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2 min

View on the ground: The consequences of a senseless law

Marc-André Viau

Director, Government Relations

Published on 

In the past few weeks and months, I’ve been receiving messages from people from all over the province. Their concerns are varied, but have one thing in common: they all have to do with how our land is being developed and how our neighbourhoods are being affected.

Every day, the government makes decisions and passes laws that have a direct impact on people's lives.

In Crabtree, they learned that their maple grove and their hiking and cross-country ski trails were to be destroyed to make way for a new highway ramp.

Le Comité vert de Crabtree saving plants after the deforestation. Photo credit: Comité vert de Crabtree

In Sainte-Julienne, it’s a forest that will be cut down to make way for an autoroute.

The location of a future highway in Ste-Julienne. Photo credit: Shanie Gauthier

Between Trois-Pistoles and Rimouski, another highway will be extended, which will threaten rivers, destroy farmland and isolate villages.

Highway extension site at Trois-Pistoles. Photo credit: Seb Rioux

In Bécancour, a large industrial park wants to gobble up valuable farmland, while on the other side of the river, in Trois-Rivières, wetlands will be covered with concrete.

A small pond surrounded by a wooded bog, located where one of the future access roads for the industrial park is planned. Photo credit: Terre précieuse : coalition citoyenne pour l’environnement

The root cause of all of these problems is poor land use planning and laws that were rushed through without taking any critiques into account. Now we’re seeing the consequences.

Bill 66 must be repealed, to protect the environment

A refresher on Bill 66: Ill-advised, unjustified and creating a dangerous precedent, Bill 66 (Act respecting the acceleration of certain infrastructure projects) reduces environmental and public consultation requirements in order to expedite the construction of certain infrastructure projects.

The Quebec government used the pandemic as an excuse to pass Bill 66, at a time when the economic consequences of the pandemic were still uncertain. With all other health measures lifted, that excuse no longer holds. There is no valid reason for maintaining any exceptions for infrastructure projects through Bill 66.

Our environmental regulations, which were revised just prior to the pandemic, have been developed over time to meet specific objectives, one of which is to preserve biodiversity. At a time when biodiversity is under serious threat from climate change, the best defence against species loss is adequate environmental regulation.

In our democratic system, citizen engagement makes all the difference

I’m always shocked to read the stories and see the photos of Quebecers who are losing their precious natural environments (and along with then their priceless ecosystems services), because of this senseless law.

But I’m encouraged to see to what extent citizens are standing up and fighting for nature, fighting for their living environments. Over 3,000 people have answered our call to send emails to the Quebec government to demand that it #DoBetter – notably, by repealing Bill 66. The people who are writing to me about how their natural environments are being butchered are also writing to the media and together, we’re shedding light on the root of the problem and showing that we’re fed up of this backward vision of land use planning in Quebec.

Have a look at this young man as he submits a petition to the municipal council of Trois-Rivières. Signed by 390 students and teachers at his high school, the petition is against the expansion of an industrial park that would destroy 15 hectares of wetlands and part of a peat bog. That’s courage. That’s audacity. That’s what motivates me - to see people standing up to these cavalier government decisions. We must keep on fighting.

Quebecers deserve better, and the government of Quebec must do better.

Regardless of the result of the upcoming election campaign, we will not back down. We will remain vigilant and unwavering when it comes to protecting the land, its biodiversity, our natural environments, our agricultural land and our living environments. Together, we must continue to denounce environmental injustices. Our collective voice is loud and strong and carries far.