Reform at the Quebec Ministry of Transportation

According to information reported by La Presse on August 14, 2023, the Quebec government intends to create a new agency that will take over responsibilities from the Ministry of Transportation.

Due to rising costs, increasing delays and serious governance problems, the Quebec government intends to create this new agency, whose mandate will be to manage major public transit and road projects.

The Ministry of Transportation employs around 8,000 people and is the largest contractor in Quebec. Work on creating the new agency began during the CAQ’s first mandate and is now well advanced. A legislative text is expected to be presented by the Minister of Transportation this fall.

This reform is part of the Legault government’s trend to reorganize government structures. Health and education bills have been tabled to this effect.

The idea of creating such an agency has been around for 20 years. The idea is to depoliticize the management of roadworks. The costs  and delays of roadworks and public transit projects are often underestimated, leading to a significant increase in the cost of major projects.

According to the Quebec government, the new agency will make it possible to better manage the execution of major projects in terms of costs and deadlines, particularly in the design and execution of infrastructure work.

Cities could entrust the management of their major projects to this agency. Among these are the Quebec City tramway project, the one under development in Gatineau and the potential extension of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) in Longueuil.

This agency would not be subject to the Loi sur la fonction publique. Hiring and remuneration of employees would be more flexible. The government is also looking for solutions for funding road and public transit infrastructures. The Transportation Ministry is currently evaluating its options.

A kilometre-based tax and a system of taxes for polluting vehicles and rebates for fuel-efficient vehicles are being studied. The Transportation Minister is preparing a report on the issue.

Finally, this structural reform and the concomitant search for new funding could pave the way for another aspect of the green economy shift. The Minister of the Economy, Innovation and Energy has suggested that the car fleet needs to be halved to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

By adopting eco-fiscal, urban planning and public transit measures, the government could significantly reduce Quebec’s ecological footprint. The automobile fleet has grown by 66% since 1990, three times as much as the population. Transportation accounted for 42.8% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.

With its objective of increasing the proportion of electric vehicles and reducing electricity consumption, the Quebec government is at a crossroads. Electricity production will have to double by 2050, or Quebec will run short of power. The government’s sustainable mobility policy is due to expire at the end of the year. It does not consider solo car use. The timing is perfect.

Key takeaways

  • Bill to create a transportation agency to be introduced this fall.
  • The agency’s role would be to find the best ways to achieve government objectives by managing major public transit road projects.
  • The agency could review and adjust contracts with greater flexibility.
  • The agency could make the management of major projects more flexible and guide government decisions, like Ontario’s Metrolinx.

Issues at the Quebec Ministry of Transportation

  • The asset maintenance deficit exceeds $20 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion per year over the past five years.
  • Asset maintenance budgets are clearly insufficient to halt the deterioration of the road network. The volume of work planned for the next few years is clearly insufficient to reverse the trend.
  • The government’s budget increases for the road network favour the construction of new projects rather than maintenance work.
  • The fund that finances the road network and public transit is in deficit. The government is looking for new sources of funding, as revenues from gas tax and vehicle registration fees are stagnating.

Sources :

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