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Air Pollution and Climate Change 

[expand title=»Premature Death from Poor Air Quality» expanded=»true»]

In 2008, lower respiratory diseases was the fifth leading cause of premature death across all province except for Quebec, where it was ranked third. A 2021 report shows that Quebec was the province with the second highest number of premature mortality due to air pollution with 4, 000 deaths. However, it ranked first in premature deaths due to air quality per 100, 000 citizens with a rate of 48 per 100, 000 in 2016. The same report shows a three-year population weighted average of daily fine particulate matter concentrations wherein the Windsor-Quebec City Corridor has some of the highest values across the country—between 5.2 and 8.8 μg/m3. For clarification, fine particulate matter trigger a variety of health problems, including premature death in people with heart or lung disease. The same region also had some of the highest NO2 concentrations—between 5.1 and 12.4 ppb. Effects on health are similar for NO2, all relating to trouble with the respiratory system.

Read more about the sources of these pollutants in ‘Air Pollution from Wood Burning’ and ‘Low-Grade Fuel Burning in Shipping Industry’.

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[expand title=»Greenhouse Gas Emissions Continue to Rise» expanded=»true»]

Greenhouse gas emissions increased by 2.6% from 2016 to 2017 and only decreased by 0.1% following year. This equates to an increase of 2.5% between 2016 and 2017. Data from 2014 and 2017 also shows a slight increase in emissions. So, who is to blame?

Since 1990, the industrial sector has reduced its emissions by 7.8 megatons in comparison to the transportation sector, which saw an increase of 9 megatons. In fact, emissions from transportation have increased by 60% since 1990 and currently accounts for over </a href=”https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-green-plan-1.5802976”>40% of Quebec’s emissions. It comes as no surprise, then, that the 2030 Plan for a Green Economy is focused on decarbonizing the sector.

The problem is that it is focused on electrifying transportation (read more about this in ‘Inadequate Plan for Reducing Emissions’). It seems, though, the Quebeckers are hesitant to make the switch, as the number of light trucks on Quebec roads has increased by 260% while emissions rose by 150%. Despite the plan’s focus on reducing emissions from transportation, there seems to be no incentives to reduce consumption of these gas-guzzling vehicles as Quebec refuses to limit SUV advertisements. Without real action, greenhouse gas emissions can be expected to keep rising for years to come.

For more information on Quebec emissions, click here.

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[expand title=»Inadequate Plan for Reducing Emissions» expanded=»true»]

Quebec’s 2030 Plan for a Green Economy aims to help Quebec achieve its goals to meet a 37.5% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2030 and to become carbon neutral by 2050. However, its focus is on electrifying the transportation industry— with some initiatives to better the energy efficiency of buildings and to develop green energies including renewable natural gas and other bioenergy production. Besides notably neglecting social reproduction, the plan is estimated to only achieve an emission reduction of 15% compared to 1990 levels.

Additionally, electrifying the transportation is not the ‘green solution’ it is portrayed to be given the harms from extracting lithium for the batteries. It was found that carbon dioxide emissions during from the life cycle of electric vehicle production are about 60% higher than during the production of internal-combustion vehicles when lithium is extracted according to Chinese standards. Furthermore, the extraction of one metric ton of lithium from salt flats requires approximately 500,000 gallons of water, and the necessary evaporation of water afterwards can leak toxic chemicals into the air and surrounding environment. To really reduce environmental harms from the transportation industry, investments in public transit are needed, deterring Quebeckers from personal vehicle use altogether.

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[expand title=»Emissions from Fossil Fuel Cars» expanded=»true»]

Quebec’s 2030 plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions focuses strongly on electrifying all modes of transportation (cars, trucks, public transport). However, the ban on gas powered vehicles will only be for personal use vehicles, not for vehicles used for industrial and commercial purposes. There are currently over 8.9 million cars in the province, and only 1.1% represents electric vehicles. The number of cars is growing faster than the number of people in the city of Montreal, it was shown that only 415 705 people take public transit to get to work while 1.2 million people drive,   a lot of which are people driving from the suburbs or off the islands to get to work downtown.

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[expand title=»Emissions from Aluminum and Cement Factories» expanded=»true»]

Industries in Quebec represent 44% of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions, falling closely behind transportation.

The company Ciment McInnis made promises that the factory wouldn’t be harmful to the environment, claiming it would use less fuel and energy compared to its competitors but it on track to being the biggest polluter in Quebec. Emissions from this industry have risen significantly since 2016, contributing to 1 047 904 tonnes of CO2.

The Aluminum Alouette factory is the most important producer of aluminum in all of North America, producing over 620 000 tonnes. Consequently it is also the third most polluting industry in Quebec (after oil refineries), contributing 1 089 923 tonnes of CO2 .

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[expand title=»Lack of Infrastructure that Reduce Emissions» expanded=»true»]

In Quebec’s 2020 Green Plan, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in buildings are limited. Their only proposal is to use wood or other organic material (not mentioned which), it doesn’t mention the use of bricks, cement, or other hazardous materials. However, it is still not possible to build a house or building only out of wood, underground parking still requires the use of cement.

There’s a lot of greenwashing that happens with new infrastructure projects (i.e. the Royalmount project in Montreal or the Turcot), whereby the projects are considered “green” due to planting vegetation and gardens around the buildings. The pandemic recovery plan proposed by the CAQ government, has put most of its investments in building and doing it quickly, projects that would require a lot of cement. Additionally $67.9 million over the next 5 years has been put towards rapid environmental assessments, to which the government considers this as part of “climate” .

Only 1% of Quebec annual budget has been given to natural infrastructure and PhytoTechnology, which is usually linked to green gardens and rooftops.

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[expand title=»Low-Grade Fuel Burning in Shipping Industry» expanded=»true»]

The burning of low-grade fuel in shipping emits a variety of air pollutants including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, particulate sulfate, black carbon, and particulate organic matter. These reduce air quality by producing particulate matter as well as ozone, while the deposition of nitrogen and sulfur contribute to acidification and eutrophication (read the report here). Black carbon alone has numerous impacts including serious effects on health and respiration, preventing clouds from forming and thus altering regional weather patterns, reducing Earth’s albedo and therefore accelerating the melting of ice and snow, absorbing sunlight and transforming it to heat, and obstructing plant health and productivity. Altogether, it has a warming effect 4.60-1,500 times stronger than carbon dioxide, and there are currently no regulations controlling its emissions from shipping.

Despite the air pollution from the shipping industry, Quebec insists on expanding the Laurentia Port in Quebec City and the Contrecoeur Port near Montreal, promoting the continued growth of Quebec’s part in the shipping industry.

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[expand title=» Poor Air Quality in Schools» expanded=»true»]

Schools in Quebec were asked by the Ministry of Education were asked to test the concentration of CO2, to verify if there was sufficient ventilation to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Half the classes tested by Quebec did not measure the optimal air quality level of 1000 parts per millions of CO2.

Students from the New Carlisle High School in Gaspe as the air quality in two classrooms exceed 2000 ppm of CO2 when the windows were closed. The presence of asbestos and mold were also reported.

For now the Ministry’s solution to this problem is for teachers to open the windows and doors, even during the winter. In the Ministry’s air quality report, this seems to be the only proposed solution.

More information:

https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1784852/classe-centre-services-scolaire-ventilation-aeration?depuisRecherche=true

https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1785446/syndicat-enseignants-nouveaux-tests-qualite-air?depuisRecherche=true

https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1788050/ecole-institut-sept-iles-qualite-air-covid-19-ppm?depuisRecherche=true

https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/education/590400/des-tests-secrets-revelent-la-mauvaise-qualite-de-l-air-dans-les-ecoles

https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/education/594147/coronavirus-ouvrir-les-fenetres-efficace-pour-faire-circuler-l-air

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[expand title=»Carbon Tax Not High Enough to Incite Behavioral Change» expanded=»true»]

Since 2014, Quebec has had a provincial cap-and-trade system with California known has the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) wherein Quebec places a cap on maximum emissions, and companies that exceed it must purchase carbon credits to compensate their surplus. The minimum cost for a credit is determined by the government, but the actual cost is left to market forces, averaging at $20.82 per tonne in 2019. In comparison, the new federal tax will be $50 per ton in 2022 and will increase by $15 each year until it reaches a tax of $170 per tonne in 2030. Quebec, having been in the WCI for years, will be exempt from the tax. This means companies in Quebec, and surely the population as well, will not have as great of an incentive to minimize their carbon footprint.

Essentially, Quebec is being let-off easy with their sub-par taxation rate. Evidence shows that the carbon tax is not high enough to incite behavioral change as emissions continue to rise, especially in the transportation industry (read more in ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions Continue to Rise’). This is largely because the system is designed to put costs on industrial companies rather than on the general public, though Montreal drivers are taxed 3¢ per litre. Raising the carbon tax would push Quebec drivers to take public transit or to purchase electric vehicles, which is ultimately the goal of the 2030 Plan for a Green Economy. Without an adequate carbon taxation rate, there will be no incentive for real change.

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[expand title=»Urban Heat Islands» expanded=»true»]

The urban heat island effect occurs in cities when there is low tree cover, dark materials (such as the abundance of parking lots) which absorb sunlight and give off heat, and the presence of tall buildings which trap heat. The effects of an urban heat island include increased energy demand for air-conditioning which increase the amount of pollutants and greenhouse gases in the air, it increases water temperatures which affects aquatic species, it can negatively impact human health causing discomfort, exhaustion, respiratory problems and even heat-related deaths.

The urban heat island effect in dense cities such as Montreal, which can have significantly higher temperatures than urban areas. Vulnerable populations who live in urban head island areas are twice as likely to die (as was seen in 2018 when 66 people died over 6 days of extreme heat). Because Quebec is built around the use of cars, this kind of construction (i.e parking lots or high ways) traps heat and contributes to this heat effect. In downtown Gatineau, the temperatures are always a few degrees higher because more than half the area (70%) is built from concrete and asphalt.

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[expand title=»Nitrous Oxide from Fertilizers» expanded=»true»]

In 2020, greenhouse gas emissions from carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide continued to rise despite the pandemic. It has been suggested that nitrous oxide is 300 times more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide, and the concentration is continuing to rise in the atmosphere. Almost 70% of the amount of nitrous oxide being added to the atmosphere is from agriculture and the use of nitrogen fertilizer.  This is a problem that occurs not only in the summer, but during the winter as well as bacteria will convert nitrates into nitrous oxide which be released in the air when ground melts.

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[expand title=»Reduced Air Quality from Salted Roads» expanded=»true»]

More than 1.5 millions tons of road salt is used each winter in Quebec. A recent study shows that there is a chemical bond that forms from a reaction from gas powered gas to road salt, which once hit by the sun, can break apart and release chlorine atoms and nitrogen dioxide into the atmosphere (nitryl chloride). The study showed that 80 to 100% of the nitryl choloride particles they analyzed was from road salt aerosol. Additionally, the left overs from winter salting and sanding creates a thick layer of dust and dirt along the roads, which as it becomes disrupted by cars can become a breathing hazard.

More info:

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-biggest-environmental-issues-in-canada.html

https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/how-canadas-addiction-to-road-salt-is-ruining-everything

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[expand title=»Attribution of Free Carbon Permits to Big Industries» expanded=»true»]

As part of the cap-and-trade system, companies purchase carbon credits to compensate for their surplus emissions (read more in ‘Carbon Tax Not High Enough to Incite Behavioral Change’). Companies buy credits, and as a result, their products are sold at a higher cost matching the higher cost of production. However, Quebec attributes free carbon permits to large industrial emitters known as emissions-intensive trade-exposed emitters (EITE). These are emitters whose competition is companies in territories with lower environmental regulations. As such, they cannot sell their products for more and still be competitive in the market.

Unfortunately for the health of our planet, the EITEs include some of Quebec’s biggest polluters, including aluminum smelters, steel mills, cement plants, and pulp and paper plants. Together, the four industries account for 51 of the top 100 polluting companies in Quebec and accounted for over 13 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2019. For reference, the total greenhouse emissions in 2017 was 78.6 million tonnes. That means the four industries’ emissions in 2019 were equivalent to 16.5% of Quebec’s total emissions in 2017. Once again, Quebec proves to be more committed to its economy than to protecting the environment.

Read more about polluting industries in ‘Emissions from Aluminum and Cement Factories’.

