Quebec premier to 'evaluate' SAAQ's administration in wake of service slow downs
Quebec Premier François Legault will personally "evaluate" the work performance of those in charge of the province's automobile insurance board.
"What I want, in the next few days, the next few weeks, is to evaluate the work of the SAAQ's board of directors and the president of the SAAQ, because there has clearly been a serious gap in planning," said Legault.
This comes after weeks of slowdowns and delays at the SAAQ, a Crown corporation responsible for licensing drivers and vehicles while providing public auto insurance.
The delays began in the weeks leading up to the launch of the SAAQ's new online portal on Feb. 20, SAAQclic.
The web service allows customers to do their transactions online, including renewing driving licences and paying for a driving exam.
The SAAQ directed resources away from service centres to prepare for the launch, causing lineups and delays.
Then the portal was launched, and the transition created headaches for drivers and car dealers seeking licences or car registrations.
Faced with the complexity of the authentication process, many people preferred to go to an SAAQ counter, causing more backlog at service centres.
Private drivers been affected by the slowdown, but so have commercially licensed drivers and their vehicles. For example, truckers have struggled to get their International Registration Plan which allows them to transport goods outside of Quebec.
During his media briefing at the National Assembly in Quebec City on Tuesday, Legault acknowledged that there had been a planning problem at the SAAQ.
On Monday, Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault and Cybersecurity and Digital Minister Éric Caire announced measures to reduce wait times at SAAQ service centres and to simplify the process of creating an SAAQclic account.
A few days earlier, Caire had dismissed criticism of his ministry's involvement in the mess, denying any responsibility. On Monday, he acknowledged that the digital transition had suffered from poor public communication.
"We did not inform the population enough," he said. "We could have done better."
In the National Assembly on Tuesday, the interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, Marc Tanguay, asked in an ironic tone if Legault also intended to "evaluate" Caire's work as the digital minister.
Legault replied that his minister simply could not "replace" the heads of each Crown corporation.
"He can advise them," said Legault, but in the end it is up to the corporation to resolve the issues.
Caire then stood to defend himself, saying there was no reason for the ministry to launch an investigation into what is happening at the SAAQ.
"They were in control of the situation and they were confident that they would respect the budgets, the schedules and the scope of the project," he said.