency will be able to “carry out transport analyses”, but “always at the request of the minister responsible for Transport and Sustainable Mobility”.

Minister Guilbault wants in particular to ensure that the government is no longer “dependent” on the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) for the completion of major projects such as the Réseau express métropolitain (REM).< /p>

The new agency is expected to have between 30 and 50 employees and a budget of $6 million in the first year and just over $9 million thereafter. Ms. Guilbault wants it to be operational in 2025. The first three projects carried out by MIQ must be the project which will be proposed by the CDPQ in the capital, the Structuring Project for Eastern Montreal, as well as the Structuring Transport Project for the South Shore having to pass through the axis of Taschereau Boulevard.

In its beginnings, the agency will devote itself exclusively to public transport projects, but the minister does not does not close the door to its possibly being responsible for road or bridge projects, among others.

Subsidiaries and expropriations

The bill also grants MIQ the power to acquire immovables by expropriation. At the same time, it would limit the ability of cities and local transportation companies to generate real estate revenue, believes the Société de transport de Montréal (STM).

Leaders of Mobilité Infra Québec will also be able to offer employees working conditions distinct from those of the government, outside of the State's collective agreements.

The Legault government gives also gives the future agency the power to acquire subsidiaries. Questioned on the subject, Minister Guilbault said she had no specific plans for a subsidiary in the short term, but she hopes it would be possible to do so, as is the case in British Columbia.

Unlike Santé Québec, however, MIQ will not have authority over municipal transport companies. The bill, however, changes certain rules of the game between the government and cities. Indeed, it stipulates “that in the absence of agreement with the minister, the amount of the financial contribution of a municipality or other organization to a complex transport project is set by the government”.

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More “collaborative” calls for tenders

As announced, another bill, this time on public contracts, was tabled just after, Thursday, by Minister Jonatan Julien. Bill 62 introduces a “new type of “partnership” contract for the construction of public infrastructure.

Minister Julien affirms that this new approach could reduce by 25% the project completion time and 15% their cost. “When a citizen sends us back a dollar with their taxes, they have worked hard for that dollar,” explained Minister Guilbault.

Even if it is linked to the destiny of Mobilité Infra Québec, Bill 62 has a much broader scope and will apply to all public infrastructures, from schools to health facilities, including bridges and the homes of the elderly.

The government’s intention here is that companies taking part in tenders can intervene earlier in the design of projects through a “collaborative approach”. This would involve “holding bilateral workshops, pooling resources and information related to the infrastructure project, as well as consensual sharing of risks and, as the case may be, savings generated or gains made and losses suffered during the duration of the contract.”

The two ministers argue that this could convince more consortia to participate in calls for tenders. Companies would then have to assume less financial risk, which would reduce reserves for unforeseen costs. Mr. Julien has also stressed on several occasions that this “revolutionary” approach was “highly appreciated by the industry”.

Questioned about the risk of opening the door to new forms of collusion, Minister Julien was almost offended. “Collusive practices, I don’t see how they are accentuated, quite the contrary,” he said. “It doesn’t bring more risk. »

To make things more flexible, the Legault government will have to modify the Directive on the management of major public infrastructure projects, which was created in the wake of the Charbonneau commission. The government also plans to group projects together to reduce design costs, calling the initiative “program management.” This approach was tested in the school network, where the projects of 17 schools were coordinated. In particular, it made it possible to reduce the cost of professional fees by 60%.

According to Minister Julien, the “collaborative mode” will not be required for all projects. The “surfacing of Highway 20”, for example, will always be done in “traditional mode”, since it is a simple type of project for which the prices are known.

Bill 62 would also allow the Treasury Board to award contracts by mutual agreement following unsuccessful calls for tenders.

The latest Quebec Infrastructure Plan plans projects worth more than $150 billion over 10 years.

A mixed reception for the plans of Ministers Guilbault and Julien

The two bills tabled Thursday by the government, including the one creating the new Mobilité Infra Québec agency, have raised concerns and questions in the public transport community.

The president of the board of directors of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), Éric Allan Caldwell, does not hide his disappointment with Bill 62 aimed at accelerating the completion of infrastructure projects . “The problem is that it doesn’t apply to us. We have development projects with the extension of the blue line, but we mainly have asset maintenance projects. We have an investment portfolio of $20 billion over a ten-year horizon,” he emphasizes.

“If the new methods make it possible, as Minister Julien says, to generate savings of 15%, […] we absolutely do not understand why we are being deprived of these means,” adds -il.

Mr. Caldwell also deplores that Quebec has not granted transport companies the right to develop real estate on sites that belong to them, such as metro entrances, which would allow them to generate income, as is done in Ontario and elsewhere in the world. “It’s one of the good ways to bring funding to public transportation. We asked for it. But we understand that this [right] will be given to the agency, but not to the transport companies. We are very disappointed. »

As for the thorny question of financing public transport, it remains unresolved despite the creation of the agency, he concludes.

The Union of Municipalities of Quebec (UMQ) also expresses concerns. “The preservation of municipal autonomy, particularly in terms of territorial and financial planning, is essential,” underlined the organization on the social network X. “The question of financing remains unresolved. »

Sarah V. Doyon, general director of Trajectoire Québec, is surprised by the planning mandate granted to the new agency. The proposal presented differs from the initial intentions expressed by Minister Guilbault, who placed more emphasis on carrying out projects, she indicates. In this context, Ms. Doyon questions the duplication of mandates and the role assigned to the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority (ARTM), which must also do planning. “If the ARTM’s mandate is just limited to fares and the Opus card, that seems limited to me,” she said.

For its part, the ARTM was cautious. “The roles and responsibilities in terms of public transportation planning in the greater Montreal region will have to be clarified soon,” indicates the organization in a statement sent to the media. “We will actively participate in future consultations on the subject. »

The mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, intends to comment on the matter on Friday from Drummondville, where the National Meeting on the Future of Collective Transport organized by the UMQ is being held.< /p>

Jeanne Corriveau

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116