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[expand title=»Laws are Not Strong Enough to Protect People from Air Pollution» expanded=»true»]

The Pollues de Montreal Trudeau fight for compensation due to the levels of metallic nanoparticles around the Montreal-Trudeau airport that were higher than those in the city center. If people inhaled them for long periods of time, they could pose a risk to their health. Unfortunately their claims were denied by the supreme court due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Another example of air quality accusation being dismissed by the supreme court. The Port of Quebec and Arrimage of Quebec were being sued by people living in the area of Limoilu who stated that the dust caused by port activities and transshipment of minerals were causing disturbances and inconveniences. It was dismissed because there were no evidence supporting the evidence of where the dust was coming from.

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[expand title=»Rising Sea Levels» expanded=»true»]

Eustatic sea level has been on the rise. Between 2014 and 1993, sea levels rose 6.6 centimeters, and they continue to rise at about 0.32 centimeters per year. This is largely due to ocean thermal expansion, melting glaciers, and melting sea ice, all of which are related to anthropogenic global warming.

Rising sea levels have their fair share of effects in Quebec. For instance, they contribute to the degradation of shorelines as homes in Iles-de-la-Madeleine are at risk of cliff erosion. The same is evident along the Gaspé peninsula. Furthermore, there has been an increase in frequency and intensity of flooding across the Island of Montreal. Other consequences may include landslides—by April 30, 2019, spring flooding had already caused 82 landslides across the province. In the same time, 9, 070 homes and 273 business were flooded, displacing 12, 000 people. As sea levels continue to rise, these effects can be expected to worsen.

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[expand title=»Air Pollution from Wood Burning» expanded=»true»]

The smoke produced from wood burning in fireplaces and stoves emit about a hundred different toxic substances including carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (read about their impacts on health here). Wood smoke causes about 900 premature deaths per year on the Island of Montreal. In fact, between 2002 and 2008, residential word burning accounted for href=”https://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/air/chauf-bois/index-en.htm”>42.7% of fine particle emissions in Quebec, trumping both industry and transportation.

The CAA estimates that nearly 100, 000 homes on the island of Montreal are heated by wood-burning, along with 20% of homes across the province. Wood burning caused 39% of fine particle emissions in Montreal, leading to the 2018 ban of residential wood-burning appliances that emit more than 2.5g per hour. Thus, only appliances approve by the Environmental Protection Agency are permitted, which does not include appliances sold before 2009. It is important to note, however, that aside from Montreal’s municipal by-law, the rest of the province is not susceptible to the same stringency. In fact, Quebec’s law regarding wood-burning refer only to the selling of wood-burning appliances, not their use.

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[expand title=»Environmental Racism Influenced by Air Pollution» expanded=»true»]

In Montreal, immigrant residents are found to experience high cumulative air pollution because these areas tends to receive limited public investments, services, and a focus on green space. In the more disadvantaged areas, there tends to be a greater density of population and a lower environmental quality. In areas where there are less trees and less access to greenspace and parks, rents can be lower and therefore attract lower income people. A study showed that people living in the east end of Montreal (where the majority of industries are located and in turn are areas lower income cities) have a life expectancy of 9 years less than people living in other part of the city, due to the increase in air pollution.

A mapping project, Goodscore which measures the environmental quality of streets in Canada found that Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver all have more impoverished households in neighbourhoods with lower walkability, lower streetscape greenness and worse traffic-related air pollution. The impacts this can have on health are diabetes, lower physical activity and poorer birth outcomes.

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[expand title=»Odor from Garbage Dumps» expanded=»true»]

It is no secret that garbage releases foul odors, but for those who live near landfills, the situation is nearly unbearable. Odors from garbage dumps arise from the breakdown of waste. While most of the gas released is carbon dioxide or methane, those that contribute to the putrid odor are hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, both of which can be detected by humans even at very low concentrations.

This smell has been a source of contention for communities living near landfills. A landfill in Pierrefonds-Roxboro has had complaints about a local site’s smell since 1985. After attempts to capture the stinky biogas, the site has finally closed in 2020 after thirty-five years of odor complaints. Recently, Valoris’ LET expansion project in Bury has been opposed by citizens for its likeliness of emitting foul odors. The BAPE for it is still in process as of May 2021.

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Energy 

[expand title=»GNL Pipeline» expanded=»true»]

The GNL Quebec pipeline project would include a construction of a 750 km gas pipeline (by Gazoduq), a gas liquefaction plant (by Énergie Saguenay) and a super-methane ship export terminal. This mega-project aims to export unconventional fossil gas from the West to international markets (Europe, Asia, etc.), through Abitibi and Témiscamingue, Haute-Mauricie, Lac-St-Jean, Saguenay, Saguenay Fjord, St. Lawrence and the communities of Matheson, Timmins and Kirkland Lake in Ontario.

The greenhouse gas emissions of this project are expected to be eight million tons per year. However, the current Quebec government argues that this project will be carbon neutral because the plant will run on hydroelectricity. The construction of the pipeline will cross protected areas and First Nation communities. The St. Lawrence Estuary beluga whales are at risk, as the pipeline will cross through their habitat in the St. Lawrence river. The noise caused by the GNL pipeline will prevent the whales from hunting and feeding which might impact populations

In conjunction to the GNL pipeline, a biopark is to be constructed in Saguenay to liquefy natural gas transported by the pipeline. In addition to emissions from natural gas, the process of production, transmission and distribution emits methane which is also a harmful greenhouse gas.

More info:

https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/environnement/596575/gnl-quebec-se-cherche-des-allies

https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1779635/bape-gnl-quebec-rapport-reserves?fbclid=IwAR19GOnK4GvU0JpqBJuI9dIIrTL3fPUoBoTq8q_ZEGD-lk6cfcZP8FFGLlg

https://www.journaldequebec.com/2021/04/01/gnl-quebec-le-projet-couterait-10-g-aux-quebecois

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/lng-gnl-saguenay-bape-1.5961936

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[expand title=»Overdependence on Hydrocarbons» expanded=»true»]

The new 2030 Plan for a Green Economy focuses primarily on the electrification of transportation to reduce Quebec’s greenhouse gas emission. Second only to industry, Quebec’s transportation sector account for 30% of end-use energy; in 2018, Quebec consumed 165, 000 barrels of gasoline per day.

Despite its attempt to electrify the transportation sector, Quebec’s recent history does not show evidence of a shift away from hydrocarbons. In 2018, Quebec’s refineries required approximately 350, 000 barrels of crude oil per day. According to a Canada Energy Regulator report, natural gas accounted for only 14 % of Quebec’s energy consumption in 2017 compared to 40% for refined petroleum products. The same report reveals that Quebec consumed approximately of 591 million cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2018. More recently, Quebec has been pushing for the construction of the GNL pipeline (see ‘GNL Pipeline’ for more information), which would bring in 44 million cubic meters of natural gas per day. To have a truly ‘green economy’, Quebec must significantly reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons in more than just the transportation sector.

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[expand title=»Transportation of Hydrocarbons» expanded=»true»]

The transportation of hydrocarbons has the potential to be very dangerous. Let us not forget the Lac-Mégantic disaster when a train carrying 7.7million barrels crude oil from North Dakota to New Brunswick, killing 47 people. A tanker truck transporting oil from Quebec to Ottawa caught fire as recent as April 22nd, 2021.

In terms of marine transport, Quebec ports have 25 million tonnes of crude oil and other petroleum products moving in and out per year, 89% of which go through Quebec City and Montreal ports. Besides the potential for devastating oil spills, oil tankers make up 13% of maritime emissions, accounting for 114million tonnes of CO2 (read more about this in ‘New Port Expansions Despite Pollution from Shipping Industry’).

Of course, there is also the issue with pipelines, which is explored in detail in the section titled «Pipeline Safety». In Quebec, some of the main pipelines include Enbridge’s Line 9 with a capacity of 300 million barrels per day, the Trans-Northern pipeline that exports 170 million barrels per day, Valero’s Saint-Laurent Pipeline with a capacity of 100 million barrels per day, and the Portland-Montreal Pipeline whose flows dropped in 2018 to 2.5 million barrels per day.

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[expand title=»Construction of New Fossil Fuel Projects» expanded=»true»]

In the 2030 Plan for a Green Economy, Quebec strives to achieve a 37.5% reduction in GHG emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050. To do this, Quebec is focusing on electrifying the transportation sector and noticeably not reducing its dependence on hydrocarbons. This is evident in its support of the GNL and the lingering possibility of the Energy East pipeline.

GNL Quebec is a 782km pipeline that would import 11 million tons of liquefied natural gas from Western Canada each year and whose emissions would be equivalent to over 50 million tons of CO2 per year (read ‘GNL Pipeline’ for more information). With a petition against it signed by over 120, 000 people and only a 30% approval rate on a Leger poll, the project has no social license. There is also the potential revival of the Energy East pipeline, a project that would have added 1, 500km to an existing 3, 000km natural gas pipeline and would have converted it instead to transport oil.

In a province attempting to electrify transportation using the abundant renewable energy of water, the construction of new fossil fuel projects should have no place in Quebec’s future.

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[expand title=»Pipeline Safety» expanded=»true»]

Though there are many issues concerning pipelines including our commitment to continue using fossil fuels and issues about what land the pipeline will run through, the main safety hazard of pipelines is their potential to leak. Although pipeline companies are required to design protection programs to prevent and control spills, the spill rate across Canada between 2011 and 2014 was still an average of 1, 084 barrels a year, or the equivalent of two tank cars. Between 2004 and 2017, there were 23 spills of either refined petroleum products or crude oil in Quebec alone. No, this number is not decreasing over time: 55% of Quebec pipeline incidents between 2008 and 2018 occurred in 2017 alone. In winter of 2021, Ottawa announced that it would be investing $500, 000 in Les Systèmes Flyscan’s drone manufacturing to help detect pipeline spills. This has been painted as a step towards a green recovery, but this really just supports the continued use of pipelines. To eliminate the possibility of pipeline spills, they must stop operating.

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[expand title=»Insufficient Use of Biomass» expanded=»true»]

In 2011, 42% of the total potential energy derived from biomass was being realized, most of which was from forest biomass: the developed potential for residential firewood, wood processing waste, slash, pulp and paper waste, and spent liquor were 100%, 89%, 0%, 63%, and 100%. On the contrary, hardly any of the energy potential from urban biomass (municipal wastewater and putrescible household waste) and agrifood biomass (crop waste, manure, carcasses, and more). In 2016, biomass accounted for only 15.3% of Quebec’s domestic energy production and 7.48% of its total energy sources. Meanwhile, oil and natural gas accounted for 50.6% of its energy sources. Furthermore, in 2019, 1.5 million tonnes of organic waste was sent to landfill despite goals to reduce this amount to zero by 2020. There is still lots of work to be done to increase Quebec’s use of biomass, and focusing on urban and agrifood biomass is a great place to start.

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[expand title=»Lack of Investment in Renewable Energy» expanded=»true»]

Although almost all the energy in Quebec is produced by hydroelectricity, Quebecers are still highly dependent on oil used in industry and transport. Energy is responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec.

Additional sources of energy will be needed in Quebec as energy needs increase, especially in winter months when electricity demands increase and with the emergence of electric vehicles. Hydroelectric dams are not likely to be continue to built because they are a lot more expensive than other renewable sources of energy. With all this evidence leading towards renewable energy, the Legault government is financing a pipeline project which promotes the fracking of natural gas as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, believe that electrification is more difficult to achieve.

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[expand title=»Privatized Wind Farms» expanded=»true»]

The wind farms in Quebec are privately owned, which puts Quebeckers at a loss. During his government, Jean Charest ordered Hydro-Québec to enter long-term contracts with private wind energy producers wherein Hydro-Québec would have to pay far above the production cost while charging consumers less. The privatization of wind farms have increased Hydro-Québec costs by $2.5 billion between 2009 and 2016. This has not only raised the costs of Hydro-electricity for Quebeckers, but it has also discouraged long-term purchase contracts with the United-States as the price of natural gas remains a cheaper option. This means that Quebeckers are being charged more for electricity, and that more people are choosing natural gas over a more, environmentally-friendly energy source.

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[expand title=»Refusal to Divest from Fossil Fuels» expanded=»true»]

McGill University refuses to divest from the fossil fuel sector. Students put pressure on these banks (to which the University’s Board of Directors is dominated by) to withdraw their investments in fossil fuels and, in particular, in the tar sands, and on the Board of Governors that are invested in fossil fuel-heavy industries.

