Green light for $108M Bixi bailout
The city of Montreal has approved a $108-million bailout package for the Bixi bike-sharing program.
City council voted 35-25 Tuesday afternoon in favour of the package, initially proposed by mayor Gérald Tremblay.
The package includes $37-million to cover Bixi's deficit, and another $71-million in loan guarantees to export and develop the system abroad.
The head of the the non-profit rental-service – Roger Plamondon – has insisted the company is not under threat, despite having liquidity problems.
But the Public Bike System Co. is cash-strapped and its suppliers are waiting to get paid, Plamondon told Montreal city council Tuesday.
Plamondon was summoned to city hall to explain the need for financial assistance.
The word BIXI is a combination of bicycle and taxi.
Tremblay has defended Bixi against opposition leaders' criticism.
The mayor says any financial assistance will be recuperated after Bixi systems are implemented in cities around the world.
Toronto and London have guaranteed similar loans to set up Bixi systems in their respective cities.
Bixi audit not available
Meanwhile Montreal's auditor-general is refusing to comment on Bixi's financial stability.
Jacques Bergeron's office was supposed to audit the bike system, and submit a summary of that review in his annual report.
But his 2010 report, tabled Monday, does not include any Bixi audit.
Bergeron says it won't be ready until June.
Bixi was first set up in Montreal in 2009. It began operating in Toronto in late April and is scheduled to start rolling in Ottawa on Wednesday.