Creation of the Agence des partenariats public-priv� du Québec The STM expresses some reservations

Press release

Creation of the Agence des partenariats public-priv� du Québec
The STM expresses some reservations

Montreal, 2 November 2004 –  The Société de transport de Montréal today submitted a brief to the Public Finance Committee ragarding Bill 61, which establishes the Agence des partenariats public-priv� du Québec. The STM expressed some reservations about the decision-making role granted to the agency and the additional delays that could result from implementing partnerships, particularly with respect to its investment projects for the transit network.

Indeed, the bill requires that the introduction of any project involving infrastructure, equipment or the provision of public services, financed in whole or in part by the government, must first be submitted to the agency. The STM expects its investments in the transit network will reach some $3.4 billion over the next ten years to upgrade its infrastructure and ensure the reliability of services. Will the STM be required to automatically present every investment project to the agency ? If that is the case, should the STM be concerned that this new process could result in delaying certain decisions and postponing urgently needed work ? Would such a situation not go against the government’s own stated objectives regarding performance and efficiency ? The current wording of the bill is also unclear, leading the STM to suggest that the agency’s role and responsibilities be more precisely defined and to submit these seven recommendations :

  1. The agency’s role should consist of promoting, supporting, advising and providing expertise on public-private partnership matters, thus letting local authorities maintain control over their infrastructure and services, under either public or private management.

  2. The decision to enter into a public-private partnership must be made by the public body in compliance with government directives and guidelines.

  3. The agency’s role with respect to negotiating and awarding contracts should be limited to projects that are entirely financed by the government.

  4. The bill must respect collective agreements and ensure that unions are involved in identifying solutions.

  5. The bill should provide for a narrower definition of suitable projects, regarding their size, the level of financial participation by the government, and the type of funding.

  6. The process by which a partnership is developed should be simplified and take less time. Critical projects for the STM, such as upgrading its bus and métro infrastructure, should not be hampered by this process.

  7. The bill must also set out appropriate legislative amendments allowing for the implementation of public-private partnerships.

Means, yes, but not an end in itself
From the start, the STM made it clear that it shares the government’s concern for the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of services, adding that it drew up a business plan for 2004-2008 to improve its overall performance. The STM stated it already has partnership agreements with the private sector, to whom it outsourced some of its business activities. However, the transit corporation made it clear that, for its Board of Directors, public-private partnerships are means to an end, but not an end in itself, and that these must be carried out without infringing upon collective agreements.

According to Claude Dauphin, chairman of the board, « this approach to management can prove beneficial if it contributes directly to increasing the corporation’s performance, improving customer satisfaction or lowering costs for the same service. We understand that the government’s intention is to provide business with a new tool for optimal project management, but it is also understood that it is not a solution to public transit’s problem of chronic underfunding. »

As the 18th largest corporation in Québec, the STM employs over 7600 people with a budget of $811.3 million. In 2003, its network provided 364.6 million trips, over 218 million of which by métro alone.

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The STM brief is available in its original French version on this website