There is pressure on the province of Quebec to divest from fossil fuel energy as the effects of ocean acidification intensify caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. However, Quebec refuses to listen to the pleads to divest from fossil fuel, which is hurting them financially. In the 2020 analysis of the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec Carbone 50 report, Quebec’s investment in oil and gas industries has fallen by $2.4 billion, which was the worst loss since 2011.

More info:

https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/education/594315/energies-fossiles-les-pressions-persistent-pour-un-desinvestissement

https://climatejusticemontreal.ca/campaigns/follow-the-money

https://www.facebook.com/DivestMcGill/

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[expand title=»Delayed Construction of Biomethane Projects» expanded=»true»]

As early as 2005, Quebec recognized the dangers of methane released from landfills and created programs aimed at reducing or enhance the biogas released. In 2011, Quebec set the goal to divert all organic waste from landfill by 2020. 10 years later, 1.5 million tonnes are still disposed of there. In 2016, biofuel production accounted for only 6.3% of Quebec’s energy sources. These numbers are far too low.

More recently, new biomethane projects have begun seeing the light of day. The new Coop Agri-Énergie Warwick , whose construction began in 2020, is set to produce 2.3 million m3 of renewable natural gas. Quebec City’s CBAQ , which is currently under construction, is expected to treat 86, 000 tons of food residues and 96, 000 tons of biosolids per year as of 2023. The Rivière-du-Loup plant, which is already in operation, produces approximately 3 million m3 of liquefied biomethane per year. Even considering the recent spike of new biomethane projects, the province’s progress is late.

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[expand title=»Lack of Energy Efficiency in Buildings» expanded=»true»]

The carbon footprint of building has increased over years, as 51% of buildings in the province depend on the use of fossil fuel energy. This high percentage has to do with the energy building code in Quebec which until 2020, hadn’t been updated since 1983. To reduce emissions, governments in Canada have been pushing towards using a “less carbon intensive” building material- wood. However, they don’t consider the high carbon footprint of using wood (from carbon losses from logging) which can be more intensive than using cement. According to experts, glass buildings are one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in urban centres, due to the amount of energy required to cool them.

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[expand title=»Interest in New Hydroelectric Dam Projects» expanded=»true»]

A Hydro Quebec project (a 100km transmission line proposed to run from Estrie to Maine) is expected commence without consultation from the First Nations people. The risks this can have on the Innu-Atikamekw-Anishnabeg Coalition is there have been several instances of flooding on their land as a result of dams. As a consequence of the rising water levels, it puts their hunting and transportation traditions at risk.

Quebec is also far behind on enforcing security laws to control spring flooding and manage river flows, even though the damage caused by flooding can be quite costly – looking back to a flood in the Saguenay in 1996 which cost the province over $1.5 billion in repairs.  Although hydroelectric dams are a source of renewable energy, the environmental costs of a flooding caused by a dam are big. When areas of trees, bogs and soils, their stored carbon decomposes which releases CO2 and methane in the atmosphere. The environmental cost of when a dam floods, causing plant decomposition on a rapid scale, is the increase in mercury levels found in fish which can have a negative impact on human health.

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[expand title=»Lack of Availability of Electric Cars» expanded=»true»]

In 2015, Quebec had planned to put 100 00 electric vehicles on the road by 2020. At the end of 2020, 92 000 electric vehicles had been purchased, largely a factor of the cost to own one. Electric vehicles only represent 2% of all vehicles purchased in the province which can be linked to limited supply and models of the vehicles. The limited supply also means Quebecers have to be placed on a waiting list between several months to a year before they can get their electric vehicle. This will be problematic in years to come as Quebec plans to ban the sale of all gas-powered vehicles by 2035.

The problem with attaining these goals is that the cost to manufacture an electric vehicles outweighs the profit, which may not be worth the cost for these companies.

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[expand title=»Lack of Availability for Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles» expanded=»true»]

Although Quebec may be Canada’s leader in electric vehicle registration, there is a lack of charging stations for these vehicle 6295 stations for the whole province including 462 rapid ones. There is still a lot of research needed to make these stations more accessible and convenient for consumers. In 2018, Quebec changed the electricity code to oblige builders to include wiring for EV charging in dwellings and offer rebates to existing dwellings who wish to install one. However, older existing buildings may not have the infrastructure to allow for a charging station to be installed.

Regions within the province, such as Abitibi-Témiscamingue are exploring the options to obtain electric buses, however in addition to the costs of an electric bus, the infrastructure for charging stations is not yet available or reliable to make this a reality.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Emissions from Oil Refineries» expanded=»true»]

Most of the gasoline consumed in Quebec is refined in the province. In 2017, Quebec’s greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector were 2.1 MT CO2e. Two refineries (Valero Energy and Suncor Energy) make up 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions from the industry sector. Suncor has recently invested more money to increase production capacity to 203,000 barrels per day by 2021, then upgrading it to potentially add from 20,000 to 30,000 barrels per day by 2024-2025, which would further increase emissions. Ironically, Suncor’s chief sustainability officer has been named a «climate champion» and has been praised for moving Canada towards net zero emissions, despite the oil company expanding production

[/expand]

Food and Agriculture 

[expand title=»Impacts of Animal Agriculture » expanded=»true»]

In Quebec there are over 10 075 cattle operations, whereby half of these operations are dairy farms, which makes Quebec the largest producer in Canada. Although beef production within the province represents 4% of Canada’s output, veal production makes up 80%.  Livestock production requires huge amounts of land needed to grow animal feed, and are likely to be grown in monoculture crops which can cause soil erosion and negatively impact the soil ecosystem.

The Quebec Milk Producers are asking farmers to stop enriching their cows’ diets with palm oil, they are also demanding that the government ban the import of dairy products where there have been traces of palm oil in animal feed. Although this has been going on for over a decade (to provide the cows with additional energy), the Minister of Agriculture claimed he didn’t know this was being done. Ingesting palm oil in their feeds can cause heart diseases among cows, but very little is known about the impact on the animals. The main concern is the impact palm oil production has on the environment and how it influences the lives of Indigenous people. The major environmental impact of cattle farming is the production of methane, which is a natural by-product of feed digestion formed in the intestinal tract of cows.  According to a 2015 report, over 27% of Canada’s methane emissions come from agriculture, where the majority of these emissions is attributed to those formed by cows.

In 2016, Quebec was the leading producer of pork production, representing one-third of all pigs in Canada. A pigsty of 4000 pigs is to be set up in Maricourt which has citizens worried about the water quality in the area. Producers want to avoid a BAPE evaluation because it would put their potential profit gain at risk. Some of the risks associated with pork production is the spread of pathogens and diseases such as cases of swine flu which can infect people living near hog farms as workers. Raw, untreated waste from livestock is commonly used as fertilizer to grow the food consumed by humans. However, manure disposal methods are poorly monitored and documented, which can result in health issues such as E. coli contaminating drinking water.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Degradation of Soil» expanded=»true»]

The degradation of soil is a global issue. Industrial farming practices favor monoculture, which produce greater yield but require more tilling (read more about this in ‘Monocrops’). However, tilling weakens soils and increases the need for chemical pesticides. In fact, the United Nations found that, if farms continue their usual habits, the planet’s topsoil will be gone in 60 years. This is an issue we are already seeing in Quebec.

The black soil in Quebec responsible for some of the greatest produce yields in the country is eroding at a rate of 2cm per year, leaving only 50 years left until it is gone. Experts blame farming practices and urban sprawl alike, which destroyed 528 square kilometers of natural land in Southern Quebec, where black soil is concentrated. To make matters worse, the degradation of soil releases greenhouse gases and results in the loss of wetlands.

A farming technique known as regenerative agriculture has been found to enhance soil health, but industrial agriculture companies seem resistant as it might reduce their profits.

Read more about regenerative agriculture here:

Regenerative Agriculture for Crops

Regenerative Agriculture for Cattle

[/expand]

[expand title=»Pesticide Use » expanded=»true»]

Glyphosate, a common ingredient in herbicide Round Up, used on corn, soy, and canola crops in Canada, has been linked to causing cancers, infertility, and liver disease. Despite the risks associated with glyphosate, it has only been banned in Quebec within the forestry industry and continues to be used in agriculture. Health Canada, which has identified “no major risks” from this herbicide has continued to register the use of it for another 15 years. However, because glyphosate has been banned in many European countries, Canada is finding it more difficult to export their products (especially grain products), especially as more people are demanding a glyphosate-free environment. Because of the continual use of glyphosate on crops, weeds have been developing resistance to the herbicide. Over 75 weeds in Canada have become resistant to herbicides which can result in yield loss, and a need for more chemicals which can be very expensive for farmers.

The use of glyphosate along with other pesticides including atrazine and neonicotinoids were found in 100% of samples taken from rivers near agricultural farms in Quebec. Moreover, the presence of some of the pesticides exceeded the “normal” amount for water quality. In rives like the Yamaska, the Mascouche or the L’Acadie rivers, researchers had discovered 20-30 types of pesticides, many of which could be harmful the to aquatic life living in these waters, as well as the flora and fauna who depend on them. Despite the harmful effects, Health Canada has not imposed a ban on pesticides like neonicotinoid because they believe it doesn’t have any risks for human health or for the environment.

Recent studies have shown that the cause of Parkinson’s diseases (which affects one in every 500 people in Canada) has been linked to long term exposure to pesticides including paraquat (used to kill weeds) and chlorphrifos (used to kill insects). The number of farmers in Quebec who will develop Parkinson’s disease is expected to double by 2040. Despite these risks, Premier Legault has not placed a ban on pesticide use, as he believes the issue must be examined further before the government can take any action.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Water Pollution from Agriculture» expanded=»true»]

Phosphorus is commonly found in fertilizers and manure, both of which are commonplace in Quebec agriculture. Rainfall can carry the phosphorus to nearby waters, a phenomenon called fertilizer run-off, which can lead to eutrophication (read more about this in ‘Degradation of Lakes’ and ‘Decrease in Biodiversity of Lakes’). Essentially, the increase in the nutrient stimulates algal blooms, which in turn create hypoxic environments known as dead zones.

Unfortunately, Quebec is a very heavy user of fertilizers, especially compared with the rest of North America. The lenient regulations are largely due to fertilizer manufacturers having seats at the decision-making table. The effects are measurable. Between 2017 and 2019, all nine of the testing stations along the St-Lawrence River reported over 10% of samples containing phosphorus concentrations above the guidelines, six of which reported of 50% of samples. Between Saint-Augustin and Saint-Charles, Lac Saint-Augustin is categorized as eutrophic, while the other six lakes are mesotrophic to meso-eutrophic (halfway to eutrophic). The water quality will continue to worsen if agriculture regulations are not tightened—something unlikely to occur with profit-seekers at the decision-making table.

[/expand]

[expand title=»De-zoning Agricultural Land» expanded=»true»]

In Quebec, agricultural land makes up only 2% of the province’s land mass. Unfortunately, there is a huge demand to rezone the agricultural land for housing developments, economic projects, land occupancy by non-farmers, etc. Development companies tend to lean towards building on agricultural land because it’s cheaper then decontaminating industrial lands. Moreover, because there is less available land, the price of a hectare has gone up dramatically over the last ten years from $ 6,280 to $ 21,446. The risks associated with this is once cultivable farmland has been paved over, it would take several centuries for the soil to be regenerated. The Municipality of Neuville (popular for its sweet corn) risked losing 50% of agricultural land to make space for residential development projects. Although the project was denied, there is a continuous risk for the farmers, who even if a small portion of their land was dezoned, it could negatively impact the production rates and capabilities of the farmers. In 2019, a residential project was proposed to build 28 000 new housing units, on over two square kilometers of the last remaining agricultural land in Charlesbourg, Quebec City. Although the Quebec’s Union des Producteurs Agricoles is pressuring the city to focus on development projects in already zoned areas,

At the beginning of 2021, Google announced that it would build its first Canadian data centre in Beauharnois on 62.4 of land currently zoned for agricultural purposes. The government of Quebec will awarded $3.54 to the Union des Producteurs Agricoles in order to relocate agricultural activity to an equivalent area of land which belongs to Hydro Quebec and is adjacent to the proposed building project.

