Jacques Boissinot The Canadian Press The Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault , said Friday that this was a “final offer” from the government, which will table its economic update next week.
The mayors of the Metropolitan Community of Montreal (CMM) say they welcome Quebec's commitment to absorb 70% of the deficit of transport companies for 2024. However, they urge the government to base its calculations on real deficits, an element which is still in dispute.
At the end of Friday afternoon, a few hours after the presentation to the municipalities by the government of the “final offer” in the thorny issue of transport financing collective, the mayors of the CMM, which represents 82 municipalities in the metropolitan region, were cautious.
“In solidarity, the municipalities of the metropolitan region take […] note and welcome the government's commitment to pay 70% of the deficit of transport companies for the year 2024, reiterating that this agreement must be established on the basis of real deficit,” the CMM said in a brief statement. “An urgent settlement is expected in the context of municipal budgets due to be presented in the coming weeks. »
For its part, the Quebec Urban Transport Association intends to analyze the offer, but is of the opinion that the structural deficits are not the result of poor management on the part of transport companies, but rather of a “crumbling » government contributions for years.
Friday morning, Quebec made a “final offer” to the cities by offering to pay 70% of the anticipated deficits of the 10 public transport companies in Quebec for 2024. The government has therefore proposed to pay an amount of 265 million dollars out of the 400 million claimed by the cities.
“I think it’s a considerable effort given the fact that we are in negotiations with the Common Front and public sector workers. And we have a lot of expenses linked to education, health and our missions,” explained the Minister of Transport and Sustainable Mobility, Geneviève Guilbault, in the morning.
The Legault government also wants to know what is happening in transport companies and examine their management more closely. Quebec therefore intends to impose performance audits on the 10 transport companies as well as the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority in order to reduce their structural deficits.
We cannot just add endless money in these deficits. We need to examine ourselves, restructure financing and find ways to save at source.
— Geneviève Guilbault
“We can’t just put endless money into these deficits. We need to look at ourselves, restructure financing and find ways to save at source,” she said. The minister also plans to set up a joint committee which will look into optimization solutions. “It can’t continue like this. Public funds must be managed carefully. »
Geneviève Guilbault stressed that transport companies, which report to municipalities, made decisions over which the government had no right to review. She notably mentioned free public transportation for seniors in Montreal and the high salaries of executives.
As for the risks of a reduction in services brandished by municipalities, such as closing the metro at 11 p.m. and reducing the number of buses, the minister maintained that it would be up to transport companies to decide. “It’s up to [them] to make their decisions,” she declared, while suggesting that they “adapt the offer” to users’ post-pandemic habits.
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Cities demanded government help to make up the deficit projected estimated at $2.5 billion over five years. Initially, Quebec had proposed to cover 20% of the residual deficit of public transport companies for the period 2024-2028.
With The Canadian Press