Transportation in the country: logistical hangover
For a year, the saga of the ferry F.-A.-Gauthier has caught the attention of regional and national media on an almost daily basis, both the problems of the connection it is supposed to ensure between Matane, Baie -Comeau and Godbout have reached an embarrassing threshold.
Since the arrival in April 2015 of the ship built in Italy, five replacement ferries have been called to the rescue, in this case the Félix-Antoine-Savard , the CTMA Vacancier , the CTMA Voyageur , the Apollo and the Saaremaa II . The service between Matane and the North Shore had been provided annually and without major problems for 40 years by Camille-Marcoux .
While the Société des traversiers du Québec, a public company, was a flagship of the maritime industry on the St. Lawrence in the 1980s and 1990s, the politicization of its leadership appointments had the effect of undermining its effectiveness and the informed decision-making over the past 15 years.
The deterioration in the quality of services over the past decade was predictable.
The problem is that almost as absurd problems characterize each of the other modes of transportation in Quebec. The Canadian case is hardly better.
How to qualify the reality of users using planes connecting the regions to the cities of Quebec and Montreal, when it costs more to take domestic flights than to cross into Europe from the metropolis or the capital?
How to explain that a quarter of Air Canada Jazz flights to Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands are canceled, because this carrier has not installed on board its aircraft the instruments that would allow it for years to reduce its cancellations by about 80%? Our governments have not moved, or not moved enough, for decades in this area. They have come to find these normal situations out of ignorance of what is done elsewhere, and they believe them to be immutable.
Our roads are generally in poor condition, although a slow recovery is observable. However, the network is taken over by overloaded trucks which will quickly bring it to shreds if a real integrated intermodal transport policy is not implemented very soon.
Rail transportation, the symbol of Confederation, has been so neglected for 40 years that the sense of priorities, especially the priority given to freight trains and not passenger convoys, has been lost in the meantime.
The authorities seem to ignore that a rail network can be improved, that it is a mode of transport of the future, and not of the past. It is enough to look at what is happening everywhere on the five continents to realize it.
This emphasis on rail as an essential land transport even affects Third World countries, which have often gone beyond what is done in Quebec and Canada. It must be said that they conceded the match without fighting too much.
The regions are the big losers from this logistical hangover, this too frequent inability to think, design and deploy intelligent transport dynamics in Quebec, but also in Canada. Because we have to admit that apart from certain aspects of air transport and ferry services that are more reliable than in Quebec, Canada has few lessons to teach us in terms of transportation.
The degradation of air, maritime, road and rail transport services for more than 30 years has left regions with a trunk of bare tools when the time comes to tackle the challenges of the hour in rural areas, demography. The lack of mobility of people and goods is the main obstacle to the return of young people once trained, the arrival of other Quebecers tempted to settle outside major centers and immigrants, too few to settle in rural environment.
How many missed business opportunities, how many missed opportunities to improve our environmental record and how many cases of social insecurity do we owe to our shaky performance in terms of transport?
If the regions are the big losers, we cannot say that Quebec and Montreal are still doing well. The shortcomings in the deployment of modern public transport and intercity transport solutions shamelessly weigh down road traffic, thus poisoning city life, literally and figuratively.
It is astounding to see, for example, that the issues surrounding property and repairs to the Quebec Bridge have been dragging on for at least 30 years. It is confusing to see that a third link project, taking the form of a tunnel that will serve as few people, finds such support from the Government of Quebec.
In the metropolis, the Réseau express métropolitain, or REM, a project hackneyed by the previous government and a prime minister concerned about its place in the history books, risks missing the target of the fluidity of transport, logic and the need to counter urban sprawl.
How did we get there?
How did we get there? Because the Ministry of Transport has been used for decades for political re-election rather than serving citizens and businesses according to the potential offered by each mode. In a country of distances and resources, we have forgotten the importance of transport as a tool for social, economic and environmental development. We wake up a few decades later with a serious logistical hangover.
Doctors are often appointed to Health, high-level administrators to Finance and sometimes teachers to Education. Although several ministers responsible for these spheres have not particularly distinguished themselves, it is an understatement to say that these three sectors are doing better than transport.
Who cared about appointing competent people in transport, or at least people who had an interest in the field? Our prime ministers have often appointed incompetents there, or they have failed to give them clear mandates with the necessary powers.
One can easily draw up the list of Ministers of Transport who have been truly competent in the past 40 years. In Quebec, Sylvain Gaudreau, during the 18 months of the Marois government from September 2012 to April 2014, and Michel Clerc, from 1980 to 1984, were the few inspired and inspiring ministers.
Where to go to see to learn, to find models? Well yes, we must go to the Scandinavian countries, which have the advantage of resembling us, characterized by being large spaces and low population densities. We see reliable ships, low airfares, a staggering train frequency and, consequently, an impeccable road network.
It may be time to organize a general meeting on transport. Although this type of high mass is not systematically successful, it generally allows a society to make useful observations.
Because too worrying a trend is taking shape among too many Quebecers, that of finding traffic jams normal, the proportion of 43% of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to transportation, as well as the social and economic weight resulting from our shortcomings in optimizing the flow of people and goods.
Recently, at the Rail Transportation Summit, Minister François Bonnardel admitted that this mode of transportation had been neglected, almost forgotten in Quebec over the past 30 or 40 years. He was right.
The Coalitionvenir Québec government prides itself on wanting to redefine important areas of our society. If it were Prime Minister François Legault’s idea to mobilize the vital forces of this society in order to improve the fluidity of our transportation, his government would probably achieve one of the moves most likely to achieve this redefinition.