The government recognizes, however, that financing the transport network and sustainable mobility is a crying need.
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The Legault government assures that it will be able to successfully carry out its Sustainable Mobility Policy, an essential part of its climate plan to reduce the carbon footprint of the transport sector by 2030. However, after five years of implementation , it ignores the extent of the reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that this policy has made it possible to achieve.
Born under the leadership of Philippe Couillard's Liberal Party in 2018, the Sustainable Mobility Policy (PMD) aims to develop and structure the transport offer, for people and goods.
While reducing the carbon footprint of the most polluting sector in the province – 42.8% of GHG emissions – the PMD aims to encourage Quebecers to abandon polluting modes of transport and turn to greener options over the course of the year. their movements.
Increasing access to public transportation, reducing travel time between home and work, reducing the number of trips made alone in your vehicle, cutting oil consumption in the transportation sector: these are some examples of targets that are at the heart of the PMD.
However, the Ministry of Transport and Sustainable Mobility (MTMD), responsible for this policy, cannot do neither a total assessment, since 2018, nor an annual breakdown, due to lack of accessible data.
The MTMD says it has started compiling data for the year 2021-2022. The transport sector has reduced its emissions by 868,846 tonnes of CO2 equivalent thanks to the policy, he says. However, the reductions expected to reach the 2030 target are of the order of megatons.
Since 1990, GHG emissions from the sector transport increased from 27.2 to
31.6 megatonnes of equivalent CO2 in 2020.
For Quebec to achieve its objective of reducing its emissions by 37.5%, transport will instead have to represent
17 Mt of eq. CO2 by 2030.
However, the Sustainable Mobility Policy is subject to annual monitoring. An action plan for the period 2018-2023, which includes 181 measures, should enable the implementation of the 10 main targets of the PMD by the Ministry of Transport and Sustainable Mobility and three other ministries.
< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">It is important to understand that the Sustainable Mobility Policy was announced in mid-2018, explains a spokesperson for the MTMD. The pandemic then considerably changed transportation habits across Quebec and government activities, so that the data that could have been collected would have provided an erroneous portrait of the real impact of the policy.
The ministry intends to monitor more closely the impact of each measure on all targets – including GHGs – at the time of implementation of the next action plan, he says. The Minister of Transport and Sustainable Mobility, Geneviève Guilbault, must announce it in spring 2024.
In its current form, the policy is on the wrong track, according to experts consulted by Radio-Canada.
After five years, we are entitled to wonder whether the policy works or not, where the money goes and why we decide to invest it there, insists Johanne Whitmore, principal researcher at the Chair of Energy Sector Management at HEC Montreal.
A total of $9.7 billion, plus $1.8 billion in emergency aid granted to public transportation during the pandemic, was invested by Quebec for the implementation of the 2018-2023 plan. According to the ministry, around 10% of these sums come from the Electrification and Climate Change Fund (former Green Fund).
During the annual Forum on Sustainable Mobility Policy last October, the assessment made showed that several structuring targets, including the reduction of GHG emissions, oil consumption and the use of solo driving, had experienced setbacks or did not make sufficient progress.
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After attending the forum, Johanne Whitmore defines several shortcomings that hamper the accountability process, including the absence of a framework clear allowing monitoring distributed between the different ministries and partners. For each dollar invested, what are the returns? What reductions can we make? We don’t have this kind of information, she notes.
No investor would accept that a multi-billion dollar project is heading straight into a wall, argues the energy specialist. It’s fascinating to see how flexible and ambiguous financing for the fight against climate change is, she says. People don't realize that a lot of money is mismanaged.
We have a sustainable mobility policy that does not work. Public transport is in debt over its head and, soon, there will be no more money to finance the PMD. We are not going in the right direction.
A quote from Johanne Whitmore, principal researcher at the Chair of Energy Sector Management at HEC Montréal
Like Ms. Whitmore, Samuel Pagé-Plouffe, coordinator at the TRANSIT alliance for financing public transport, believes that the most structuring targets, which reflect a change in behavior in the niche of sustainable mobility, are experiencing insufficient progress.
We note in some cases laudable progress, but these are ripe fruits, so where there was gains that are easier to achieve, observes Mr. Pagé-Plouffe, who is part of the Sustainable Mobility Policy monitoring committee.
