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Questions to the parties: Addressing environmental issues in Quebec’s election campaign

  • Published on Nov 26 2008 |
  • This article is tagged as: boreal-forest

A dozen environmental organizations have released responses to a joint questionnaire on the environment sent to all of Quebec\'s political parties.

Download complete responses (PDF, in French only)

The parties differed greatly on their responses to the 25 yes or no questions asked: the Green Party of Quebec (GPQ) and Québec Solidaire (QS) responded with 25 favourable answers each, the Parti québécois (PQ) responded with 16, the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) with 8, and the Liberal Party of Quebec with 5. Please note that the Liberals did not respond to the questions with a simple yes or no answer as requested, but rather explained their position in a written statement without clearly responding to the original questions. Environmental organizations are concerned that the main parties\' visions do not adequately address the preservation of our natural heritage and also do not recognize that policies good for the environment are also good for the economy.

The parties agree on two issues

The political parties have unanimously called for the establishment of a mandatory maintenance and inspection program for Quebec\'s automobiles, a program similar to those that exists elsewhere across North America and Europe.

André Bélisle, president of the Quebec Association of the Fight against Atmospheric Pollution and a member of the Quebec Kyoto Coalition stated that, "this measure will help to considerably reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring that hundreds of thousands of Quebec\'s polluting vehicles, estimated to account for about 20% of the province\'s automobile fleet, meet regulatory standards."

Following two parliamentary commissions in 2008 investigating lawsuits filed by powerful organizations or individuals to intimidate or silence a less powerful critic (referred to as SLAPPS - Strategic lawsuits against public participation), all parties have made commitments to adopt an anti-gagging law by the spring of 2009. Nevertheless, environmental groups urge the government to act quickly to insure the health and security of present victims.

The Liberals, PQ and ADQ neglect seven crucial issues


The three main parties’ traditionally have taken positions that pose a threat to the environment, a precedent which concerns environmentalists. These positions include:

  • the production of nuclear waste and the refurbishment of the Gentilly-2 Nuclear Power Plant;
  • the exploitation of natural gas in the St. Lawrence Lowlands;
  • the refusal to double the funding dedicated to public transportation;
  • the refusal to create the first large protected area to safeguard woodland caribou by 2009;
  • the refusal to enact a moratorium on all exploration and exploitation of natural gas in the Gulf of St. Laurence;
  • the removal of barriers to using the Forest Stewardship Council certification scheme in Quebec;
  • and the refusal to increase the budget of the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks from it’s current 0.3% to 2% of total government expenditures.

André Bélisle states that, "we find that, overall, the responses from three main parties show considerable weaknesses in their energy and transportation portfolios. It is disappointing that their commitments are so poor when the issues are so significant for Quebec\'s future economic prosperity, and are so crucial in the fight against climate change."

Analysis of each of the parties\' answers

QS and GPQ, by consistently advocating for the preservation of the environment in their responses, demonstrate that the environment is at the heart of their preoccupations. As for the other parties, they differ in several ways. Environmentalists are pleased to learn that the Liberals are committed to protecting 50% of northern Quebec, but consider that they should do so in closer partnership with Native people. 

The Liberal Party\'s position on forests, however, is a disappointment. Melissa Filion of Greenpeace states that:

"The Liberals are the only party which oppose a public review of the environmental impacts of the extraction of forest biomass for energy purposes; they refuse to put in place a credible policy-making process based on science to determine which intact forests to protect; and, they are the only party that remains vague about entrusting responsibility of forest management to an independent organization, rather than to industry."

In addition, Jean Charest is the only leader to refuse enacting Kyoto Plus targets for Quebec, a pledge which would commit Quebec to reduce greenhouse gases by 25% (from the 1990 level) by 2020.

The PQ surprised environmental organizations by its boldness in a number of portfolios, including: its opposition to liquefied natural gas terminal projects on the St. Lawrence River and the Saguenay; its opposition toward the Trailbraker pipeline project that would bring tar-sands oil from Alberta to Quebec; and, its support for the extensive development of renewable energy and energy conservation projects. In addition, the PQ has pledged to impose a moratorium on all new highway construction projects, to collaborate with the Federal government to ensure that by 2012 12% of Quebec\'s marine territory is included in Marine Protected Areas, and to make it obligatory that all genetically modified food products are labelled.

The ADQ is the only one of the three main parties to be in favour of a moratorium on all new construction on wetlands in urban and urban-fringe areas. However, the ADQ is alone in opposing a program for the composting and anaerobic digestion of organic material, a program that would help Quebec\'s towns and cities to divert 60% of these materials from landfills, as required by the 1998-2008 Quebec Action Plan for Waste Management.

Conclusion

Michel Bélanger of Nature Quebec stated that, “the parties must understand that we cannot separate the environment and the economy. Due to the magnitude and urgency of today’s issues, the price to pay for bad environmental decisions will be felt for the same duration of our newly elected government.” 

Nicolas Mainville, the Conservation Director with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society notes that, “environmentalists are delighted by the parties’ efforts in responding to this questionnaire and would like to highlight the Liberal’s progress in protecting northern Quebec, the ADQ’s commitments to protecting wetlands, and Québec Solidaire’s and the Green Party’s progressive and innovative policies.

All the environmental organizations warmly welcome the all-party consensus on compulsory automobile emission inspections and the anti-gagging (SLAPP) legislation. It should still be noted, however, that the parties are all inclined to talk about the environment, but are far less convincing when the time comes to taking real action. It is time to move from words to deeds and to undertake the major changes needed for Quebec’s future.

This analysis was conducted following the release of an environmental questionnaire which concentrated on the following themes: climate change, energy, air quality, land use, nature conservation, forest management, waste management, agriculture and the financing of environmental commitments. The majority of the questions were simple yes or no answers. The Liberals, who didn\'t answer "yes" or "no" to any of the questions, were evaluated based on the environmental group\'s interpretation of their written submissions. The other parties abided by the questionnaire’s guidelines. The questionnaire and detailed responses are available online at http://www.snapqc.org and www.greenpeace.ca.

More information:

AQLPA and the Quebec Kyoto Coalition, André Belisle 418 386-6992
Citoyens pour la nature, Yourianne Plante, 514 278-7627 ext. 222
Environnement Jeunesse, Jérôme Normand, 514 577-3016
Equiterre
David Suzuki Foundation, Julie Tremblay, 514 249-4217
Greenpeace, Isabelle Monette 514 212-5749
Nature Quebec Mylène Bergeron, 418 933-2031
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Quebec Chapter, Sophie Paradis 514 583-6554
Vivre en Ville, regroupement québécois pour le développement urbain, rural et villageois viable Alexandre Turgeon, 418 655-0592