Quebec public transit workers protest downtown  

"Public transit doesn't have to be managed like a business," says Anthony Latour, of the union of STL bus drivers, as public transit workers demonstrated outside the Quebec Transport Ministry's office in downtown Montreal. Anastasia Dextrene reports.

Bus drivers and other unionized workers protested in downtown Montreal Tuesday morning to denounce what they say is a lack of funding for public transportation in Quebec.

The drivers, maintenance workers and other staff from public transport companies demonstrated outside the office of Geneviève Guilbault, Quebec’s minister of transport and sustainable mobility.

They are calling for increased funding from the province to ensure the “quality and efficiency” of public transit in Quebec, organizers say.

“People that take public transit are not second-class citizens,” said Anthony Latour, vice-president of the SCFP. “And the public transit is not an expense. It doesn’t have to be managed like a business.

“It’s investments in every other part of society. When you take public transit, every other part of society, education, health, everything are just going to be better.”

Quebec public transit workers protest outside Quebec transport minister’s office in downtown Montreal Nov. 14, 2023. (Anastasia Dextrene, CityNews)

The protesters were from three major unions: the Conseil provincial du secteur transport terrestre (CPSTT); the Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique (SCFP); and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN).

“We’re here today to show the Minister of Transport that public transport is an important thing for society,” said Dany Levasseur, a business agent with the union representing STM drivers.

“We want to tell the minister we need money. People need money. People need public transit in Montreal.”

CSN president Caroline Senneville says allocating more resources to public transit going forward is what will put Montreal ahead.

“If it takes me less time to go from point A to point B in public transit, I won’t take my car,” she said. “And that’s what we need. We need efficient, on time and a lot of public transportation is the way of the future.”

Quebec public transit workers protest outside Quebec transport minister’s office in downtown Montreal Nov. 14, 2023. (Anastasia Dextrene, CityNews)

Guilbault was asked to comment on the protest at an unrelated press conference Tuesday.

I have the greatest respect for those bus drivers and all those people who work in public transit because without them we wouldn’t have any public transportation, so I want to thank them,” she said. “But we are not their employer, first thing, and second, we have never put more money in public transportation.

“I think we have to optimize some things, that’s why I called for audits last week, two weeks ago, I said that all 10 societies plus the ARTM (Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain) – so we include the government in that, all societies and the ARTM – will be audited so we can see, is there a way to manage those societies in a more efficient way so we don’t have those deficits year after year.”

Among other issues raised was the ripple effect that more efficient transport could have on the environment and the Quebec government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“We all know the government wants to reduce the (greenhouse gases),” said Julie Sigouin, president of the union representing STL drivers. “So if you want to go that way, you have to put more money into the transport.

“It’s not enough to keep the service as it is right now.”

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