More information :

https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/idees/601259/idees-google-et-le-probleme-de-62-hectares

https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1792024/google-centre-donnees-informatiques-beauharnois-terres-agricoles-quebec?depuisRecherche=true

[/expand]

[expand title=»Monocrops » expanded=»true»]

Over the last 50 years, Canadian farms has almost doubled in size, yet the diversity of crops has been reducing. Agricultural land is mostly dominated by four crops: soybeans, wheat, rice, and corn. In Quebec, 4 million tonnes of corn has been grown (an increase from 250 000 tonnes in 1973), and over 800 000 tonnes of soybeans has been grown (from 50 000 in 1990)- exporting 75% of their harvest. Because these four crops are considered monocultures, they often require high amounts of chemicals which are harmful to the environment. These crops require more fertilizer to compensate for higher loss of nutrients, more pesticides due to an increase in pest problems, and require more water than diverse crops because of the reduced soil moisture retention. Additional problems linked with monocultures is that reduces biodiversity, weakens habitats, and requires heavy machinery which compacts less organic soils and promotes soil erosion. Moreover, the lands become less fertile making it very difficult for other crops to grow in the same soil.             As a result of the use of fertilizers, pesticides many insects and birds are at risk due to limited food sources and the production of monocrops itself doesn’t leave many opportunities for an expansion of biodiversity.

Despite the environmental impact monocultures have, state support (including an agricultural loan, stabilization insurance and crop insurance) which have allowed the monocultures to exist over time. There have been proposals to diversify Canadian farmland but none have had the same financial value as monocultured crops which is why they continue to exist.

More information:

https://www.irda.qc.ca/en/services/protection-resources/soil-health/soil-information/inventory-agricultural-land-degradation-problems-quebec/

[/expand]

[expand title=»Lack of Greenhouse Capacity» expanded=»true»]

Over the last 10 years, greenhouse vegetable production has grown in Canada, however Quebec only accounts for 7% of greenhouse area compared to Ontario at 70%.. Because the number is so low in Quebec, it’s hard for the province to be competitive. In order for these productions to be successful, it would require tax credits from the government. Most of these greenhouses grow tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Although Quebec can grow sufficient amounts of tomatoes, it isn’t likely that they would be able to supply tropical fruits, vegetables or bananas, at least not anytime soon. If Quebecers want to eat local and season products, they will have to take what is possible to produce. In addition to greenhouse facilities, Quebec needs to make more use of sheltered crops which does well for producing carrots, potatoes, and onions, and will make it possible for the province to extend growing seasons.

The risk of producing fruits and vegetables all year long is if the production will be able to support the local market or if it will be exported. For some crops, such as cabbage the production in Quebec doesn’t match up to the consumption and therefore exported. However, production for spinach only meets 17% of the demand while strawberries meet 44%.

Many greenhouses in the province still rely on fossil fuel gases to heat and luminate their facilities. A proposal has been made for Quebec to reduce the rate of electricity from $0.10 to $0.0559 to provide photosynthetic lighting and greenhouse heating by Hydro Quebec. It is estimated that if this reduction is approved by the Regie, more than 1000 greenhouse producers in the province could take advantage of clean energy to stimulate growth of the industry. This is a main reason why a lot of greenhouse producers don’t operate in the winter because of the high costs of electricity. More research needs to go into how to modernize companies, and also offer training to have more specialists who are able to manage state of the art technology. Another challenge, as greenhouse production increases in Quebec, is the lack of staff. Many local people don’t want to work in the greenhouses because of low wages, so Quebec hires people from abroad. Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of difficulty for people traveling to Quebec.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Inaccessiblity to Organic Foods » expanded=»true»]

Due to provincial incentives where agriculture producers are paid to convert farmland to organic production has grown the number of organic farmers in Quebec to 2337 as of 2019, the most in all of Canada. Organic farming means producing food without the use of manmade chemicals (i.e. pesticides and fertilizers). However, the use of manure in organic agriculture can be a factor in the spread of bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. Over the past 10 years, Canada has seen more recalls in organic products due to these factors.

Another issue with organic foods is that they are usually more expensive than non organic products (between 20 and 60%). Reasons for the increase in price is because there are no chemicals involved in production, there is a higher cost attributed for farmers. Moreover, in order for the products to receive an organic certification from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the farmers need to ensure and prove that their organic products didn’t come into contact with non-organic items during storage or transportation. While the demand for local food in Canada is rising, many people tend to choose price over product, and will tend to buy an imported product as it is generally cheaper. There is also competition between products labelled “organic” and “natural” which can confuse consumers. Those producing “natural” products do not have to follow the same standard are organic farmers and can therefore sell their products for cheaper.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Lack of Adequate Representation of Farmers» expanded=»true»]

Quebec only has one organization that represents its agricultural producers. The Union des Producteurs Agricoles represents approximately 42 000 Quebec farmers, all forestry producers and represents 90 locals, 12 regional federations, 130 unions and 26 specialty groups. It’s the only official body that speaks on behalf of all Quebec farm and forestry producers. All farmers in Quebec have the obligation to pay membership fees towards the UPA. Under Law 85, if a farmer fails to the pay this fee, they will not obtain their property tax refund. This monopoly model is unique in Canada and doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Problems with having a monopoly of unions is that they favor the largest farms that have large scales of production or have large amounts for exports. The quotas imposed by the UPA are too expensive for smaller farms who are just getting started, and the agricultural financing is only awarded to farmers with large scale production. Whereas people don’t want to put an end to the UPA, they want to break it up into smaller unions to give other, more local, producers a chance to be competitive. Although the Quebec government is looking to be more self sufficient, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be difficult if the UPA continues to be a monopoly. According to co-founder of the Union paysanne Romeo Bouchard, in 1985, the province was 80% self-sufficient, however because of the loss of many small farms under the UPA, this number has decreased significantly to 30%.  Another negative factor in response to the UPA being a monopoly is that they are more focused on exporting subsidized agricultural products (such as pork in Quebec) which also reduces food sovereignty and increases a dependence on food imports.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Corporations over Family Farms» expanded=»true»]

Quebec’s current agricultural laws discourage small, local farming, paving the way for industrial farms. The Act Respecting the Preservation of Agricultural Land and Agricultural Activities does this in two ways: Article 28 prohibits the dividing of any one lot; and article 29 prohibits the dividing of 2 contiguous lots. This means that a small section of a lot cannot be sold even if the area is not being used because that would entail dividing the lot. It also means that, when an owner purchases two neighboring lots, even if they are divided by a road or river, they become merged forever and cannot be divided in the future as per Article 28.

This exemplifies Quebec’s preference for large, profitable, industrial farms. For instance, when a farmer in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Rochelle tried to sell the maple grove on his land, having not been able to meet the quota. The relevant MRC refused the request because they were concerned about the profitability potential of a company on such a small lot.

However, Quebec should be doing what it can to support local farmers. Generally speaking, family farms are usually more sustainable than industrial agriculture because they are not just driven by profit. Aside from that, as a province that is always committed on creating jobs for its citizens, it seems logical to support local farmers rather than focus on industrial farms.
[/expand]

[expand title=»Trade Agreements Discourage Local Production» expanded=»true»]

Quebec is involved in several trade agreements that either reduce or completely eliminate tariffs. The basis of these agreements is free trade, which incentivizes countries to invest in products in which they have a comparative advantage (commodities they can produce at a lower cost than other countries because of specialized work pools, resource abundance, climatic factors, etc.). The goal of free trade, then, is to make the most products available at the lowest cost. This, in a lot of ways, discourages Quebec’s local production.

Between 2009 and 2013, Mexico increased their blueberry production by 537%. As opposed to Quebec, which has a short growing season due to our cool climate, Mexico can produce blueberries year-round, making them competitive with Quebec blueberries. The same kind of competition occurs between Quebec and Europe for cheese production. Imports of this sort without trade barriers to even the playing field leave Quebec products more expensive, and when it comes down to it, Canadians tend to choose the cheaper option even if it is not local. This forces Quebec farmers to increase their yield by means of pesticides or to receive compensation from the government, which is not a long-term solution—it is nonsensical to reduce produce costs for the public then to compensate farmers using taxpayer dollars. Ultimately, free trade agreements affect our food sovereignty and only benefits corporations.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Small-scale Animal Farming Not Permitted» expanded=»true»]

The quota system in Quebec prevents small-scale animal farming. The quota system is based on supply management, which sets limits on production to ensure than supply meets demands (read more about Canadian supply management here). The quotas apply to Quebec chicken, egg, turkey, and milk, without which they cannot be sold. Quebec farmers can be exempt from requiring quotas if their production is low enough—farmers can produce 99 chicken, 99 laying hens, and 25 turkeys without quotas. Unfortunately, these numbers are too low to be able to sell and make profit as artisan farmers. One farmer says his family will eat 60-70 chickens, and the rest are spent on dinners with friends, making it virtually impossible to yield profit.

Additionally, there are also minimum quotas for those that produce above the quota-exempt limits. These quotas are limited, often unavailable, and incredibly expensive. In 2017, the minimum quotas were 775 chickens, 300 turkeys if outside of the centralized sales system, whose quotas sold for $900 per 75 chickens and $500 per 6 turkeys. Note that the minimum chicken quota was 7750 before 2010, and because of strict quota-transfer policies, no new small farmers had entered with the new 2010 quota by 2017 (read more about Quebec’s quota system here).

The low exemption limits coupled with the unavailable (and, consequently, expensive) quotas directly discourage small-scale animal farming. Furthermore, the UPA, which is the only union that represent Quebec farmers, favors large-scale production by financing large-scale farms (read more about this in ‘Monopoly of Unions’). Artisan farmers are at a loss.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Lack of Investment in Research and Development» expanded=»true»]

Quebec’s agriculture can benefit from research and development to make their practices more sustainable. For instance, grains need to be dried before storing to prevent rotting. Many Quebec farmers still depend of propane for grain drying, as was evident during the 2019 CN Rail Strike when farmers were at risk of losing their crops. However, to think our grain production relies on hydrocarbons reminds us of our ‘Overdependence on Hydrocarbons’ (read about this under ‘Energy’). Meanwhile, other grain drying technologies exist, such as natural air drying and solar grain drying.

Quebec tractors may also be due for a reboot. Aside from purchasing all-new electric tractors, whose costs can hover at around $100,000, research can be conducted for the possible conversion of diesel tractors to electric. Even the new John Deere cabled-powered tractor offers new insights on the future of sustainable farming by ditching the lithium battery (read more about the hazards of lithium mining in ‘Inadequate Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Emissions’ and ‘Underestimated Environmental Impacts of Electric Vehicles’).

The advent of automated weed removers may reduce the need for herbicide use by effectively removing weeds with no required labor. This is beneficial because weeds can become resistant to herbicides with continued use, and they are also toxic to humans and to the environment.

Overall, Quebec could benefit from research and development in agriculture to make it a more sustainable industry.

[/expand]

[expand title=»GMOs Developed for Corporate Interest» expanded=»true»]

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a plant or animal (or other organism) whose genes were altered in a laboratory to form a new organism that does not occur in nature. In Quebec, three principal GMOs are corn, soybean, and canola. Since 1999, the production of each of these in Quebec has increased, with genetically modified canola and corn making up almost all of their production province wide. One of the major suspected benefits of GMOs are the potential for increased yield which can result in a decrease of food costs. This is done by increasing virus resistance and tolerance to herb- and pesticides. However, according to a 2016 report, the suspected benefits are not being realized. First, there is no evidence that GMOs have increased yields. Evidence or not, foods prices have continued to rise across Canada since the introduction of GMOs. Thus, GMOs have not succeeded in reducing food prices. Furthermore, the sale of herbicides across the country increased by 199% between 1999 and 2016. Not only are herbicides (and pesticides) bad for the environment and for health, but they can lead to herbicide-resistant weeds which result in decreased yield and higher costs (read more about this in ‘Pesticide Use’).

Additionally, there is a lack of transparency in the industry. First, when new GMOs come onto the market, safety testing is done by the companies themselves, not by Health Canada. Second, labels are not required to distinguish GMOs despite 88% of Canadians wishing otherwise.

While other potential benefits may arise from GMOs in the future, such as increasing nutrient content, reducing allergens, and improving food production systems, it seems like GMOs are primarily for commercial use for now.

[/expand]

Waste 

[expand title=»Lack of Waste Infrastructure» expanded=»true»]

Quebec waste infrastructure is insufficient for dealing with the waste generated in a sustainable fashion. To begin, communities in Nunavik are tasked with disposing of their waste with inferior, outdated infrastructure than elsewhere in Quebec. There are no incinerators, and wastewater is often dumped into ponds as there is no other way to dispose of it, nor are there any recycling programs. A new idea is to bring back waste each time a truck delivers food or other supplies. However, as a long-term solution, Quebec will have to invest in waste infrastructure in the North if it is serious about reconciliation.

