An $8.7 million subsidy from the Legault government to pay off the Port of Quebec’s debt on dock repair projects is raising eyebrows. An “unacceptable” and “disappointing” decision, observers judge.
Last year, the Legault government awarded an $8.7 million subsidy to the Quebec Port Authority (APQ), a federal company.
Everything was voted by decree in March 2022. The Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ) originally granted “a maximum of $8,738,119 in financial assistance in the form of debt service repayment, plus costs and interest over a period of up to 20 years, to complete 14 infrastructure upgrade projects necessary for port operations.
We are mainly talking about repairing various platforms as well as optimizing terminal spaces. GIRAM, a group of experts specializing in heritage, environment and sustainable land development, denounces the fact that the Port of Quebec, a federal company, receives public funds from the pockets of Quebecers. This, according to its president, Pierre-Paul Senechal, is an “anomaly”.
Legault’s government “crosses another line, which is unacceptable,” he said. “How can we politically justify getting the Quebec public treasury to subsidize a company that went all the way to the Supreme Court to fight to escape Quebec laws? […] This Saint-Laurent project, Mr. I wonder if Legault’s brand image has contributed to him “forgetting” constitutional rules. »
For constitutional law professor Patrick Taillan, while the practice is neither illegal nor unconstitutional, “we are facing a symbolic example of the dysfunction of federalism”. He emphasized that the Port of Quebec is a federal responsibility and that investments should be 100% Ottawa’s responsibility. “It’s sad that Quebec is compensating for Ottawa’s inaction. Quebec taxpayers have to assume their share of federal costs at other ports in the country and pay double, here in Quebec, without benefiting from federal investments. »
According to him, this will only increase the economic imbalance.
In the MTQ, it was explained that the investments made to APQ will be made in the context of the Advantage Saint-Laurent program, more precisely “Measure 2” adopted following the slowdown caused by the pandemic.
“Canadian port authorities are eligible to receive funding from the department as part of Measure 2,” wrote spokeswoman Emily Lord.
At APQ, Director of Communications, Frédéric Lagasse, stressed that the port was not the only one to benefit. “The same goes for other ports along the St. Lawrence,” he noted. “Economic sectors linked to this infrastructure are agri-food, construction, mining, etc. Quebec therefore benefits from economic spinoffs. »
As for federal participation in these same projects, the Port did not elaborate. “For some projects, the federal government has participated financially. However, for the federal government, the method of payment of financial support is different. »