Crossing the Isle-aux-Coudres: The islanders are fed up with the STQ

A few days before a ferry workers’ strike, a group of citizens and entrepreneurs from L’Isle-aux-Coudres sent a formal notice to the Société des Traversiers du Québec (STQ) to improve service, claiming they are ready to do so going far to ask for oversight of state society.

• Also read: Isle-aux-Coudres ferry: essential services maintained despite strike

This formal notice comes as staff on the ferry between L’Isle-aux-Coudres and Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive want to trigger an indefinite standstill from 6am on Saturday. Basic services are offered.

The call asks “to offer crossings as soon as possible according to the timetables that have been in place for several years” and “to offer a reliable ship all year round”.

It is addressed to the CEO of the STQ, Stéphane Lafaut, to the Chairman of the Board, Pascal Tessier-Fleury, and to the Minister responsible for the STQ, François Bonnardel, who is also Minister of Transport.

upset

“There have been violations of the STQ for several years. We don’t come out of a surprise box. It’s not the two or three things that are happening right now that make us take action,” says Simon Vadnais, spokesman for the group, which has around 20 members.

“There are problems not only during the tourist season. It’s winter too. The boat got stuck in the ice, the lack of a support boat. The management of the STQ lacks vision and forecasts and no one ever seems to be in charge,” adds the representative of the “crisis team”.

serious approach

The group’s lawyer swears that the warning is not an excuse.

“When people don’t keep their promises, we resort to legal action to make things happen. The STQ has duties and responsibilities. But she always fails to provide services. It’s a fiasco,” pleads Me Frederic St-Jean.

The lawyer explains that the reminder is an ultimatum.

“Something has to happen. There must be transparency and participation from the people of the island. Otherwise, I will have the requirements determined by the Court of Appeal, because an application for injunctive relief and maybe even guardianship will be filed,” warns Mr.e St-Jean.

financial consequences

He argues that the problems at the crossroads have caused companies’ sales to drop by 20 to 25%.

The formal notice puts the damage at $1 million for businesses, $1 million for bad press and $1,000 per resident for inconvenience.

“I quantified the damage very theoretically, but I estimate it to be much more,” the lawyer specifies.

Déjà-vu

Angry islanders remind that this is not the first media outlet for the problems at this crossing.

In March, the mayor of the small community of around 1,100, Christyan Dufour, a former STQ employee, even offered his services to alleviate the labor shortage.

“Every time we are told it will be fixed. They even went so far as to promise us three ferries this summer. It’s always window dressing and we put out the fires at the last minute. We can never have the right time,” plagues Simon Vadnais.

Hit

And even the threat of industrial action sticks to the skin of the STQ in the eyes of the group.

“The agreements have been in place for two years and they are not getting along with the employees, not only here. We tell ourselves that there is a failure in management. They are friends, colleagues, family members who work for the Traverse. Yes, the strike is scary, but no one is angry with them. The Félix Antoine Savard has not been serviced for a year and a half. He spent the winter break. The employees are not the problem,” argues Simon Vadnais.

The future

According to Mr. Vadnais, service problems have various consequences. In addition to considerations in the event of a medical emergency, he points to the wait that annoys islanders as tourists, uncertainty as to whether the crossing will go ahead, vendors imposing additional charges or refusing to go to the island.

Last winter the school closed because some teachers could not come to school. People were also forced to take vacation leave because they were unable to do their jobs.

“How are people supposed to want to move here if they aren’t sure they can come to work? Entrepreneurs here say they won’t invest for the next 5 to 10 years because the risk factor is too big. Nobody wants to further develop Isle-Aux-Coudres. However, we have a great dynamic with kitesurfing, music, shows, restaurants,” regrets Mr. Vadnais.

The island has an airstrip, but no company offers services there.

reaction

The STQ responded to the warning in a press release on Wednesday and specified that no additional interview would be granted.

“We understand the concerns of the merchants and residents of L’Isle-aux-Coudres. For this reason, despite the delays in the modernization of the MV Joseph-Savard and the general labor shortage in Quebec, we have dispatched a second ship to L’Isle-aux-Coudres in the summer of 2021 and 2022. In addition to moving a vessel from Québec-Lévis, we have proceeded to charter a European vessel and have invested several million dollars. Our priority is to provide an adequate service to the island’s residents and traders, even as we have to deal with strike days and certain delays from our suppliers, as we have had over the past year,” the STQ wrote.

The Waltz of the Ships at the Crossroads

Name / Status / Role

  • MV Félix-Antoine-Savard / In service / STQ support ship. Replaces the Joseph Savard since March 2021.
  • NM Svanoy / In service / Chartered Norwegian ship. Started on Monday.
  • NM Joseph-Savard / Under repair / Nave. Year built 1985. Mid-life repairs started in March 2021 have been delayed. The restart is currently planned for autumn.
  • NM Radisson / Under repair / Support ship for summer reinforcements. Year of construction 1954. Unexpected engine failure in April 2021. Undetermined return to service. Should be replaced in 2031.
  • NM Alphonse-Desjardins / retired / allocated to the Quebec-Lévis ferry. Replaced NM Radisson in Summer 2021
  • NM Lomer-Gouin / Retired / Allocated for Quebec-Lévis crossing. Served from June 23 to July 4, 2022

Islanders at their wit’s end

  • “We are prepared for the mayor to give his name to substitute as a seaman, lieutenant or captain. Does it have to be bad enough?” — Mayor Christyan Dufour in March 2022
  • “The serious managerial and unpredictable deficiencies that have accumulated on the part of STQ leadership have long had a direct impact on the sustainability and security of the island’s people, all year round.” – Group press release
  • “When we dropped out last summer it was too late to save the season. But we wanted to tell them to give us a (tourist) season in 2022. The fact is that they have not prepared anything. What’s going on at the STQ? – Simon Vadnais, spokesman for the group
  • “We’ve heard from the community in the past. We heard Tourisme Isle-aux-Coudres. There are residents and business people who say enough is enough. Eco-Eurantite is here.” – Simon Vadnais, spokesman for the group
  • “It’s a dialogue between the deaf and the STQ. Boots don’t follow your lips” – Me Frédéric St-Jean, Group Counsel.
  • “In Quebec we have two links and we want a third. At Isle-aux-Coudres we only want one, but functional.” -Me Frédéric St-Jean, Group Counsel

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