Additionally, Quebec is majorly lacking recycling infrastructure. Until 2018, Quebec exported 60% of its recyclable materials to China—only 40% was recycled in province. China refused to continue accepting shipments partly because garbage was often mixed in. This signifies a lack of awareness (or a lack of incentive) of proper recycling habits of Quebeckers. This is exemplified by the dangerous materials found at a recycling center in Gatineau. Moreover, in 2019-2020, 1.2 million tonnes of recyclable materials were sent to landfill instead. It also signifies a lack of infrastructure in Quebec to deal with the recyclable materials here. After China refused to accept shipments, Montreal turned to new markets in Asia, including India, Indonesia, and Korea, to ship materials to. In just a few months, almost 8, 000 tonnes of materials had piled up that would have normally been sent off to China.

Although the focus is typically on densely populated areas, it is evident that Quebec is lacking crucial waste infrastructure across the entirety of the province. To make a meaningful difference on a global scale, Quebec will need to invest in new technology to deal with its own waste. This will ensure that Quebec is accountable for its waste and will hopefully encourage reducing waste at the source.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Overdependence on Malfunctioning Recycling Programs» expanded=»true»]

With so many new types of plastics and materials entering the market, it’s getting harder for the average consumer to know what goes into the recycling bin and what is garbage. There is also a lack of standardization and accountability with individual brands that add labels and claims to their products but don’t have a third party certification, which means that what they may claim to be recyclable, may actually not be accepted by certain recycling facilities. The labelling on the products is of concern as well because individual recycling programs may choose not to recycle certain materials (even though they specify that they are recyclable) or they are not able to do so for various reasons, which results in the products to be thrown into the garbage.

Because people are confused, they end up throwing everything in the bins with the assumption that it will get sorted by someone at the recycling facilities later. Many people in Quebec believe that it is the responsibility of the sorting facilities to go through the items and decide what can be recycled, this would ensure that of the 485 000 tonnes of material that gets sent to the plants, that 18% are rejected, sorted or not recycled. The issue with that approach is that mixing recycled (or dirty) products can cause contamination which can ruins pounds of recyclable materials. Although not the highest on the spectrum of contamination rates for residential recycling in Canada, Montreal’s rate is 7.3%.  Environmental groups stress that the recycling industry should re-introduce the concept of citizens separating their recyclables to ease the sorting at the recycling facilities and to reduce the risk of contamination. However, in Montreal, that process was stopped decades ago because it was believes that by having citizens throw everything into one bin it would encourage more recycling habits in the city.

Studies have shown that 926 000 tones of recyclable materials are consumed per year at home, but more than a third of these materials are thrown into the garbage. Reasons being that people don’t care, it’s too difficult for them to recycle, or they know that many objects won’t get recycled anyways. As a result waste is piling up in the landfills, being burned or being added to the islands that are already full of plastic waste. Issues with recyclable materials not being disposed of properly is that it can end up in places where it should be, like the side of the road. A farmer in Grand-Saint-Esprit is seeing an increase in metal cans and bottles being thrown into her fields from motorists. These fields are the crops used to feed her cows, which, if not picked up, can be harvested, chopped up and fed to cows which can be lethal for the animals. Although fines exist, they may not be high enough to discourage the increase in waste being thrown outside of cars.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Lack of Composting» expanded=»true»]

Composting in Quebec is discouragingly low. In 2020, 1.5 million tons of organic waste was sent to landfill despite the government’s plan to have that number reach zero by then—that is equal to 60% of the province’s waste. It is no wonder, when only 57% of Quebeckers had access to food waste collection services. Data from 2018 shows that only 31% of organic waste is composted. Outside of the residential sector, only 5% of organic waste is composted. This is a major concern.

Currently, the waste sector emits 4.55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year and is the provinces fifth largest contributor. A new plan aims to make food waste collection services available to all Quebeckers by 2025 in order to eliminate 270, 000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions per year by 2030. This is incredibly important because sending organic waste to landfill is bad for our climate: in the anaerobic environment of a garbage dump, the decaying organic waste produces methane—a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. To effectively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, Quebec will have to address the pollution caused by ineffective waste disposal.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Insufficient Infrastructure to Deal With Single Use Plastics» expanded=»true»]

In Canada, over 3 million tonnes of plastic waste gets thrown away every year, which represents almost $8 billion in lost value and wastes huge amounts of valuable resources and energy. Only 9% of plastic waste that gets thrown out in Canada gets recycled, the rest ends up in the landfill. In 2018, Montreal banned single-use plastic bags, but made a switch to thicker bags at a higher cost. However, despite this change, behaviour hasn’t changed a 70% more plastic ends up in the landfill because of the thickness of the bags. In Chambly, the municipality has drafted a proposal to addition banning single-use plastics, they would also ban plastic bottles of under a litre. The risk of this ban is the loss of sales, whereby customers, who want to purchase these plastic bottles, will have to go to another municipality to do their shopping which would decrease revenue in Chambly.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which required the use of more single use products– especially bringing back plastic bags (due to restrictions from many stores which prohibited the use of reusable bags), Quebec has been going backwards with attaining their goals to reduce waste. A study in 2020 showed that, although Canadians are still aware of the environmental impacts associated with single use plastics, 29% of people said that they consumed more single use products during the pandemic. Moreover, in 2019, 72% of people wanted a total ban on single-use plastics, whereas in 2020 the support for this ban dropped to 58%. Most people believe that the country should wait until the pandemic has completely ended before they place new bans on single use plastics. The ban is proposed to go into effect at the end of 2021, which includes check out bags, stir sticks, beverage six pack rings, plastic cutlery, straws, and food packaging that is hard to recycle. However, this ban only includes a small percentage of single use plastics. The Government of Canada has argued that many items such as garbage bags, snack food wrappers, PPE, etc. will not be banned because the country doesn’t have affordable or available alternatives, and these other items show that they is no major impact on the environment.

As of January 2021, the education minister in Quebec has made it mandatory for high school students to wear surgical masks, whereby each student is given two masks per day. The ministry estimates that this will result in over 318 million masks by the end of the year. The issue is that these masks are likely to end up in the landfill, especially if no investment towards proper recycling of the masks. The issue of non-reusable masks is expanding into the workplace as the Quebec government has made it obligatory to wear medical masks at work and not reusable masks. On the other end of things, recycling masks may not be the best option, as the environmental impact may be higher compared to throwing it into the garbage. The reasons being that, many of the recycling programs that exists don’t operate in Quebec. This would require traveling to the states, for example, which would increase carbon emissions. Moreover, the cost associated with recycling the masks are more than the what the recyclable material is worth.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Contaminated Soils from Waste» expanded=»true»]

A technical landfill (LET), which hold 80% of residual materials, located on the border of Haut-Saint-Francois and Sherbrooke is expected to reach capacity by spring 2021. There is a call for an expansion to allow it to operate for another 54 years. The expansion would add 29.5 hectares which could hold 5.34 million tonnes of waste. Environmental risks with this disposal and expansion of the landfill would include contamination of the nearby environment from emissions or leachate water, associated health risks from the contamination, odor, unpleasant landscape modifications, and the degradation of wetlands.

Over 600 tonnes of hazardous materials from the REM project in Montreal will be buried in Ontario instead of decontaminated in a more ecological way in order to reduce costs. There was an opportunity to send the material Saint Ambroise, in Saguenay- Lac-St- Jean where they would be able to use a treatment that neutralizes the contaminants, but the managers chose not to because of the high costs. The environmental impact associated with burying hazardous waste is that it can produce vapours which can escape into the atmosphere, and the liquids accumulated from the waste can leach into the ground and affect drinking water supplies of nearby areas. In Point Claire, it took almost 6 years to clean up an illegal dump of PCBS (a man-made chemical of carbon, hydrogen and chlorine atoms found in electronics and plastics). Exposure to these chemicals can cause respiratory problems and liver problems among humans.

Many issues have arisen about how to dispose of PFAS (used on heat, oil, grease, and stain resistant coatings such as on textiles or food packaging). These products generally end up in the landfills which is causing contaminated soils and groundwater to occur. Once they are in the water or the soil, they will take at least a thousand years to disappear. In February 2021, PFAs were found in the drinking water supply connected to Lake Memphremagog which were linked to a landfill nearby. Unfortunately, in Canada, there is a lack of policy or support of the regulation of the disposal for PFAS. There are over 5000 PFAs in use in Canada, and none of them are restricted. Moreover, Health Canada has indicated that they are not of a concern to human health, especially at the rate of exposure that they are in.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Car Waste» expanded=»true»]

Quebec scrapyards are increasingly carrying the load of abandoned vehicles. The situation is even worse for isolated communities whose scrap has nowhere to go. For instance, Chevery is a municipality in the Lower North Shore with a population of only 236, though the scrap on their land could supposedly fill an Olympic-sized hockey arena. A large part of the problem for them is that they are not connected to a main road, so junk-collecting companies do not bother to remove their scrap.

Similarly, lots of vehicles are being abandoned illegally. This creates an immense problem because as long as the vehicle is still registered under an individual’s name, then the vehicle cannot be sold or recycled without their signature. Additionally, if the vehicle was abandoned on private land, then the Sûreté du Québec has no power over it. Consequently, the vehicle stays there and can contaminate the soil if, with time, gasoline or oil starts leaking.

There seems to be no shortage of car waste. A incomplete and potentially outdated list of scrapyards counts 78 scrapyards across the province. Even if some of these have since closed, one can only imagine the amount of junk generated by abandoned vehicles and appliances to have needed so many sites. It does not help that Quebec does not encourage buying second-hand vehicles—while buyers of new electric vehicles are eligible for rebates of $8,000, second-hand electric vehicle buyers are only eligible for $4,000. In an attempt to save the environment by electrifying the transportation sector, Quebec has all too much forgotten about the waste generated by buying new vehicles.

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[expand title=»Eco Fee Does Not Incite Change» expanded=»true»]

When purchasing electronics, you may have noticed a small fee called ‘écofrais’ added on your bill. This fee is administered by ARPE-Québec to ensure the proper care of the electronics at their end-of-life stage (read about why this is important in ‘Electronic Waste’). The fee covers the cost of collection, transportation, and recycling of the electronics, and the funding of ARPE-Québec itself. The fees are relatively low—a fee between $5.50 and $24.00 would be charged on the purchase of a new television depending on its size, $1.25 is charged on printers $0.80 on laptops, and $0.07 on cell phones, among others. These fees came about in 2012 and have been controversial since.

Essentially, the cost of recycling the electronic falls onto the consumer. It is important for consumers to be aware of the true environmental costs of the products they buy as it could hopefully incite more sustainable purchases. However, with fees reaching a max of $24.00 and some only a few cents, these fees are too marginal to incite behavioural change. On top of that, the eco fees do not raise awareness of the waste issue in the way that education campaigns might. Given that the fees are unlikely to change consumer habits, it’s a wonder why these fees aren’t being paid by manufacturers instead. When products are created, it should routine to assume responsibility for all stages of the product’s life cycle. Manufacturers, then, should be making products with the idea that they must also deal with them post-use. This logic would likely incite a more circular economy.

Thus, to make the most of the ‘écofrais’, the costs should either be raised as a sort of environmental tax to incite sustainable consumer habits, or the cost should be transferred to manufacturers to handle the end-of-life of their own products.

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[expand title=»Electronic Waste» expanded=»true»]

Electronic waste, or E-waste, has been spiking with our ever-digitizing world where buying new is favored over repairing. This waste, however, is especially toxic to the environment. In ‘Inadequate Plan for Reducing Emissions’, ‘Underestimated Environmental Impacts of Electric Vehicles’, and ‘Mining for Electric Vehicles’, the environmental impacts of lithium extraction were explored, but its pollution continues during its end-of-life phase too. Lithium from batteries in electronic waste is flammable. When batteries are disposed of improperly, the presence of lithium mixed with the abundance of paper makes a dangerous combination, as some recycling centers have noted increases in fires. Besides that, electronics contain a variety of toxic materials such as beryllium, cadmium, mercury, and lead. These toxins can leech into the sludge at the bottom of landfills and can contaminate groundwater and surrounding waters, harming wildlife and humans.

The problem is largely due to our consumption of new electronics. It does not help that buying a new printer is often cheaper than buying new ink, or how much more accessible it is to upgrade our phones than to repair them. Of course, these practices are highly unsustainable. In Quebec alone 140,000 tonnes of electric products have been recycled since 2012.

