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Quebec is counting on an air system in disarray!

To treat a disease, we must first agree on the diagnosis and as regards the setbacks of the air system in Quebec, our government refuses to take note of the facts. The CAQ has chosen to feed the beast, this cancer that has been eating away at us since the departure of Québecair, is hampering the development of our regions and depriving Québec of substantial revenue ($800 million annually, solely in tax revenue, IREC study, Oct. 2021). What is this cancer? Quite simply the absence of any competition worthy of the name.

The facts: I invite you to carry out a very simple exercise which consists of shopping for a plane ticket elsewhere in Canada between cities that are comparable to those of Quebec in terms of both the volume of population and the distance that separates them from major centers, a matter of comparing apples to apples. You will be able to notice that the prices at our neighbors are much cheaper and that the offer is greater.

Take Timmins, Ontario to Toronto versus Rouyn/Montreal. We are talking about populations and distances that are very similar. In Timmins, five Q-400s travel daily for approximately $350. In Rouyn, you will try to have a round trip to Montreal on the same day for a comparable cost.
You can repeat the exercise with cities in Alberta and British Columbia, provinces that are similar to us, and the results will be similar.

In fact, that’s the case wherever Air Canada faces healthy competition. The presence of a WestJet or a Porter ensures this competition and as a result, the companies have no choice but to improve services and reduce costs. And you know what? All this WITHOUT any subsidy!

In these other provinces, there are a few exceptions and places where fares are higher, but when Air Canada was questioned before the Standing Committee on Transport in the House of Commons, it could not explain why in a same province, under similar conditions, his tickets were much more expensive for certain flights.

Air Canada remained silent, yet the answer was quite simple. Where prices exploded, it was in a monopoly situation, which in Quebec is the norm.

In Quebec, the government and its expert, Mr. Jacques Roy, do not want the presence of this healthy competition so much that they are counting on existing companies to separate the territory and the market. According to them, in Quebec, the most fundamental market rules that require competition to improve supply and drive prices down do not hold, at least not in aviation.

So, despite all these indisputable and undisputed facts, despite all these studies which demonstrate the extent of the disease, despite other experts such as Professor Ebrahimi, founder of the International Observatory in Aeronautics and Civil Aviation, since recommending many years (20 years) of reviewing the air system and considering airports as catalysts for regional development, Quebec serves us a paternalistic nationalism and drives us into a logic of subsidies to keep this bad system in place. For whose benefit, for what? Surely not in the interest of the populations who suffer from this system. Our taxes are used to subsidize mediocrity!

Let’s now talk about the government’s rhetoric to respond to those who, like me, are calling for the establishment of conditions conducive to healthy competition, convinced that this is the heart of the problem.

By the way, the Union des municipalités du Québec, under its previous governance, after conducting major studies, believed so much in this need for competition that it led, unfortunately without success, a mission to attract a wingspan. You will have noticed that the new president of the UMQ and mayor of Gaspé no longer talks about competition and says he is satisfied with the government’s strategy, just like the mayor of Baie-Comeau, whose political ambitions are now known!

But let us return to this government rhetoric led by two tenors who are Prime Minister François Legault and his right arm, Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon. When it comes to the arrival of new players like the cooperative TREQ, with bigger planes, Q-400s, and a price list below $500, we feel the hives winning over our friends and theirs without doubt.

The Prime Minister, probably on the defensive, quickly released his now famous: “I’ve already played in that film! “. By referring to the last two years of Quebecair, where after having nationalized the company and having injected tens of millions into it, we decided to close it.

By leaving all the space to Air Canada, Quebec opened the door wide to the monopoly of this company, a situation that has since plagued our economy and slowed down the development of our regions, it should be remembered.
This is another fact that escapes the Prime Minister and the government: Quebecair has been a Quebec flagship for more than three decades in responding to Quebec’s ambitions and promoting regional development.

There is no doubt in my mind and that of the seasoned economists who produced the IREC studies on air transport, that financial support for Québecair to get it back on its feet and continue to serve our regions would have cost us much less than the price paid collectively since its closure.

It is still necessary, to understand these facts, to agree to stick one’s nose in these studies and to understand their scope, which the government probably refuses to do, paralyzed by this powerful lobby of existing companies.

You know Mr. Legault, your population has also already played in this film where the lobby and the threats of Air Canada to leave Quebec paralyze our government each time, to the point where the solution becomes to subsidize this bad player.

Pathetic and symptomatic of this difficulty that Quebec has to free itself from this English colonialist influence, the effects of which are still very present. It’s much more practical to serve us these great nationalist speeches around the language, to raise the passions and put a veil on the rest.

But the language is precisely what motivated the arrival of Quebecair, this pride and this desire to be masters in our country. All that has faded: a Prime Minister who seems to have only bad memories of this flagship and a CEO of Air Canada who ridicules the French fact.

MM. Legault and Fitzgibbon know how to count very well and know better than many people the laws of the market, supply and demand and the effects of healthy competition. Despite everything, they have chosen to support a strategy that will in no way free us from this grip of Air Canada. It will choose, as it has always done, to maximize its profits, by forcing us to schedules and services that in no way reflect the needs of our populations and in addition, it will be subsidized to do so.

The smoke screen of $500 tickets quickly subsided, whereas traveling in Quebec means going through Quebec and Montreal… ah, yes, St-Hubert!!! A program that does not affect business people, that will create enormous frustration, that will be administratively cumbersome and that will disappear at the same time as the subsidies. Find the error!

I said it and I sign; If our ministers and their families had to use the plane on a regular basis for their personal needs and if the development of their region depended in part on this air access, the system would have undergone major transformations a long time ago.

Prime Minister Legault and the Minister of the Economy would never have looked up at a proposal like that of the Quebec cooperative TREQ, with bigger planes, a stable and accessible price list… WITHOUT subsidies.

At the end of the program presented by the Minister of Transport François Bonnardel, what will we have collectively achieved, if not the extension of a bad story that has lasted for thirty years and is very expensive for Quebec society!

All these flight delays and cancellations in recent weeks, which have caused consternation and exasperation among the population, will, I hope, lead the government to reconsider its bad strategy.

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