The annual struggle of public transport organizations

History repeats itself in Quebec’s public and semi-transit community. The organizations Transport Vas-y de Rivière-du-Loup, Transport Roulami au Témiscouata, Adaptive and Collective Transport of the Basque Country and Saint Cyprien are still waiting for the financial aid promised for 2021. A situation that is putting pressure on the ability to maintain services for citizens.

Every year, the problem is the same for organizations providing public and air-conditioned transport services: reimbursement is expected, and still is, from state assistance programs, which represent a significant part of annual budgets …

“We receive our payments several months after the end of our fiscal year. We haven’t received anything yet for public transit in 2021. It’s not at all normal that it takes so long and things don’t change. There is a culture to review,” said Transport Vas-y Chairman, Louis-Marie Bastille.

“It’s like a worker getting half his salary for a year in the middle of next year. He will find it very difficult to honor his obligations, he will have to budget very tightly and live on the backlog. You can’t work like this all the time, it doesn’t make sense.”

On April 25, the Union for Adaptive and Collective Transport of Quebec (UTACQ) launched a final appeal to the government, asking the Quebec Department of Transport (MTQ) to pay “immediately” the unpaid financial aid. In a press release distributed at the provincial level, he also called for the assistance programs to be better adapted to the realities of each province, but also to the significant increase in transportation costs.

All organizations in the region added their votes to this Quebec outing, which also received support from the Fédération québécoise desunicipalités (FQM).

“For us, it was important to support him, because things have to change, even if we are in good financial health. Supporting FMQ gives more weight to our demands and we hope that we will be listened to,” Mr. Bastille explained.

According to local organizations, the unpredictability of financing and the uncertainties associated with its frequency complicate daily management. He explains that they are annually deprived of an important part of their budget, when they have to pay the salaries of their suppliers, gasoline and the salaries of their drivers.

In Rivière-du-Loup, for example, Transport Vas-y is eagerly awaiting the payment of $225,000 to fund public transit in 2021, plus $117,000 (from $234,000) for the modified component. Assistance from MTQ accounts for 65% of the annual budget of approximately $700,000, with the organization also drawing on funding from users and the Migrant Resource Center in Rivière-du-Loup.

In an ideal world, we would have received the payments at the beginning of 2021 to fund services provided in the following months. Currently, we are in April 2022, after more than a year and we have nothing on the collective side. The maintenance of our services does not worry at the moment, but it remains incomprehensible”, confirms Nicole Russell, General Manager of Transport Vas-y.

Had to pinch the doors

According to UTACQ, no organization or immigrant resource center in Quebec has received a subsidy from the government’s public transportation assistance programs for 2021 and only half of the expected financial assistance has been paid – “too late” – on adequate transportation.

The Federation regrets the fact that in many cases it is the regional coordination mechanisms and the municipalities that have to provide the necessary cash for the provision of services to users. A reality for the Basques, according to Brigitte Sharon, director of air-conditioned and collective transport for the Basque Country and Saint-Cyprien.

“The MRC is supporting us. Without it, we would not have been able to function under the current conditions,” she says.
Ms. Sharon does not hide the fact that the delays in payments, which are held by the government, have a significant impact on the management of the Basque party organization. Although services are maintained, waiting for amounts creates uncertainty and pressure.

“If something unexpected happens, we are afraid that there is not enough strength to support it,” she says, stressing that the amount to be received – which is fixed for a few years – must also be reviewed and adapted to the reality of the situation. today.

“Gasoline is on the rise. In recent years, we have also increased salaries to follow what is being offered in the industry. But during this time, the support has remained the same.”

Contrasts

In Timiscoata, El Rolamy’s Transport Director, Natalie Dube, recalls that the situation has been difficult for several years, but it is still deteriorating. It indicates, for example, that the previously known dates that funds were received for the modified component are no longer valid.

In order to avoid service interruptions, the organization that currently serves 19 municipalities depends on the surpluses accumulated in recent years. What is disturbing about the current situation is that the ministry is now forcing us to reinvest these surpluses in services. “We’re forced to use it as well while we’re waiting for support, it’s not consistent,” she says.

If we continue to use our surpluses, we also fear that we will not have enough to be able to wait for our support for several months in the coming years. Will we have to take out high-interest loans while waiting for basic support? Does not make sense “.

Ms. Dube regrets the “radio silence” of MTQ in this file and regrets the sudden change in the circumstances for obtaining financial assistance. She also noticed another inconsistency: emergency aid provided for the pandemic.

With the crisis, the government provided us with emergency assistance service. Recently, I received a few hundred emergency bucks, but it’s just a crumb. This is not what we need. We need our regular grants and funding.”

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