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[expand title=»Food Waste» expanded=»true»]

Food waste refers to food that is thrown out by retailers or by consumers including food scraps, food that has gone bad, and plate waste. On a global scale, food waste is a big environmental issue; when food decomposes, it releases methane, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This is why it is imperative that food waste is composted rather than sent to landfill (read more about this is ‘Lack of Composting). WRAP found that if food waste in the UK was removed from landfills, it would be equivalent to removing 20% of cars from UK roads. In Quebec, the province’s organic waste is equal to about 3.48 million tons per year.

Across Canada, 58% of food is lost or wasted, totaling $10 billion worth of food lost at the consumer level. This emits some 56.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Quebec is stepping up to combat food waste. In 2017, it launched the province-wide Supermarket Recovery Program wherein grocery stores donate excess food to foodbanks. Besides that, Quebec is involved in a variety of initiatives to reduce food waste. Here’s hoping their plan to make composting services available to all Quebeckers helps with the province’s food waste problem.

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[expand title=»Industrial Waste» expanded=»true»]

In Canada, millions of tonnes of waste from industrial activities are produce each year. This includes acids, phenols, arsenic, lead and mercury. Industrial waste can also include waste from petroleum refining, chemical manufacturing and metal processing. The dumping of untreated industrial waste can pollute the air, lakes, rivers, and soil and can affect all living organisms residing in these areas. In 2019, over 320 substances from industrial waste was reported to emits 4.9 million tonnes of emissions. 2.9 million of these emissions were released directly in the air (from sulfur and carbon monoxide), in the water (ammonia) and in the soil (heavy metals). 822 kilotons of mine tailings were reported which could have negative impacts on lakes and rivers. In Quebec, the governing is not prohibiting a mining company working on the Lac Bloom iron mine wants to destroy lakes and wetlands to store 872 million tonnes of tailings.

In addition to the environmental impacts of landfills for industrial waste, expanding landfill sites can degrade the sites and can make the land unavailable for other purposes. While wind energy is expanding, the blades (which only last for approximately 20 years) are being manufactured from composite materials which is made from glass or carbon fibers which makes recycling these materials very difficult. While these materials don’t necessarily leach into the soils, they end up taking up a lot of space in the landfills. Another issue is how these landfills impact nearby communities. In Kanesatake, over 400 000 cubic metres of industrial waste is piled onto their land – land which was once overed with trees, bushes, and vegetation. In addition to the terrible smell that comes from this landfill, it is located one kilometre from 10 wells that are used for drinking water and irrigation. It is also three kilometeres from the Lake of Two Mountains, which extends to Montreal’s North Shore suburbs and the western edge of Laval.

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[expand title=»Textile Waste» expanded=»true»]

In Quebec, more than 190 000 tonnes of textiles are thrown out each year. Montreal alone represents 60 000 tonnes of this waste, whereby 90% is still wearable but ends up in the landfill. Because there isn’t sufficient textile waste recycling infrastructure in Quebec, less 40% of textiles are recovered annually, moreover, this also represents a significant cost for companies who have to pay fees to bury these textiles. While second hand stores are an environmental alternative to disposing of unwanted textiles, they still have a problem where a large part of unsold goods tend to make their way into the landfilll, causing community or charitable organizations to pay hundreds of dollars to bury containers of waste.

People are buying twice as much clothing as they were 15 years ago and are wearing it for shorter periods of time. Over 50% of clothing items are discarded within one year of being produced. In an attempt to reduce items from going into the landfill, Canada has been sending large quantities of unwanted clothing abroad. However, what is being sent is usually of poor quality and are being thrown out in local landfills. In African countries, for example, they are now imposing tariffs to reduce the amount of textile waste that is being collected by Canada and is being thrown into their landfills. Many companies don’t know how to handle their excess waste, especially coming from returns. Many returned items are either sent to the landfill or destroyed because it’s cheaper and easier for companies than trying to resell them.

While Montreal aims to reduce 85% of waste by 2030, their strategy for reducing textile waste is minimal.They stress the donation of textiles and the increase in donation bins and want to ban eliminating unsold products and production refusals from industry and retail business but they don’t speicify how they plan to do this and they don’t include a plan for individuals who are throwing away their textile waste.

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[expand title=»Sanitary Waste» expanded=»true»]

Montreal’s daily production of wastewater ranges from 2.5 million m3  on dry days and up to 7.6 million m3  on rainy days. Although the city has the biggest treatment plant in North America, it only carries out the primary treatment of sewage, in which it removes solids and nutrients but leaves behind bacteria, viruses, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals and other contaminants. Sewage sludge is the main waste that is produced by a sewage treatment plant. An average wastewater management plant produces about 40 grams of sludge per day per inhabitant, in Quebec, more than 124 000 tonnes of domestic sludge is produces annually. A study conducted from 2018-2020 found that seven out of ten municipalities in Quebec contaminate the rivers by discharging wastewater (which can include human waste, street drainage, cigarette, plastic, food waste) from outdated water treatments. The study found that these treatment plants discharged wastewater in their rivers 53 645 times in 2018. This is a release of more than 21 million cubic metres of untreated wastewater into the environment. In Quebec over 60 660 wastewater spills were recorded in 2019. The city of Longeuil is reported to have the worst record of these spills in all of Quebec. Since 2014, Quebec’s municipalities have been waiting to receive new standards that would establish the number of acceptable overflows from treatment statements.

In 2015 was announced that the city of Montreal would be dumping over 2 billion gallons of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River . This is Montreal’s primary drinking supply. The Quebec Environment Minister stated that this sewage dump will have minimal consequence on the environment. This has not been an acceptable way to clean our sewer lines since the 1980s, however the city of Montreal obtained permission from the Environment Ministry into order to continue the demolition of the Bonaventure Expressway. In Canada, 215 billion litres of untreated wastewater was dumped into lakes, rivers and oceans in 2017, a process that is considered “normal” within the country.

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[expand title=»Agricultural Waste» expanded=»true»]

Animal waste (specifically from cows) is of concern because although it is used as manure on crops, it is likely to be spread untreated on land. Manure disposal methods are poorly monitored and documented in Canada as the standardized practices and regulations are rarely followed. Because of the large scale of animal farming and manure, there is often too much manure which is applied beyond the ground’s natural absorption rate which can runoff into water sources. Poultry waste is equally as harmful because it contains high amounts of phosphorus which can also leach into water sources. Waste and recyclable materials from farms are typically disposed of on site by the producer or companies that specialize in agricultural waste management, which leads to poor management from the local governments.

In Quebec, farms generate over 11 000 tones of plastic waste a year and only 2300 tonnes end up being recycled. Currently there are not recycling guidelines or province-wide programs that would allow farmers to dispose of their plastic waste (which include bailer twine, grain bags, hay packaging and pesticide containers) sustainably. On farm burial and burning of plastic waste in farms is a common practice in Canada and can have a significant impact on air quality.

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[expand title=»Construction, Renovation, and Demolition Waste» expanded=»true»]

Construction, renovation, and demolition (CRD) waste is the residual material from the construction, renovation, or demolition of buildings and other civil engineering infrastructure. This waste can include concrete, wood, asphalt, gypsum, metal, glass, and so on. Recycling this type of waste is incredibly important for the environment because it prevents further environmental harm from mining virgin resources and it conserves landfill space, preventing these materials from leeching (read about this problem in ‘Electronic Waste’). As such, the Politique québécoise de gestion des matières résiduelles aims to reduce residual waste, sending only the ultimate residue (waste that can no longer be salvaged) to landfill. The 2019-2024 Action Plan aims to recycle 70% of CRD waste by 2023.

While it is important to recycle, we should also reflect on our consumption habits. How often is it necessary to construct, renovate, or demolish existing infrastructure? Is it because it is falling apart, or because it is out of style? In 2015 alone, Recyc-Quebec’s CRD program saved 1.8 million tonnes of CRD from landfill. That is a lot of CRD waste to be recovered— in 2020, one sorting site overflowed as the building was being buried by waste. There was no longer access to the interior courtyard without having to climb onto the piles of waste, ad two fires led to the spillage of contaminated water.

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Biodiversity 

[expand title=»Conservation % Objectives» expanded=»true»]

The Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Aichi Target 11 required states to protect 17% of inland and 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. These areas were to be “of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services” and “ecologically representative” (read more about the target here). As of March 2021, the protected networks in Quebec cover 16.7% of terrestrial environments and 12.22% of marine and coastal environments. To achieve this, Quebec protected 19.15% of the Plan Nord, an area of approximately 1.2 million square kilometers, or about 78% the size of the Quebec province. This means, of the 16.7% on terrestrial environments protected, 89.4% was above the 49th parallel (in the Plan Nord area). This is disproportional to the actual area the Plan Nord takes up of Quebec.

This poses some issues. Firstly, the border of the Plan Nord closely follows the border for the Northern limit for forest allocation. Therefore, the protected areas conveniently allow logging companies access to the hardwood in the temperate zone. This is not only a strategic move by the Quebec government (read more about this in ‘Protected Areas Only in North’), but it is also not ecologically representative. It could also be argued that these zones are of particular importance for biodiversity specifically because they are at risk of deforestation.

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[expand title=»Extinction of Species/ Lack of Biodiversity» expanded=»true»]

Scientists estimate that between 0.01-0.1% of species are going extinct each year, or between 1,000 to 10, 000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. The number of species co-existing with us is uncertain, but ranges between 2 million and 100 million. If we average that amount to 60 million species, that would mean between 6, 000 and 60, 000 are going extinct every year. Average this again to about 33, 000, and that is 90 species lost each day. Another report finds that about a million species could become extinct within decades

A 2005 report showed that several known species had already been at least locally extinct in Quebec. Some species that are currently at risk in Quebec include belugas (read more about this in ‘Whales/Beluga Population Decreasing’), North Atlantic right whales, woodland caribou (read more about this in ‘Woodland Caribou at Risk’), and some that have officially been extirpated (locally extinct) include American burying beetles, grizzly bears, Atlantic walruses, and rusty-patched bumble bees. Worldwide, climate change has led to species extinctions, primarily via habitat destruction and invasive alien species (read more about this in ‘Invasive Species’ and ‘Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity’).

While this issue is global in scope, the effects are seen locally here in Quebec. We cannot pretend that the source of the issue is far off on the other side of the world, or that Quebec bares no responsibility. At home, Quebec is partaking in numerous unsustainable practices, as this page hopes to reveal, including the declining number of Wildlife Protection Officers. These decisions illustrate Quebec’s superficial concern about the environment.

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[expand title=»Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity» expanded=»true»]

Climate change arises from a number of different factors, most of which are anthropogenic, but the real crisis about climate change are the associated positive feedbacks. A positive feedback is a sequence of events even that occur consequentially to amplify the initial change. For instance, methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that warms Earth’s temperature. However, the warming temperatures melt permafrost, releasing more methane and therefor heating Earth further. Increases in carbon molecules, such as methane, contribute to ocean acidification as the ocean absorbs carbon from the atmosphere (read more about this in ‘Acidification of Waters’). This contributes to the ‘bleaching’ or dying of corals, which are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world.

Another important feedback related to climate change is Arctic sea ice. Sea ice is highly reflective, and as a result it reflects sunlight light rather than absorbing it, resulting in cooler temperatures. However, global warming accelerates the melting of sea ice, which consequently increases surface temperatures and leads to further melting. The effects can be observed right here in Quebec. Warmer temperatures prevented sufficient sea ice from forming in the Gulf of Saint-Laurence, resulting in harp seal pups and other ice-obligates being irregularly absent.

While these are only two examples, the effects of climate change on biodiversity are far-ranging. Higher temperatures can increase the risk of forest fires. Overall, climates changing at the current pace do not allow sufficient time for species to adapt, leading to loss of biodiversity.

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[expand title=»Sacrificing Wetlands for Development» expanded=»true»]

Wetlands have been sacrificed time and time again in Quebec for purposes of development. The fight to save Sandy Beach Woods in Hudson from the potential construction of 214 housing units is ongoing. The project includes backfilling 4,266 square meters of wetland. Similarly, Saint-Laurent’s Technoparc has been underdoing wetland destruction. Since the construction of the REM (read more about this is ‘Privatized Public Transit’), increased human disturbances are expected to have lasting effects on the wetland, with the most notable effects come migratory season. The city’s goal is to make the Technoparc the preferred location for sustainable development and clean technologies companies. One developer already backfilled 75 square meters of a swamp in the area.

These instances are in addition to the potential expansion project of the Bury landfill and the Champion Mine proposed dumping of tailings in Lake Bloom, both of which may cause harm to surrounding wetlands (read more about these in ‘Destruction of Lakes from Mining Projects’). It is clear that wetland protection is put on the back burner when it comes to industrial and residential development projects, regardless of whether they yield social license.

