The business community is opposed for the moment to the idea of a “mobility payment” based on the payroll of companies, mentioned by the Minister of Transport, Geneviève Guilbault. In France, the measure already finances half of the expenses of Île-de-France Mobilités (IDFM) – the Parisian equivalent of the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority (ARTM).
At the Conseil du patronat, President and CEO Karl Blackburn states that “the tax burden on businesses is already very high in Quebec”. “We are the 4e jurisdiction, with 1.8% as a percentage of GDP, out of 32 OECD economies that is the most heavily taxed in terms of the weight of taxes on salaries. Increasing the tax burden on businesses should not be the way to go, especially since the vast majority of Quebec’s economic fabric is made up of SMEs,” he says.
Mr. Blackburn was responding to comments made in The Press by Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault who, on a visit to Paris, was inspired by IDFM’s “mobility payment”.
This sum, drawn from the payroll of companies with more than 10 employees, makes it possible to reinject billions of euros into the expansion and operation of the Paris metro and bus network. This represents more than 50% of the organization’s expenses each year. “It depends how you bring it, but I say it’s a constructive contribution [de la part des entreprises]. I found that interesting. It deserves to be watched, ”supported M.me Guilbault in interview.
This all comes a few weeks before the Legault government’s next budget, and at a time when the ARTM, struggling with a $500 million shortfall, is asking Greater Montreal operators to pool their resources to reduce expenses.
For Karl Blackburn, Quebec “should rather multiply eco-taxation mechanisms to encourage good behavior among workers and thus increase ridership” in public transit. For example, he illustrates in stride, “certain employers who offer to reimburse the monthly OPUS card of their employees would have tax credits”.
“We have fragile and nervous companies at the moment, with all the economic uncertainty. Now is not the time to move towards what could be called a new mobility tax. I would be careful, ”judges the president of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM), Michel Leblanc.
In his eyes, if Quebec went in this direction, it would also have to “modulate this tax according to the availability of public transport”. “In France and in Paris, this question does not arise, but here, we still have an unequal service on the territory. The debate should be more about how we encourage employees to come back to the office, ”believes Mr. Leblanc.
He regrets that too many companies still impose only one or two compulsory working days in the office. “Public transit, at the moment, is first and foremost a problem of lack of customers. This is the question that must be asked: at the moment, many companies have very light attendance requirements, one or two days on average, ”continues the president.
Well received in transport
The ARTM welcomes the idea rather positively. “Road congestion represents a loss of productivity of more than $4.2 billion annually in the metropolitan area. It is enormous. Businesses in the region benefit from more fluid mobility for their employees, customers and goods,” says spokesperson Simon Charbonneau.
He maintains that “the participation of the economic community must be analyzed”, but that, “that being said, it is necessary to have an overview in order to properly assess the socio-economic impacts, regardless of the solutions studied”.
The same goes for the STM, where corporate advisor Justine Lord-Dufour “welcomes Minister Guilbault’s openness to learning more about the sources of funding for European transport companies”. She maintains that the exercise is essential “to rethink and review the financing of public transit companies in Quebec, so that they can count on indexed and recurring sources of financing”.
Remember that Minister Geneviève Guilbault is due to begin a consultation tour this month with public transit operators and stakeholders in order to find solutions to the funding crisis that has been shaking the industry for months.