Public transportation | Ottawa will also have to take out the checkbook, warns Geneviève Guilbault

Accused of lacking ambition for public transportation, Minister Geneviève Guilbault retorts that the “disengagement” of the federal government does not help resolve the impasse. She urges Ottawa to do more in the current situation.

“I’ve been trying to explain to people for a while that we’re the only ones who still generously support public transit. The federal government supported the industry during the pandemic, but then it completely disengaged,” she said Wednesday in an interview with The Press.

She claims to have seen with a “very good eye” the exit of the transport companies of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, who demanded Tuesday in Ottawa to advance the funding promised in the new Permanent Fund for public transport.

These sums must be paid in 2026, but the carriers would like to see it born “at the beginning of 2024”, i.e. now. “The last program was 2023 and the next in 2026. This means that for three years, in addition to not financing operations, Ottawa will not have financed infrastructure projects, while having a very green speech” , denounces Mme Guilbault.

She says she made this argument on February 22, during the annual meeting of Transport ministers, in the presence of her federal counterpart, Pablo Rodriguez. His office had not responded to our questions on this subject at the time of writing.

Audits, solutions?

All this comes at a time when in Quebec, new negotiations must take place between the government and transport companies to find a way forward for a “recurring and predictable” funding framework over five years. Last year, the discussions ended abruptly.

In the government budget, the amount planned over 10 years in the Quebec Infrastructure Plan (PQI) has not changed for public transport, remaining at 13.8 billion, the same level as last year. The way in which this sum will be broken down remains unknown.


The Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante

“We are particularly concerned about the disengagement in public transportation, even though it is an essential service for the population,” reacted the mayor of Montreal and president of the Metropolitan Community of Montreal (CMM), Valérie Plante, in using the same type of speech.

Quebec says more details will be revealed after ongoing performance audits of transportation companies, which are due to conclude this summer. “I still want my five-year agreement, but we have to see how we can reorganize things to reduce the deficits,” argues Mme Guilbault on this subject.

“The audits will give us leads, in parallel with all the optimization work we are carrying out. All this is in progress, but what is certain is that it is not up to the government to finance structural deficits on which we have no impact,” she concludes.

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