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[expand title=»Dependence on Pesticides» expanded=»true»]

Due to their dependence on chemical fertilizer which contains nitrates and phosphates, Quebec farmers are the heaviest users in North America. Excess fertilizers can contaminate waterways, drinking water and can contribute to excessive growth of algae. Farmers in Quebec are also applying too many pesticides, due to limited regulations and an outdated law which governs agronomists which hasn’t been updated since 1945. Neonicotinoids (also known as neonics) are one of the pesticides most commonly used in Canada. They are primarily used to control pests on agricultural crops like corn and soy. They are dangerous to biodiversity as they spread through the tissue of the plant and can kill insects (particularly bees and butterflies) by attacking their central nervous system. These pesticides can last a long time and are found in soils and waterways. Additionally, even in very small doses, they can negatively affect birds by causing a loss in their sense of direction and a loss in weight. Ironically, a study in 2020 found that the neonics have no real benefits for corn and soya crops and therefore provide no advantages for farmers. They found that only 5% of these crops were at risks of insect infestations.

In Quebec a larvicide called Bti has been used to kill mosquitoes, but it is having a negative effect on bird species as the larvicide is also killing other insects these birds need to survive. Studies have shown that as a result of the use of Bti, certain species of birds have declined by 30 to 60% in the last 50 years.

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[expand title=»Invasive Alien Species» expanded=»true»]

Invasive alien species are species that are somehow introduced to new ecosystems outside of their typical geographical range. They are concerning because they can seriously alter the stability of the ecosystem they invaded in multiple ways: if there are not predators, they can grow to enormous abundances, increasing competition with other species with similar resource requirements; they can alter the local food chain; and they can spread foreign diseases. In doing so, they can increase the fragility of the ecosystem and lead to the extinction of competitive native species. Invasive alien species are often the result of increased globalization (read more about this in ‘Degradation of Lakes’).

The same can be recorded across Quebec, which has multiple invasive alien species. Some aquatic examples include Eurasian watermilfoil, common reed, black-spotted gobies, snakehead fish, zebra mussels, Japanese knotweed, and goldfish. Terrestrial examples include Asian lady beetle, Japanese beetle, Emerald ash borer, mute swan, and ring-necked Pheasant. In 2019, the city of Montreal had to cut 40, 000 trees that were infested with Emerald ash borers.

The entire list of Quebec’s invasive alien species is available here.

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[expand title=»Fragmentation of Habitats» expanded=»true»]

Amphibians, reptiles, fish, and marine life are at risk due to pressures on their habitats from human activity including residential, industrial and commercial development, and an intensification of agriculture. The copper redhorse, an endangered fish that only lives in Quebec is at risk of disappearing due to the construction of the Contrecoeur port terminal project which was approved early 2021. The construction of the wharf, dredging activities, pipeline installation as well as the increase in maritime traffic and increase in contaminants are all factors that will negatively influence the survival of the copper redhorse. The project proposes mitigation efforts to protect this fish, but biologists don’t believe it will have much of a positive influence on the fish.

Within urban areas, fragmentation of habitats caused by development or negligence are also having an impact on biodiversity. In Sainte-Julie, the MELCC is under scrutiny for agreeing to transplant a rare/ endangered species of ginseng so that houses could be built. Citizens are worried that the transplantation might not be successful, and this plant species will be lost forever if building is approved. In Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, rare maple trees located by the Maisonneuve- Rosemont hospital are in danger due to soiled snow (mixed in with garbage and de-icing salts) being dumped illegally by the hospital.

Monocultures are also a source of habitat fragmentation. Monoculture fields of blueberry and cranberries, although good for local producers, are not good for bees who don’t produce honey, causing many colonies of native bees to die. The production of Christmas trees is one of the more intensive types of monocultures, as only four varieties of trees (balsam, Fraser, Canaan and Cook) are cultivated. To make space for these monoculture, multi species forests or native grasslands are destroyed which lower the number of birds, bugs, mammals, plants and other biodiversity previously found here. The monocultures also use large amounts of pesticides which can further harm ecosystems and pollute soils and watersheds.

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[expand title=»Lack of Protection of Endangered Species» expanded=»true»]

The protection of endangered species in Quebec does not seem to be taken seriously. While federally, endangered species are protected by the Species At Risk Act, provincially these organisms are not given the special attention they need and are often sacrificed in trade for economic growth and residential development.

For instance, the Western Chorus Frog populations in Quebec have decreased over the years—their historical range in Montérégie decreased by over 90% by 2009 and their range in Outaouais decreased by 30% since 1993, both largely due to development and agricultural intensification. The environmental impact report for the Contrecoeur port expansion project confirms that the frog is present in the area but that the project will not impinge on their habitat, though the inventories of this information were not accessible to the public for verification. A residential development project in Ile-Perrot’s White Oak Forest, also containing the Western Chorus Frog, garnered attention from protestors who were calling for federal action to protect the species because the provincial government had failed to do so.

The woodland caribou is another endangered species at risk in Quebec (read more in ‘Disruption of Woodland Caribou Habitat’ and ‘Woodland Caribou at Risk’). A proposed logging road in the Broadback Valley would intersect the habitat of three woodland caribou herds. The refusal of Pipmuakan as a protect area, which houses one of the southernmost caribou populations in the province, increased their vulnerability as they become victim to the forestry industry.

It is obvious that the provincial government needs to take more action to protect the endangered species of Quebec. It should not be the duty of citizens to demand their protection, nor should it be their duty to call for federal action.

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[expand title=»Decrease in Biodiversity of Lakes » expanded=»true»]

Eutrophication and invasive alien species both contribute to the loss of biodiversity of Quebec lakes. Eutrophication involves algal blooms that create hypoxic environments as the inevitable decomposition of phytoplankton absorbs oxygen, reducing its availability in the water (read more about the process of eutrophication in ‘Degradation of Lakes’). Hypoxic environments are also known as “dead zones” and are depleted of fishery resources including fish and crustaceans. They hamper biodiversity by reducing the growth and reproduction of species, increase physiological stresses, and reduce habitat suitability leading to forced migration. The area of hypoxic waters in the Saint-Lawrence continues to increase.

Invasive alien species can also lead to a loss of biodiversity in Quebec lakes. For instance, the Eurasian Watermilfoil is known to form large, monospecific colonies that can protect the shelter of some fauna but deters some fish species and overall leads to a loss of aquatic life diversity. Additionally, its quick, dense growth crowds out native plants. In 2018, the plant had been found in the Saint-Lawrence River as well as in 180 lakes, and 87 other harmful invasive species were documented across the province.

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[expand title=»Whale/Beluga Population Decreasing» expanded=»true»]

Since the late 2010s, beluga whales found in the St. Lawrence Estuary have gone from “threatened” to “endangered”. As of 2016, the population of beluga whales in this area was around 900 individuals, however their population sizes have been decreasing by 1% since the early 2000s. Studies have shown that the decline in the populations is linked to a change in the migratory patterns caused by warming water temperatures. As a result, whales are showing up in areas outside of their traditional migratory routes where there are few regulatory protections for them. Because of this, the whales are dying from collisions with ships an entanglement with fishing lines. Studies have shown that smaller fishing vessels can also have an impact on whales, as even though the collision may not break the whale’s bones, it can cause fatal damage internally. Beluga whale populations are also at risk due to the new GNL pipeline project which will pass through the Saguenay- St. Lawrence protected area and cause an increase in marine traffic.

Water pollution can also impact the populations of beluga whales. Belgua whales are the most affected species as they are exposed to pollutants in the St. Lawrence all year round, compared to species that only visit the river in the summer. A number of anthropogenic pollutants have been found in the whale carcasses. Contaminants from aluminum smelters in the Saguenay region have been linked to intestinal cancers in beluga whales. These whales have the highest cancer rates compared to any other cetacean population in the world.

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[expand title=»Woodland Caribou at Risk» expanded=»true»]

The decline in woodland caribou populations in Quebec is linked to a variety of factors, the main threat being habitat deterioration caused by forest harvesting, oil and gas exploration and extraction, and road networks. Because of the significant changed in habitats, the caribou are more vulnerable to wolf predation which causes high mortality rates among these animals. Moreover, the more disturbed an area is, the more time a caribou will keep a careful watch out for predators which will result in less feeding time. Pipmuacan is a traditional gathering place for Pessamiulnut and home of one of the southernmost populations of the endangered woodland caribou. Dangers arise mostly from resort building, logging, and snowmobiles. A 2020 study showed that the number of woodland caribou in this area have been declining since 2012 and that the sizes of the animals have been decreasing as well.

Other factors contributing to population decline include hunting. Although there is a moratorium for sport hunting on migratory caribou, there is a huge risk of reducing the caribou population if people continue to do so illegally. Over a long term period, climate change is expected to impact woodland caribou populations as extreme weather conditions and events and an increased frequency of freeze-thaw cycle will make it more difficult for caribou to forage for food on the ground in the winter.

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[expand title=»Western Chorus Frog Population Decreasing» expanded=»true»]

The Western Chorus Frog, while not endangered globally is at risk of disappearing in Quebec due to habitat destruction. These frogs are often found near major cities in Canada. In Quebec, they are found near the Gatineau suburb, and in suburbs east of the St. Lawrence River. These tiny frogs live in seasonal marshes and once they dry up in the summer, the frogs move into the forest. However, due to rapid residential and industrial development as well as the development of agricultural areas (which cause an additional risk of being contaminated by pesticides or fertilizers), the population of the Western Chorus Frog may disappear by 2030. A proposed housing project Ile Perrot would destroy the White Oak Forest in, an area where this frog is found, has protestors pushing for the federal minister of environment to sign an order to protect this habitat and this endangered species. Prior to this call to sign the order, protectors have been ignored by the municipal and provincial governments which have allowed clearcutting to commence. Additionally, this area is home to the largest population of White Oak trees which are a rare species in Quebec.

            Another area where construction was set to commence was in Gatineau, where a development project worth half a billion dollars was halted due to western chorus frogs found living in a green, The developer, while waiting for authorization from the provincial government, argued that this project will promote sustainability and stem urban sprawl, and that they had offered another area of land for the frog to live which offered a higher environmental value. The Port of Montreal expansion project will also threaten the western chorus frog populations, which lives in the wetlands and on the banks in this area, due to shipping development. The director of environment for the Montreal Port administration argued that the port project wouldn’t cause much loss of the frog’s habitat because they are located on the other side of the project, but experts believe that the species will suffer regardless.

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[expand title=»Declining Bee Population» expanded=»true»]

In Canada, eight wild bee species are listed under Canada’s species risk registry. 3 species (the rusty-patched bumble bee, gypsy cuckoo bumble bee and the macropis cuckoo bee) have all lost at least 50% of their populations are considered endangered. Climate change is one of the factors influencing the loss of native bees, whereby the increase in the frequency of events (i.e. heat waves and droughts) are pushing bees beyond what they can tolerate. Another factor influencing the loss of native bees is the increase in honeybees which many people tend to keep in their backyard (either to produce honey, as pollination services of economic benefit or food security, or under the assumption that it will increase the bee population). The negative impact of having honeybees is that, not only are they not at risk of extinction, but they compete with native bees for flower and pollen. Additionally, honeybees in a hive can produce 50 000 to 100 000 individuals, where are native bees are solitary.

Wild bees are important to pollinate crops in rural area, residential gardens and even rooftop gardens. With fewer native species, plants are going to be pollinated in different ways, which will likely have negative impacts throughout the entire ecosystem.

Studies have shown that the use of neonicotinoid insecticide on crops like corn, soya, squash and pumpkins are influencing behaviour, reproduction and growth of honeybees, bumblebees, and ground-nesting bees all of which are crucial in pollinating crops. Studies have also found that when honeybees ingest the neonicotinoid they are less likely to groom themselves and remove a parasitic mite which in turn can cause premature deaths.

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[expand title=»Declining Bird Population» expanded=»true»]

Since the 1970s, birds that rely exclusively on native grasslands for breeding have decreased by 87%, swallows and swifts have declined by 59%, shorebirds by 55%, and 20% of seabirds that are found in Canadian waters are endangered species. A huge factor in this decline in bird populations is due to climate change, whereby the interval between spring plant growth and the arrival of bird species has increased by one day per year on average. Although many birds have been able to adapt to these changes, those who haven’t, miss a critical window to find good nesting spots and to feed on early-spring insects. An increase in extreme cold winters in Quebec, the reproduction of migratory Canada geese fell from 192 000 in 2016 to 112 000 in 2018. Additionally, prolonged a spring period in 2018 left many of the breeding grounds covered in snow until late June.

