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Amendments to the Act respecting land use planning and development - Legal and practical reforms

Quebec City, May 12, 2011 - As part of the general consultation on the Sustainable Regional and Local Land Use Planning draft bill, Vivre en Ville, Equiterre, the Regroupement national des conseils régionaux de l’environnement (RNCREQ) and the David Suzuki Foundation are calling for a real reform of land management practices. The future law will guide land use and planning for decades, impacting quality of life for all Quebecers. It should be the first step in a decisive new direction, giving the government the necessary leverage to steer Quebec towards sustainable land use.

Put an end to decades of poor management practices 
Current urban planning practices are far from sustainable. Urban sprawl, car-dependent communities, financially non-viable infrastructures... "Urban sprawl eats into our resources at an alarming rate. To put an end to decades of poor management practices will require not only clear direction but also a rigourous framework," says Alexandre Turgeon, founding chair of Vivre en Ville.

A promising draft bill
To begin with, the four organizations are heartened by the name of the draft bill, Sustainable Regional and Local Land Use Planning, which suggests a willingness to move in the right direction. By introducing "responsible and thoughtful land use planning in keeping with sustainable development principles" as a guiding concept, the proposed new legal framework invites municipal actors to improve their practices. This orientation should be reflected in all levels of the draft bill. Says Karel Mayrand, the Quebec director of the David Suzuki Foundation, "Quebec must seize the opportunity to create a framework that will allow it to maintain natural areas on the urban periphery and the multiple essential ecological services that they provide to support the quality of life of our communities."

The provincial government, custodian of sustainable land use
The municipalities, autonomous means of action, obligatory results
According to the four organizations, the provincial government must remain the custodian of sustainable land use to protect collective interest. For their part, municipalities must be autonomous in their means of action, but they must have an obligation of results. "The draft bill of the act proposes that the metropolitan communities and the regional county municipalities adopt a strategic vision for the development of their land," says Hugo Séguin, senior advisor at Equiterre. "But nowhere is it stated that there should also be a strategic vision for all of Quebec. As it is, we're putting the cart before the horse."

Positive aspects to build on

In their brief, "Réforme de la loi, réforme des pratiques," the four organizations propose notably that the regional county municipalities and the municipalities have an obligation to adopt self-monitoring mechanisms as a good step towards effective and more responsible planning. Transparent and regular accountability will allow the government and citizens to track progress.

The purposes introduced in article 19 of the draft bill, e.g., reducing greenhouse gases and reducing dependency on cars, are also of interest. The introduction of these purposes, which are directly associated with the principles of sustainable development, underlines and reinforces the role of land planning documents in regards to environmental issues. It is probably one of the biggest strengths of the draft bill.
It would be desirable to make these purposes the basis of all land planning exercices (for regional county municipalities, metropolitan communities, municipalities, etc.).

Towards a sustainable land use policy for Quebec 
For Vivre en Ville, Equiterre, RNCREQ and the David Suzuki Foundation, the revision of the law must be the first step towards a Quebec policy on sustainable land-use planning. This policy must ensure consistency of all government actions that have an impact on land use. Philippe Bourke, director of RNCREQ, points out, "Changes to the planning system can't just be cosmetic. Ultimately, Quebec must develop a provincial policy on sustainable land use planning so that all the stakeholders contribute, in a concerted manner that takes the local context into account, to the same goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Briefs* available online at
*French only

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Eveline Trudel-Fugère
514 605-2000

Philippe Cousineau Morin
Vivre en Ville
514 799-1906

Manon Dubois
David Suzuki Foundation
514 679-0821

Anne-Marie Gagnon
514 651-8236