National meeting on the future of public transport | Mayors ask Quebec to index the gas tax

The question of financing monopolized the National Meeting on the Future of Public Transport, a summit organized urgently by the Union of Municipalities of Quebec (UMQ). Who should pay for the construction of new infrastructure, for maintenance deficits and for the accelerated electrification of bus fleets? The mayors have found one solution: they are asking Quebec to index the tax on gasoline and registration.

(Drummondville) Index the tax on gasoline and registration

The mayors of the UMQ asked the government to “make public transportation a national priority throughout Quebec”, and to index the tax on gasoline and registration, which have not changed for years.

They also want the Quebec government to:

  • Rebalances the investments planned in the Quebec Infrastructure Plan by devoting a greater relative share to public transportation compared to roads.
  • Diversifies sources of revenue for public transportation in order to compensate for the anticipated drop in revenue linked to the fuel tax from 2025-2026.
  • Simplifies the implementation by the municipal sector of the registration tax and the fuel tax.
  • Ensures that the future Mobilité Infra Québec agency will respect municipal autonomy in matters of land planning and financial management, particularly with regard to the financial contribution of municipal organizations to a project.

“Disastrous” to require cities to pay for public transit projects

To continue the implementation of major public transport projects, Mobilité Infra Québec, the new agency created by the Minister of Transport and Sustainable Mobility, Geneviève Guilbault, should have independent sources of income, believes Valérie Plante. The mayor of Montreal believes that it would be “disastrous” to require cities to pay part of the bill at all times.

“Having a dedicated fund would really help a lot, it would give predictability and it would allow decisions to be made in the longer term,” said Plant at press briefing on Friday.

The mayor was reacting to the tabling of the bill aimed at creating the new agency. Minister Geneviève Guilbault believes that cities should expect to pay part of the bill for carrying out public transportation projects.


The mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, speaks alongside her counterpart from Quebec, Bruno Marchand.

“I expect the municipalities to collaborate and agree on an amount. It is also planned (that in the absence of an agreement), it is the government which will determine the contribution in question,” she said on Thursday.

The mayor of Quebec, Bruno Marchand, vigorously opposes it. ” No. The minister said, it is historic that cities pay for public transport infrastructure networks. It’s not historical. It has happened a few times, with a fee on the REM, and an agreement (on the Quebec City tramway), but it is not historic. The UMQ will participate in the discussions, but beyond that (we need to know) where we are going by 2040, how much does it cost us and how we finance it. It cannot be financed piecemeal, we will not succeed,” he said.

Mme Plante added: “The Montreal metro, the line to Laval, there was no contribution from Laval for that. So it’s not true that it’s historic. And it can’t (become) wall-to-wall, that would be disastrous. »

Hello to electrification

The mayors ask the Quebec government to recognize that it has “an influence on the structural deficit of transport companies” because of its targets for electrification of bus fleets, and want Minister Geneviève Guilbault to delay “the achievement of public transport electrification targets” since this “limits the sums available for maintaining assets and adds pressure on operations”.

Mayor Bruno Marchand said that for his city alone, the electrification bill is 3 billion. And researcher Brigitte Bouchard-Milord, from Polytechnique Montréal, argued that it was much more profitable to convince a motorist to take a diesel-powered bus, which removes four tonnes of GHGs, than to replace this bus with a bus electric, which represents a reduction of one ton of GHG per passenger.

“We hear you on electrification. We listened to you. The targets in the Green Economy Plan are well intentioned. (…) We have very, very ambitious targets: 55% (of electric urban buses) in 2030; but we can clearly hear that it puts a lot of pressure. I’m thinking about something, I’ll get back to you,” said Guilbault.

Many complaints

Municipal elected officials raised many other grievances during this meeting on public transport.

  • Cities with less than 100,000 inhabitants do not have the right to own their bus fleet, a barrier for municipalities like Drummondville, Granby, and for organizations like the Régie intermunicipale de transport Gaspésie–Îles-de -Madeleine.
  • The Régie de transport du Bas-Saint-Laurent has been waiting for almost a year for the Legault government to authorize it to implement a gas tax of $0.02 per liter to finance public transportation.
  • The cities of the northern crown of Montreal must live with the operating deficit of the Eastern train, whose attendance collapsed with the arrival of the REM, which prevents it from using the tunnel under Mount Royal and significantly extends its travel time.
  • It might be time to take inspiration from “the very socialist Doug Ford,” quipped the mayor of Repentigny, Nicolas Dufour, who hopes for a long-term vision from the government, with projects that will serve his region.
  • Éric Alan Caldwell, chairman of the board of directors of the Société de transport de Montréal, says he was “offended” to be called “beggar” by Prime Minister François Legault.


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