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Montrealers protest possible STM service cuts, demand more funding

Around a hundred people marched through the streets of downtown Montreal on Sunday to protest against the lack of funding for public transport.

They are concerned about possible service cuts by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM).

The group behind the event, Vélorution Montréal, says it is worried about the cuts that will be made if the STM's deficit is not made good. Radio-Canada revealed last month that, without additional funding, the metro could close at 11 p.m. every day and open at 9 a.m. on weekends, and that the bus service would be reduced, according to documents and sources consulted by the public broadcaster.

One of the founding members of Vélorution Montréal, Mathieu Murphy-Perron, says this situation would be very serious.

"If we want a city that's free of congestion, a city that's safe, a city that's not too noisy, we need to offer alternatives to the all-car culture," he said in an interview shortly before the rally got underway at 11 a.m. in Square Victoria.

The marchers were followed by an old STM bus from the 1980s, courtesy of one of the organizations taking part in the demonstration, namely Équiterre, Greenpeace and Trajectoire Québec.

"Given that we're talking about going back to 1992 or 1993, (the group thought it would be) logical to bring out one of the old buses," said Murphy-Perron.

Inside the bus were life-size photographs of Premier François Legault and Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault.

"I'm really pleased to see Mr. Legault and Ms. Guilbault in a bus. I think it's the first time they've done it. Perhaps if they took it more often, my job would be easier," said Tajectoire Quebec general manager Sarah V. Doyon.

Trajectoire Québec is an association that promotes the interests of public transport users.


The situation is not confined to the metropolitan region.

According to Doyon, all 10 of Quebec's public transport companies are in a state of uncertainty.

She said that in the Quebec City region, for example, the transit authority believes it will be able to "salvage the furniture" by 2024.

"We still don't have an agreement for the next five years on funding," said Doyon.

For 2025 to 2028, the funding should be known at the time of the next budget in March, she added, "But we are very worried, because the agreement for 2024 has not sent us any positive signals for the next four years, so we are afraid that the service cuts we were considering will be avoided for 2024, but will only be a temporary setback for 2025."

For Doyon, the work on mobility funding launched by the government in 2019 should be followed up.

"There has been a long round of consultations, there has been a report, but there is nothing on the choices or implementation of new sources of funding. And that's where it's stalled," she sai.


Quebec solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Massé was among the demonstrators along with MNA Alejandra Zaga Mendez. The second-largest opposition group in the national assembly intends to watch the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) closely on the issue of public transport.

"We were hoping that the economic update would provide solutions for transport companies across Quebec, but that was not to be," said Massé on the sidelines of the demonstration, referring to the Nov. 7 economic update.

Finance Minister Éric Girard announced that $265 million would be paid out to absorb some of the transport companies' deficits.

According to Massé, going halfway doesn't solve the problem.

"He wouldn't agree to do that for any private company," she said. "In the case of Northvolt, has he asked himself the question 'am I going halfway, not halfway?' no, no."

She insists that public transport is a common good and that Premier François Legault must change his tune "because it's 2023."

The office of Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault did not respond to a request for comment from The Canadian Press over the weekend. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 19, 2023. Top Stories

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