Quebec government offering to cover most deficits of public transit agencies

Click to play video: 'Quebec increases public transit deficit offer to 70%'
Quebec increases public transit deficit offer to 70%
WATCH: A new offer is on the table to help balance the books of all the transit agencies operating in Quebec. All of them are running in the red. The Quebec government is willing to cover 70 per cent of their combined deficits. But advocates say it's too little too late and some fear users could end up paying the price. Global's Tim Sargeant reports. – Nov 3, 2023

The transport minister is making a new offer to all transit agencies operating in Quebec: to cover up to 70 per cent of their combined deficits in 2024, an amount of $265 million.

Geneviève Guilbault made the announcement at a press conference in Quebec City Friday morning.

“This is major because we already put more money than ever before in public transit,” Guilbault said.

The amount is significantly more than what was originally offered several weeks ago but Guilbault said it’s not the government’s responsibility to bail out transit agencies as Quebec lawmakers don’t write their budgets nor operate their systems.

“It cannot be a bottomless pit. And so we have to be responsible and to find solutions,” Guilbault said.

The transport minister is also planning a performance audit of all transit agencies to see if additional savings can be found.

Story continues below advertisement

“We have to be responsible and to make sure that we’re efficient,” she said.

In an email to Global News, Julie Brunet, a spokesperson for the Montreal Metropolitan Community, an organization that represents 82 cities and towns in greater Montreal, writes that the cities and towns welcome the 70 per cent offer.

The mayor of Montreal said earlier in the morning that she was disappointed the government waited until now to make the announcement when provincial officials were first approached last spring to find a solution.

“The process is not serious. The process is not coherent and to be honest, it’s not really respectful to partners like cities,” Valérie Plante said.

Advocates for public transit use argue not enough is being done in the near future to encourage more people to use public transit.

Story continues below advertisement

“Right now what the government is saying is we’re not going to develop at all in the next years,” Samuel Pagé-Plouffe, a co-ordinator at l’Alliance TRANSIT, told Global News.

Pagé-Plouffe says he fears service cuts could be imminent as cities are in the late stages of preparing their budgets and the funds being offered by the transport minister are only being made now.

“The offer comes very late, very late. And we’re worried that the services might be cut,” he said.

Transit enthusiasts just hope that won’t happen as operators try to convince more people to use public transit.

Sponsored content