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Where will the new money for regional air transport go?

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The improvement of the air transport aid program is good, according to regional elected officials. (Archive photo)

Radio-Canada

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The amount of 27 million additional dollars over three years announced in the provincial budget to improve air services is well received in Eastern Quebec, but elected officials wonder how the amounts will be spent.

This is the case of the prefect of the MRC of La Mitis, Bruno Paradis, who is also president of the Intermunicipal Authority of Mont-Joli Airport.

A priori, this is good news, but it remains to be seen how it will be applied on the ground, says Bruno Paradis.

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The president of the Intermunicipal Authority of the Mont-Joli regional airport, Bruno Paradis, wishes to file a new version of the Régionair project to the Quebec government next fall. (File photo)

This additional funding is in addition to the $234 million already planned to finance discounted $500 tickets.

According to Yves Montigny, MP for René-Lévesque and government assistant responsible for the regional air transport component, this program recorded an increase in ridership due to better stability of air services.

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The increase in the number of passengers is constant. In February 2024, there is a 9 to 10% increase in different regions of Quebec, explains the MP.

According to him, 51% of the program's total budgets were used by people coming from or going to Sept-Îles, Fermont, Gaspé or the Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

According to Yves Montigny, the additional $27 million could be used to improve service, in particular the attendance of flights and their frequency.

Discussions are also underway to expand access to tickets, for example to non-profit organizations or student groups.

For example , could students grouped by a URLS, a regional leisure and sports unit, have access to $500 group tickets to be able to participate in sports competitions? We are in these questions, explains Yves Montigny.

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According to MP Yves Montigny, also president of the Standing Committee on Regional Air Transport, the increase in the number of passengers of the $500 airline ticket program is constant. (Archive photo)

Quebec is also considering opening the Regional Air Access Program to interregional travel and simplifying access to the various components of the program.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">But at the same time, you have to make choices with the amounts you have, underlines Yves Montigny.

The MP for Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Joël Arseneau, above all wants the additional money to improve the supply of air transport services and not just support demand.

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The MP for Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Joël Arseneau, is also the Parti Québécois spokesperson for transport and sustainable mobility . (File photo)

It was clear that the program was not going to transform air transport in the region, but it is also because we did not work on the offer. From the beginning, we proposed that there be a third component to the basic program, one that could support innovative projects, believes Joël Arseneau.

A few regional initiatives have resurfaced in recent weeks to propose improvements to regional air transport.

The TREQ cooperative notably reaffirmed its desire to become a new player in the industry. For the moment, Quebec seems above all to want to continue collaborating with companies already in activity.

I'm going to draw a parallel: would you remove or fire your truck drivers who have licenses and say, "I'm going to give them to people who don't have licenses"? launches Yves Montigny.

For its part, the Intermunicipal Authority of Mont-Joli Airport says it is in discussions with several MRCs to create the organization regional parapublic. This would bring together all the players who can provide services or who need air transport services in the region, for the sake of consistency, explains Bruno Paradis.

It's about finding a formula where everyone will contribute, he adds.

With information from Renaud Chicoine-McKenzie

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