Environmental Policy in Quebec: Unrest on the Horizon

By Dostie, Pierre | Canadian Dimension, September-October 2007 | Go to article overview

Environmental Policy in Quebec: Unrest on the Horizon


Dostie, Pierre, Canadian Dimension


Jean Charest's minority Liberal government boasts that Quebec will reach the goals set out in the Kyoto Agreement, and this despite Harper's shameful refusal to add Canada's signature to it. Yet, it is his record on environmental issues since the beginning of his term in office that has been the most damaging to his government's credibility. There was the Suroit natural-gas-fuelled electric power-plant project, which he was forced to renounce due to widespread public outcry--and, more recently, his push to sell off Mount Orford, a vast and important national park specifically donated to the province for public use.

Wind energy, only recently developed in the eastern part of Quebec and now spreading across the province, is being presented as a viable energy alternative to other initiatives like the Suroit plant. It is being sold as contributing to the pursuit of Kyoto objectives and to the diversification of electricity production, currently dominated by hydroelectricity. Unfortunately, Charest has favoured private-sector initiatives, resulting in somewhat anarchic development. Why not entrust the development and management of wind energy to a public corporation along the lines of Hydro-Quebec? The PQ government had attempted similar measures when it proposed the rigging of thirty-or-so rivers. But the strong mobilizations that followed forced the government to back down. Today, many movements are demanding the nationalization of wind energy. The battle, however, is far from being won.

But the political environmental scene this fall will most likely be dominated by the liquefied natural-gas port projects of Gros Cacouna, Rabaska and Grande-Anse. This is the biggest environmental snake-in-the-grass ever presented to Quebecers.

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