Users of the Deux-Montagnes train line are demanding the resignation of Exo president Josée Bérubé after she made “condescending” suggestions for how to cope with the commuter line shutdown scheduled to begin Jan. 6.
At a public meeting with commuters Thursday night, Bérubé suggested that those who will be affected by the closure of the Mount Royal tunnel become creative about solutions to make the longer commute less painful.
She suggested hiring a personal chef or asking employers if children can come to work during days when there is no school.
“In my profession, when we have constraints, it is the source of invention,” Bérubé, an architect by training, told those in attendance at the Plaza Centre-Ville hotel. “We can ask employers to modify work hours; we can ask for a place at work for children when there is no daycare service; we can hire someone who is out of work and ask them to make meals in advance. I know single mothers who have access to these kinds of services.”
She suggested that those affected take time over the holidays to figure out how to change their habits over the course of the year.
“We all make New Year’s resolutions to change our habits and just keep them one day, but maybe this year the reflection can be what can people do on their own or within their families, or workplaces, to get through this period.”
A video of Bérubé’s comments has been shared more than 100 times on a Facebook group dedicated to Deux-Montagnes train users.
Francis Millaire, one of the spokespeople for the Deux-Montagnes train users, commented on the post, calling Bérubé’s statements “disconnected and condescending.” He said she has no empathy for those who will be affected by a three- to four-year interruption in their commute.
He called on her to resign.
Through a spokesperson, Bérubé apologized for the comments Friday afternoon, saying she chose bad examples.
“Mrs. Bérubé was expressing her empathy about an upcoming situation that won’t be easy,” Exo spokesperson Louis-André Bertrand said in a statement. “She was calling for users to show solidarity and find solutions. (She) admits her examples were poorly chosen and apologizes to those who did not appreciate her comments.”
The Mount Royal tunnel will close Jan. 6 until the end of 2022 for the construction of the REM, a $6.3-billion rail network that will transform the line and connect it to the airport, the South Shore over the Champlain Bridge, and the West Island along Highway 40. In 2021, all the stations on the existing Deux-Montagnes line will be closed so they can be rebuilt by 2023.
The group representing the roughly 18,000 train users have denounced plans by the provincial government to try to alleviate the pain with bus service, saying the mitigation measures are insufficient.
They have asked for a meeting with Quebec Premier François Legault to find better solutions.