Quebec to pay off 70% of transit company deficits by 2024

By The Canadian Press

QUÉBEC – The CAQ government will pay off 70 per cent of the deficits of Quebec’s 10 public transit companies in 2024.

Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault made the announcement Friday morning in Quebec City, saying it was a “final offer” from the government, which will table its economic update next week.

The investment amounts to $265 million.

Minister Guilbault insisted that her government believes deeply in public transit.

However, she indicated that Quebec cannot inject money “ad infinitum” into transit companies, which she believes will have to make optimization and organizational efforts.

The government will be carrying out performance audits in all companies and at the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM).

“We can’t just keep spending more and more, with higher and higher salaries, with revenues that aren’t necessarily increasing at the same level as the increases in operating expenses,” the minister maintained.

Quebec had originally proposed to cover 20 per cent of the residual deficit of public transit companies for the period 2024-2028. This proposal was deemed unacceptable by the cities, and insufficient to maintain service frequency.

With the pandemic and the rise of telecommuting, the structural deficit of public transit companies increased. The cities argued that they could not finance 80 per cent of the structural deficit, since they are not allowed to run deficits.

“This is something that will affect services and the money into the capacity of all those 84 cities and municipalities to cover for the lack of money there is,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, at a press scrum on Friday.

“For many cities within the CMM, not only might it have an impact on their budget like Montreal but the also on their services and they have so little already,” Plante added.

“At this point, the pressure is definitely more on the minster herself. When you’re supposed to talk with your partners for so many months, and I have to say it, we came up proactively with possible avenues, scenarios, solutions, and we only got an answer on Oct 13., this is not serious, this is putting us in a place where we cannot breathe.”

On Friday afternoon, after a meeting with the CMM, the municipalities of the metropolitan region, said in a statement they welcomed the government’s commitment to pay 70 per cent of the transit companies’ deficit for 2024, while reiterating that this agreement must be established on the basis of the actual deficit.

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