The Réseau de transport de la Capitale (RTC) has projected a deficit of $30 million for the year 2024. Quebec City has already asked the Quebec government to add a tax on registration to help finance transit operations.
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The idea of a local tax has been raised by Mayor Bruno Marchand and Pierre-Luc Lachance, vice-president of Quebec City’s executive committee, over the past year. The latter confirmed that the project was “under study” in January 2023.
During the Sustainable Mobility Policy Forum on Friday, RTC President Mad Mercier LaRoche confirmed that the petition had been submitted to the government.
“In Quebec, tax powers have to be sought for additional revenue, and I’m thinking specifically about the tax on registration. These are the requests that have been submitted and we hope that things will move forward,” she argued.
On Thursday, Mayor Marchand already called on the Quebec government to be “ambitious” and “invest more” in public transportation. Referring to the expected shortfall in RTC, he said, “For 2024-2025, these are critical conditions. If we don’t have better funding, we won’t be able to maintain the same quality of service, the same service offering.
In solution mode
The Quebec government will absorb 20% of Quebec transit companies’ $2.5 billion deficit by 2028, according to the Quebec Urban Transport Association (ATUQ), so they will have to be creative to find the funding they need for their operations.
“Solutions must come from all parties, the Quebec government, transport companies and even the Union of Quebec Municipalities. [Il faut] Reduce the contribution of municipalities and ensure consistent funding rather than holding the same meeting every year,” explained its general director Marc Denault.
Otherwise, like in other places, the services will be reduced in RTC as well, they warn. According to him, “the impact of a budget cut of this scale is far from over” and cannot be overcome without affecting consumers.
With the reluctance of the Ministry of Transport and Sustainable Mobility (MTMD) to further support them, transport companies and ATUQ are turning to Economy, Innovation and Energy and ‘Environment’.
“The Environment Minister and Mr Fitzgibbon may also have solutions in their portfolio. We are talking about new sources of revenue, so we have to be creative,” continues Mr Denault.
A nagging question
During her speech at the launch of the Sustainable Mobility Policy Forum, Minister Genevieve Guilbault described the financing of public transport as a “therapeutic question”.
“Currently, we finance our public transport projects and our road projects with the same funds […] Powered by registrations, driving licenses and fuel taxes. In mathematics, a problem arises.
Mme Guilbault pointed out that his ministry’s limited resources to finance transport companies come partly because the federal government has “withdrawn from financing road works, which puts enormous pressure on the finances of regional governments”.
While in Quebec on Friday, his federal counterpart, Pablo Rodriguez, said he “heard” the request from the transport minister. However, he insists that there is “no existing program” in this sense and this should not change.
– In collaboration with Taib Molla