This is particularly the case for the first target of the PMD, which aims for 70% of the population to have access to at least four services sustainable mobility. As of March 31, 2023, the proportion stood at 63%.
The committee notes, however, that certain data, which would make it possible to both anticipate needs and better measure progress, remain inaccessible. We call for refining accountability, indicates Mr. Pagé-Plouffe.
Among these great unknowns, there is the question of the costs required for 'achievement of targets.
We have difficulty having access to sufficient data on the needs and the means to be put in place to achieve the targets of the Sustainable Mobility Policy.
A quote from Samuel Pagé-Plouffe, coordinator at the TRANSIT alliance for financing public transport
The government planned to carry out a project to identify the sources of financing of transport networks – such as regulatory mechanisms and eco-fiscal measures – to be deployed within the framework of the PMD.
But after holding consultations and publishing a report in 2021, the ministry has not yet followed up on the project. A second turn of the wheel will be given in 2024, but there have not yet been, concretely, measures to provide the financial means for our ambitions, summarizes Mr. Pagé-Plouffe.
Québec nevertheless recognizes that financing the transport network and sustainable mobility is a pressing need set to accelerate.
He anticipates that the revenue generated so far by the provincial fuel tax, which largely finances the province's transportation networks, will eventually be drying up due to the electrification of vehicles and the end of the sale of gasoline cars.
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The Minister of Transport and Sustainable Mobility, Geneviève Guilbault, is working on the development of the next transport plan action of the PMD, which should be ready in spring 2024.
The province's main public transit companies are in the red and the government has warned that it will not absorb all of the deficits.
However, it is by developing public transport that we can hope to change the habits of the population, observes Samuel Pagé-Plouffe. This is demonstrated by the efforts made between 2007 and 2015, which made it possible to improve the public transport service offering by approximately 32%. Over this period, ridership increased by 15%.
To achieve its GHG reduction target in 2030, Quebec should increase the service offering by 5% per year.
Beyond 2015, there ceased to be progress […] essentially because we did not put enough resources into it, indicates Mr. Pagé-Plouffe, who recalls that the pandemic has also affected ridership on buses and metros.
While Quebec is in negotiations with public transport companies To agree on a five-year financing plan, the coordinator of the TRANSIT alliance believes that it would be better to increase the offer by 7% per year to catch up.
However, the government has tools at its disposal to finance its policy, recalls Jean-Philippe Meloche, specialist in public finance and urban transport.
The Legault government, which refuses to tax the purchase of polluting vehicles, could have increased the tax on fuels, but this has not changed since 2013.
The tools are in their hands, they know their effectiveness, but they do not want to pull these levers, says Mr. Meloche, who teaches at the School of Urban Planning and Architecture of landscape from UQAM. However, we know: eco-fiscal measures are much more effective in changing people's behavior.
If the government is cautious in this regard, he said, it was for fear of offending his electorate.
It pushes him to make strange decisions, like giving a gift [to Quebecers] by paying part of the driving license with the surplus from the SAAQ, quotes -he as an example. I think there were plenty of smarter things to do with that money.
It shows that the government does not take this seriously and that it has not adopted this policy.
A quote from Jean-Philippe Meloche, professor at the School of Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture at UQAM
The Sustainable Mobility Policy, he recalls, is based on the “reduce-transfer-improve” sequence. The word ''reduce'' – his travel, his consumption of gasoline and energy – is first in the hierarchy, because it is fundamental in this policy, he explains.
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The quantity of vehicles on Quebec roads is increasing twice as fast as the population. The new registered vehicles still mostly run on gasoline.
By focusing first and foremost on the electrification of transport , which is part of the last part of the sequence, “improve”, the Legault government interprets the principle in reverse, according to Jean-Philippe Meloche.
Despite improvements in fuel efficiency, there are more cars on the province's roads, which have increased in size over the years. Quebecers are buying more of them and using them more than in the past.
Subsidies from the Legault government for the purchase of electric vehicles are not will only have a limited effect on improving the carbon footprint of transport. Studies tend to show that it doesn't work very well and that it's a waste of money, says Mr. Meloche.
We should not be surprised if we do not achieve our results, he concludes. I don't think we put the effort into doing it.
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