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Quebec: More Silliness in Year Ahead

MONTREAL, Que. - When the needs of the trucking industry rub up against the rest of the world, the sound can be like the squeals of a trailer load of hogs flying off a cliff.Take the recent announceme...


MONTREAL, Que. – When the needs of the trucking industry rub up against the rest of the world, the sound can be like the squeals of a trailer load of hogs flying off a cliff.

Take the recent announcement that the cost of a 5.2-kilometre (yup, 3.2 miles) Metro system extension into Laval, which will reportedly improve the daily lot of about 1,200 bus commuters, has bloated from its original $179 million cost to a mind-blowing $647 million.

In contrast to the desperately needed A-30 ring road, with a price tag of around $550 million, the Metro project price tag is simply shameless.

For decades the government has fiddled while Montreal Island traffic has become ever more ridiculous and the three bridges connecting Montreal and the South took a pounding from traffic they were never designed to carry.

The Champlain Bridge is getting the worst beating and its design life span is threatened. In fact, the cost of erecting new steel bridges like the Champlain is reportedly so fabulously expensive that replacements are simply out of the question; they should be nominated for World Heritage Site status so they can get some protection.

The funding is supposed to be “there” and the papers ready to sign to complete the A-30 by, wait for it, 2009, three years after Laval commuters hop from one perfectly serviceable form of transit to the Gold Train. Pray that the project freezes ordered by Prime Minister Paul Martin do not include the A-30.

Then there were the December 11-12 labour demonstrations across Quebec protesting a government bill that would allow more outsourcing, increase daycare costs and the like.

Quebec unions, (in)famous for their militant tactics and sadomasochistic relationship with the former separatist government, called out a half-million members to protest – to warn the Charest government that their sacred rights would be protected, come Hell or high water. These same unions, recall, fought righteously in the late 1990s to organize and unionize owner/operators (O/Os) and improve their living conditions.

So what do the unions, defenders of the downtrodden, do? In the interest of warning the government to lay off on issues that, as far as I know, have nichts, nada and rien to do with the trucking industry, they block the ports in Montreal, Quebec City and Trois Rivieres and several highways, expressly targeting trucks, trapping their own members behind picket lines and depriving them of two days’ wages just before Christmas!

What were they thinking? Not only were the unions putting the boots to their brethren, they perhaps forgot the hiding they took after the 29 day intermodal strike in 2000, when carriers sued their asses off and won what one lawyer said were, “very interesting amounts of money.” The secret settlements, paid by union membership fees, no doubt, were enough to hammer dead the union’s lust to agitate on behalf of O/Os.

And what were the police doing during that were clear and massive violations of provincial law? Nothing, according to the police.

Scroll back to November 2000: Quebec passed Bill 157, tailor-made to stop the intermodal strike. It read, in part: “No person may, by omission or otherwise, in any manner impede or adversely affect the provision of road transport services in the territory of Quebec, except in the case of a lawfully declared strike or lockout.”

The fines for doing exactly what the unions and their members did last December, range from $1,000 a day per person to $35,000.

The tickets flew like confetti, right? Wrong. Why? Montreal City police explained to Truck News: “No one was ticketed or arrested. Legally it’s legitimate to protest and the (Montreal City police force) treated each protestation case by case trying to protect the citizens but also all the protesters. If the decision made by the officer in charge was not to ticket or arrest it was based on that,” … whatever that means.

“We asked the same question … publicly,” said Mlanie Lessard, the coordinator of compliance and legal affairs with the Quebec Trucking Association. “It was very frustrating. Recall that when truckers were protesting they were ticketed. It is a big mystery, but I think we can think of reasons. Unions with civil servants are much stronger than the O/Os. They are given a lot of room.” She noted: “The police came down and all the sudden guys with baseball bats came out. It is not the 1920s anymore. It is very sad.”

Will the unions get another lesson in lawsuit behaviour modification? “I do have some members who are thinking about that very seriously,” said Lessard.

One intermodal carrier president also told Truck News that if the protests had lasted several days the topic of a lawsuit would once again become popular among his colleagues.

The unions vow more protests in 2004.

It could be an amusing year.


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