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Opinion  •  3 min

Quebec’s Energy Future: Why doesn't the Minister have time for a BAPE?

Marc-André Viau

Director, Government Relations

Published on 

Earlier this year, I wrote an open letter and Équiterre launched a campaign calling for a collective discussion among Quebecers on how we should use our precious renewable energy in the years to come. The Premier himself called for a societal debate on Quebec’s energy future last November. We agree on that, that’s good, but the devil is in the details - in this case, what format this discussion will take. We want the public consultation to be conducted by the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE).

A lot has happened since then.

  • Over 7,500 people signed our petition (which I invite you to sign and share if you haven’t already) and a hundred groups - including non-environmental groups - have called for the public consultation to be led by the BAPE.

  • The Premier has put this so-called public consultation in the hands of the Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy and Minister responsible for Regional Economic Development, Mr. Fitzgibbon.

  • Minister Fitzgibbon is opposed to involving the BAPE on the grounds that it would "take too much time". Yet, it’s worth noting that it was thanks to the BAPE that GNL Quebec (a project that had the support of Minister Fitzgibbon) never saw the light of day.

The Minister doesn't seem to have had time to read the Hydro-Québec Act either and thinks he is the only one in charge of replacing the outgoing president and CEO, Sophie Brochu. The government seems to want to move quickly on the energy file and is cutting corners.

How can the Minister not invest the time? Would he prefer not to study all of the angles or to take into consideration all of the perspectives?

Involving the BAPE is crucial, here’s why

The BAPE provides a clear vision on an issue through an environmental and sustainable development lens, in order to help the government make decisions. And it’s also open to the participation of every citizen of Quebec, unlike a commission that is only open to experts.

How long does a BAPE consultation take?

  • A public consultation conducted by the BAPE doesn’t take three years. For example, the BAPE held an inquiry, a public hearing and published a report on residual waste in just one year.

And who decides?

  • It’s the Minister of the Environment, in this case Mr. Charrette, who decides whether or not to entrust a mandate to the BAPE. The Minister of Energy and Economy does not have that authority.

  • In fact, the Minister of Energy and Economy does not have an environmental or sustainable development mandate. This must be addressed in the definition of the energy vision.

The government doesn't seem to really want Quebecers to get involved in discussions about our energy future, it doesn't seem to want us to be part of the conversation. Its mind seems to be made up and it would rather impose its vision rather than listen to public opinion. It prefers to make decisions behind closed doors.

But we all need to be involved in discussions on Quebec’s energy future! We must ensure that the voices of experts, Indigenous communities, civil society and all Quebecers be heard. It is therefore essential that the format of the consultation be inclusive. That’s why we’re calling for a public consultation led by the BAPE.

Building a vision for Quebec’s energy future, together

No one has all the answers, but we have a good idea of the path we need to take towards a shared vision. Équiterre will have a lot to contribute to consultation and our supporters will no doubt have a lot to say too, provided the government gives us the chance.

🌎 It's time to help the government make the right choices.

Quebec’s energy future will be about more than just building new power plants and new dams. There’s a lot to be done to make our voices heard by the government.

In the meantime, here’s what we need to do:

  • prioritize decarbonization of priority industries (transportation, buildings, industry).

  • reduce our consumption of fossil fuels as much as possible.

  • use renewable energy in a way that reduces demand as much as possible, respecting the limits of production capacities.

  • when necessary, develop our energy capacity in a way that limits impacts on biodiversity and local communities.

  • not overexploit our resources in the name of economic development.

Let’s take the time we need to have a real collective discussion. Energy sobriety is not about turning on your dishwasher at midnight, it is about making the right choices with regards to development that will have an impact on our energy consumption.