As climate change accelerates, the governments of Quebec and Canada are not living up to their commitments to promote public transit as a primary means of reducing GHGs. Here are some recent abuses by the Trudeau and Legault governments.
Inadequate Federal Funding
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, transit authorities have experienced significant losses in revenue due to multiple health restrictions, lockdowns and the fact that 50% of their revenue comes from user fees. To address this deficit, the federal government has announced that it is offering $750 million to Canadian municipalities. However, this offer comes with conditions: that the provinces also receive federal funding and that they work to increase the supply of housing. Despite the government’s intention to make a gesture to fund public transit in Canada, this symbolic $750 million budget is not enough to cover the losses of public transit in Canadian cities since the beginning of the pandemic. This measure is essentially a communications measure designed only to show that the federal government is making some effort to reduce GHGs and improve public transit, but unfortunately it is not providing enough.
Haphazard planning of expansion projects
Since the privatization of the planning, construction and operation of the REM, the planning of network expansion projects is anarchic and biased towards the capitalist interests of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. Take, for example, the future metropolitan express network (REM) in the east. This project has established these lines without consultation with other public transit systems, thereby threatening their existence. In 2014, to create the Mascouche commuter train line, an investment of $750 million, which would give access to downtown Montreal to the residents of Mascouche and eastern Montreal. However, the current eastern REM project would be in direct competition with the commuter train line. This lack of coordination between these two projects speaks volumes about public transit planning in Quebec.
Public transit should not be operated through the mechanics of the capitalist market that considers users as payers, but rather as a service that must be accessible to all in order to offer solid competition to the solo car. It is essential to integrate public transit into the definition of a public good paid for through taxes and a carbon tax, as Quebec’s roads already are. Note, for example, that the road network, unlike public transit, is not financed through user fees and therefore does not lack funding due to the pandemic. It is for these reasons, among others, that the DMP proposes free public transit in Quebec. The Legault government clearly does not take environmental issues and the needs of its population seriously, does not adequately fund public transit and allows for expansion planning that is not done in the public interest. All of this will prolong Quebecers’ dependence on private cars, undermine efforts to reduce GHGs and limit the expansion of public transit services.
We are missing targets for reducing transportation emissions
Missed targets are common in the implementation of green transition policies by our governments. Indeed, the Legault administration was quick to disclose its target for reducing the number of hydrocarbon vehicles on Quebec roads. Environment Minister Benoît Charrette is proposing a reinforced standard to push car dealers to offer more electric vehicles on the market. In theory as well as in practice, this new plan has zero effect on the number of electric cars in Quebec until 2029. In 2025, there will be 632,000 electric vehicles on the road, exactly the same number as in 2022. The effect of this new regulation will not be felt until 2029, and this at a growth rate of only 1% per year in the number of electric vehicles. It is difficult to take seriously such an unambitious government policy that will not even be realized during the mandate of the current government or even the next one and the one after if the CAQ is re-elected! The Green Party of Quebec is the only political party that really takes environmental issues and the ecological transition seriously. This is no longer the time for false promises and empty rhetoric with targets that are not matched by concrete actions to reach or even surpass them. Quebecers deserve better, deserve more, and we owe it to ourselves to be ambitious and take concrete action for the good of current and future generations. The solution lies in a massive expansion of public transit, the abolition of user fees and a more robust, rapid and ambitious plan for the electrification of transportation.
Leader of the Green Party of Quebec