Ralph Hoppe Getty Images Unlike most organizations that challenge the Minister of Finance, the paratransit network does not ask for money in the first place.
More than a hundred organizations dedicated to people with disabilities are uniting their voices for the government to tackle the erosion of paratransit services that has been raging for years, in the blind spot of priorities .
Canceled trips, reduced time slots, lack of adapted vehicles… “Adapted transport is dysfunctional in many localities in Quebec”, advances the group in a notice sent Friday to the Minister of Finance Eric Girard.
“The The State has a duty to ensure the proper functioning of this essential service”, continue the authors of this opinion sent as part of the pre-budget consultations.
Christian Venne, 61, lives 15 kilometers from Joliette. Despite his visual impairment, he can go to the gym and sit on various committees thanks to paratransit. But the service is less and less reliable, he laments. “There's a shortage of employees, so we're in dire straits,” he said. This week I had two transports on two different days. For the first, there was a mistake in the place where they picked me up. The second one called to tell me he was going to be late. »
“There are regions where there is no paratransit on weekends,” said Antoine Perreault, director of the Regroupement des âmes et amblyopes du Québec, one of the organizations that took the initiative in Finance. “There are some where there are no evening services.
From the outset, some users are “denied” transport for trips deemed non-essential, for leisure, for example, he continues. “But what is described as leisure includes the services of community organizations offered to break the isolation! »
In the blind spot
“Users have been patient, but now they are losing hope,” laments the president of the Alliance of Paratransit Users Groups of Quebec, Rosanne Couture. Along with other organizations, it tried to make itself heard during the election campaign. In vain. “It didn't work […] The subject is completely erased from concern, and during this time, the services continue to deteriorate. »
Already precarious, paratransit services deteriorated in the wake of the pandemic and the reform of the taxi industry, when thousands of drivers left the profession. Before the 2019 reform, nearly 70% of paratransit trips were made by taxi.
Taxi companies were among the signatories of the brief sent to Minister Girard. The document criticizes former Transport Minister François Bonnardel for failing to provide an alternative for paratransit when he decided to “modernize” the taxi industry.
Data and a working group
Unlike most organizations that challenge the Minister of Finance, the paratransit network does not ask for money first instead.
He wants instead a working group with “a mandate to manage the crisis.” This working group would then assess whether current subsidies are sufficient to guarantee service in all regions.
The group also demands that the Ministry of Transport start producing data on the services offered and their use. The publication of statistics ceased in 2013, he laments.
In the absence of any, Le Devoir collected testimonials from all over Quebec which show significant variations from one region to another.
In Thetford Mines, for example, the head of the service and municipal councilor, Michel Verreault, points out that “it's going very well”. “We respond to all inquiries seven days a week,” he says. Last summer, a decision by the Thetford service raised concerns about services on the outskirts. However, an agreement has been reached, he says. “The other 18 cities are going to have their own service. They work on a plan, and until June 30, we serve them. »
In Mont-Tremblant, the director of the Clair Soleil Association, Sandra Cadieux, first responds that the people who visit her organization have very good service. “We are great, I have nothing negative. But when asked about evening and weekend services, she changes her mind. “Before, there were evenings on weekends. Five or more years ago. […] It was cut. It's a shame, because these people don't just go out during the week.
In Beauce, the head of a similar organization points out that “it's very difficult”. “They're running out of vehicles. The biggest problem is finding drivers, ”sums up Chantale Larivière, from the Association des personnes disabilities de la Chaudière. When she organizes activities, “people will arrive later, leave earlier.” Evening transportation is no longer offered. “If I want to organize a dinner, it's not possible, you have to make an agreement with the family. But not everyone has families who can provide. And there, we just learned that there will be no more service on Sundays.