Deficit of transport companies for 2025 | Guilbault and the mayors agree to settle the file before the summer

(Quebec) The Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault, and the mayors of large cities agreed on at least one thing during their virtual meeting on Monday: the file on the deficits of transport companies for 2025 must be resolved before the summer.

The parties do not want to relive the saga of last fall, although they are once again engaged in a war of numbers behind the scenes.

The acrimonious tone of recent weeks was put aside at the summit meeting. The Metropolitan Community of Montreal (CMM), chaired by Mayor Valérie Plante, also welcomed Geneviève Guilbault’s “openness to dialogue” at the end of the exercise. But no one wanted to testify about it in an interview. All parties have made do with written statements for now.

The Press had revealed, a few hours before the start of this meeting, that the Legault government is offering some $200 million to cover part of the deficit of Greater Montreal’s transportation companies1. Demand for the latter is twice as high.

For the CMM, this is a good start. However, she refuses to comment in detail on Geneviève Guilbault’s proposal. As it was a meeting bringing together the mayors responsible for transport companies from across Quebec, there was no negotiation around the offer.

Another meeting with the mayors of the CMM only will be held on May 24. This will be a better opportunity to talk about numbers, they say.

The CMM “considers that this is the beginning of a conversation to continue on the financing of public transportation.” “Just like us, Mme Guilbault indicated that he wanted to avoid a late outcome like last year and settle the financing for this year before the summer. She also let it be known that she wanted to plan the next two years in the fall,” she adds.

In a written statement sent by her office, the minister confirmed that “elected officials agreed on the need to resolve the issue of 2025 deficits by the summer. Further meetings will take place in the coming weeks.”

For its part, the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority (ARTM) says it is “optimistic to see discussions progress on the financing of the 2025 budget in May rather than in the fall”.

“For several weeks, we have been very active with elected officials and determined to facilitate the achievement of consensus to resolve the impasse,” she continues. We will continue to support elected officials so that everyone can be well equipped and thus enable us to reach an agreement by the summer to ensure financing of the 2025 budget.”

Geneviève Guilbault “repeated” to the mayors that, “to be able to find solutions to financing issues, we must ensure that we work on common and rigorous quantified bases because this is a question of taxpayers’ money”. This is a thinly veiled allusion to the war of numbers going on behind the scenes. She wants to get the facts straight on the finances of transport companies.

Quebec intends to provide aid only for the portion of the transport companies’ deficit attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is what he calls the “cyclical” deficit, the one resulting from the drop in ridership and the fall in fare revenues of transport companies. The government considers that it has a role to play in reducing it.

This cyclical deficit should be distinguished from the “structural” deficit, the responsibility of which lies solely with transport companies, according to the government. Among other things, they must clean up their expenses to eliminate them, he argues.

In Greater Montreal, the total operating deficit of transport companies amounts to 561 million, calculates the ARTM. This is the shortfall of the transport companies of Montreal, Laval, Longueuil, and Exo.

The ARTM estimates that around half of this sum, 284 million, represents a “cyclical” deficit. This is the one for which the government intends to offer assistance representing approximately 70%, or approximately $200 million.

The ARTM is demanding double: 421 million.

The Union of Quebec Municipalities considers that the government’s offer is a good start, but that it is necessary to address the financing of public transportation in the longer term. She is organizing a “national meeting” on the subject on Friday in Drummondville. Geneviève Guilbault has not yet responded to her invitation.

During Monday’s meeting, the minister expressed to the mayors her “desire to ensure predictability” in the financing of public transport, “by ruling this fall on the amounts for the coming years, once (she has) received the audits” on the performance of transport companies.

Transportation companies outside Greater Montreal (Quebec, Lévis, Gatineau, Saguenay and Sherbrooke) have an anticipated operating deficit totaling just over 60 million for 2025.



Leave a Comment