The loss of habitat is another factor influencing bird decline. There is trend toward the increase of monoculture food crops which drains marshes, destroys forests and removes important feeding and nesting sites for the birds. In the spring, cornfields are bare to the ground which don’t offer camouflage to birds who are used to nesting in hay that are three feet tall. The Green Coalition, which has been fighting for many years, loses in court to development of the Technoparc Area. The City’s objective is to make it a preferred location for companies specializing in sustainable development and clean technologies. However, this is an ecosystem home to over 80 nesting species of birds including herons, raptors, songbirds and ducks, and attracts many people to bird watch.

An rising problem in the decline in bird populations, is the increase in glass buildings in the province. In Gatineau, an increase in number of birds have died over the past few years after colliding into glass buildings. In Canada, window collisions can kill up to 16 to 42 million birds a year.

More information:

https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/migratory-game-bird-hunting/consultation-process-regulations/report-series/population-status-2019.html

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Water and Water Management 

[expand title=»Degradation of Lakes» expanded=»true»]

Quebec’s lake quality has been degrading over time, terms of eutrophication, invasive species, and acidification (read more in ‘Acidification’). First, eutrophication is a natural process whereby an increase in phosphorus in the lake causes phytoplankton to bloom. When they die, they sink to the bottom and decompose—a process which requires oxygen. With time, a eutrophied lake becomes less transparent, more oxygen depleted, and filled with more sediments. While this tends to occur in any lake over time, human activities that dispel phosphorus into the water accelerates this process. Some important anthropogenic causes include the use of fertilizer, the alteration of the shoreline, the dumping of wastewater into waterways, and reduced vegetative cover. Lac Saint-Augustin and Lac Memphremagog are just two Quebec lakes that are undergoing accelerated eutrophication.

There is also the issue of invasive species. The number of invasive species in Canada spiked in the 20th century, coinciding with globalization. Invasive species create an imbalance in the native ecosystem as they increase the competition for resources. Important invasive species in Quebec lakes include the Eurasian watermilfoil, common reed, black-spotted gobies, snakehead fish, giant hogweed, zebra mussels, Japanese knotweed, flowering rush, purple loosestrife, and goldfish.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Bioaccumulation of Toxins» expanded=»true»]

Canada disposes 3.3 million tonnes of plastic each year where only 9% gets recycled, the rest is going into the landfill or being dumped into water systems which can harm marine animals. In 2014, researchers discovered microbeads at the bottom of the St. Lawrence River which threaten fish, birds, and wildlife who mistakenly consume them. The study found that in one litre of sediment collected from the St. Lawrence River, contained 1000 bits of microplastics. The Saint Lawrence river is among the worst rivers in the world in terms of microplastic pollution. Microplastics have also been found in Lake Saint Charles. Two thirds of the samples analyzed were microfibers (from clothing) coming from the wastewater treatment plant nearby which doesn’t filter out all the particles released from washing clothes.

Additionally, the St. Lawrence River contains other pollutants including Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), mecury, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCP). Most of this accumulation of pollutants in the St. Lawrence are coming from wastewater from the cities and agricultural waste.

Toxic blue algae is becoming an increasing problem in Quebec’s waters. Caused by the increase in rain causing runoff into the water along with very hot summers causes an overabundance of cyanobacteria in the waters which can be harmful to human health.

More info:

https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1751932/avancee-universite-mgill-microplastiques-eaux-usees?depuisRecherche=true

https://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/eau/eco_aqua/toxique/contaminants-emergent-Quebec-meridional.pdf

[/expand]

[expand title=»Politically-Influenced Flood Maps» expanded=»true»]

Concerns about the flood maps stated that they are arbitrarily created and that there is not mention of governments helping to create proper infrastructure. Residents in Pierrefonds, whose area has been placed on the flood map have seen the value of their properties decease and insurance rates increase. They can’t even get permits to make renovations, improvements or do minor landscaping jobs on their property. This area hasn’t experienced extreme flooding since 2017.

Updated maps show flood risk along the Mille Îles, Des Prairies rivers, but they may not be adopted for months, which means that building and construction can continue in these areas but citizens will be left wondering if their houses are in flood zones and will remain uncertain about what that would be mean for insurance rates.

More info:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/beaconsfield-flood-map-errors-1.5204287

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/clouds-faulty-flood-maps-1.5201127

[/expand]

[expand title=»Industrial Use of Water» expanded=»true»]

Companies in Montreal’s industrial sector pay just a fraction of what it costs in Toronto and other major North American cities to use and dump potable water into the sewage system.A typical large company in Montreal pays about $185,660 for its annual water use in Anjou compared with $960,000 for the same consumption in Toronto. Industries, businesses and institutions use 62% of water in Montreal but only pay 55% compared to residents who use 38% but pay for 45% .It costs $ 70 per million liters of water for companies that use water as a component of their product. It costs $ 2.50 per million gallons of water for companies that use water in their manufacturing process. A tax on water was proposed in 2019 but the tax would be directed at home owners and residences and not industries.

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[expand title=»Overfishing» expanded=»true»]

Globally, 31.4% (3 times more than 40 years ago) of fish stocks have been impacted due to overfishing. In addition to climate change altering ocean condition, overfishing transforms the population of fish in the ocean and their geographic distribution. This can increase the exposure of fish to pollutants, increasing the level of methyl mercury found in many of the fish (i.e. cod or Atlantic red tuna) which are consumed by humans. Over the last few decades Canada has lost half of the total of fish mainly due to overfishing. In the Saint Lawrence River, the most well known case of overfishing impacted the cod causing the population to reduce by almost 100%. In 2019, the shortage of fish due to overfishing was so severe that an IGA in St. Laurent, Montreal actually had to close their fish department for a certain period of time.

Unfortunately, the overfishing in Quebec doesn’t go towards feeding their population, as most of what is fished gets exported, and what is consumed in the province is imported from elsewhere.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Destruction of Lakes from Mining Projects» expanded=»true»]

Lac Bloom Ore de Fer Quebec says that in order to store the 872 million tonnes of tailings that they will produce over the next few years of operation that they have to destroy lakes, streams, wetlands and wooded areas. At least eight lakes will be destroyed. Unfortunately, Quebec is not prohibiting these actions.

The proposed 2.6 km Nouveau Monde Graphite mine project is located in an ecologically sensitive and touristic area within the Lac Taureau Regional Parc watershed.  This is the largest and closest recreational water body north of Montreal. This project will dump its mineral waste  into the Eau Morte stream which will, after seven hours, make its way into the Matawin river and the Taureau Lake. The water is at risk of acid contamination affected by the 400 tonnes of chemicals products that is estimated to be used in the mining project each year.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Degradation of Shorelines» expanded=»true»]

The increase in frequency of storms, primarily caused by climate change, is accelerating coastline degradation in the province. Additional reasons include anthropization of the coasts, industrial pollution, and traffic of off-road vehicles. It is increasing the vulnerability of people who live on coasts and along the Saint Lawrence River as over 2100 kilometers of the coasts are at risk. Over the past ten years, the annual rate of erosion along the coast lines in the Est of Quebec range from 0.5 to 2 meters.

Private boats are impacting Quebec shorelines, as an increase in boats and size of boats are making their way into the water. The impact of energy waves stir up the sediment on the bottom of the lakes which can increase the amount of phosphorus in the water.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Destruction of Ecosystems from Powerboats» expanded=»true»]

The environmental impact of powerboats is that they can increase the growth of algae and kick of sediments which can impact the quality of the water. Additionally, the chemicals used to clean, protect and run the boats can leach into the water which can negatively impact the marine ecosystems.

On Lake Memphremagog, which is a major drinking water reservoir, boating activities can affect the quality of the lake’s water. Although in Quebec’s Environmental Quality Act it says that the province can prohibit or limit the use of motorboats on lake or reduce to protect the quality of the environment, people living on Lake Memphremagog have been told that lakes are governed by federal legislation. This means that municipalities in Quebec do not have control over boat activity on the lakes.

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[expand title=»Ship Traffic » expanded=»true»]

An expansion of the Contrecoeur container port to be built downriver from Montreal has been given the greenlight by the Impact Assessment of Canada. However may environmental issues have come up from concerned citizens which may have been overlooked during the environmental assessment. The project would excavate over 750 000 cubic metres of beaches near the area. Additionally, erosion was not part of the impact study. Additionally, marine species, like the Copper Redhorse fish found only in Quebec in a small area of the St. Lawrence and Richelieu rivers, will be affected by this project. Marine traffic will destroy and/or change the habitat and the increase in contaminants caused by shipping activity will influence the specie’s reproductive system. The population of the Western Chorus Frogs who live on the banks and in the wetlands of the proposed project will also be threatened in response to the shipping development.

More info:

https://www.journaldequebec.com/2021/03/24/fleuve-saint-laurent–inquietude-pour-la-survie-dune-espece-unique-au-monde

https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/environnement/595493/la-protection-d-un-poisson-menace-bloquera-t-elle-le-port-de-contrecoeur

https://www.tvanouvelles.ca/2021/03/02/feu-vert-pour-le-terminal-portuaire-de-contrecur

Port Laurentia is a port expansion in Baie de Beauport which is said to destroy the habitat of striped bass, feeding and movement areas for lake and Atlantic sturgeons, as well as impacting reproduction areas for other fish. It has been estimated that this project will create a permanent loss of 12.8 hectares of the fish’s habitat and 8.6 hectares of modifications. This project would also increase maritime traffic which can influence the population of protected species like the beluga. The impacts of marine wildlife will have a negative impact on fishing and hunting activities which are traditionally done by the natives.

More info:

https://www.journaldequebec.com/2021/02/28/une-etude-du-bape-reclamee-sur-le-projet-laurentia-a-quebec

[/expand]

[expand title=»Acidification of Waters» expanded=»true»]

Acidification of water refers to the lowering of its pH. Since industrialization, ocean acidity has increased by 30%. One of the causes is the deposition of nitrogen and sulfur from shipping emissions, and Quebec seems to be in no hurry to reduce ships in its territory (read more in ‘Low-Grade Fuel Burning in Shipping Industry’). A more urgent cause of acidification is the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide by waters. Recall that Quebec’s emissions have not ceased to increase (read more in ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions Continue to Rise). Acidifying molecules can also precipitate and come down as acid rain.

Acidification can cause immense damage to ecosystems. This is because organisms require specific pH levels to function properly. An acidifying ocean can seriously harm phytoplankton, which is responsible for the production of 60% of terrestrial oxygen. Crustaceans have also been recorded to have higher mortality rates in lower pH waters. In the Saint-Lawrence River, this means that lobsters, northern shrimps, crabs, and oysters are particularly vulnerable. Without sufficiently reducing our emissions, Quebec’s marine species will be seriously at risk.

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[expand title=»Approved Sewage Dumping» expanded=»true»]

Quebec has, on multiple occasions, approved of planned wastewater spills. In 2015, the ‘Flushgate’ saw Montreal dump as much as raw sewage and detritus in the river. In 2016, Quebec City discharged 135 million liters of untreated water into the river, arguing that it is 36 times smaller than Montreal’s Flushgate. In 2018, Longueuil dumped an estimated 162 million liters of raw sewage into the Saint-Lawrence, an event known dubbed ‘Flushgate 2.0’. The same year, Quebec City released another 46 million liters. In 2017 alone, Quebec held 62, 000 sewage dumps.

This practice is still going on today. In March 2021, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu disposed of 25 million liters of wastewater in the Richelieu River, bring their total to 210 million spilled liters over three years. There are currently 80 municipalities across the province without a wastewater treatment plant.

To avoid this, Quebec must construct better wastewater management infrastructure. Not having the proper treatment should not be an excuse to dump wastewater into Quebec rivers. Adequate treatments should be mandatory for operations (read more about this is ‘Inadequate Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure’).

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[expand title=»Contamination of Drinking Water» expanded=»true»]

Some drinking water in Quebec is found to be contaminated with lead, though some is contaminated by PFAS as well. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are man-made chemicals that can have serious adverse effects of human health including low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, thyroid hormone disruptions, and even cancer. Lake Memphremagog, which crosses the border between Quebec and Vermont, is a drinking source for 175, 000 Quebec citizens contaminated with the substance. It is presumed that the source is leachate from the Newport sewage treatment plant in Vermont, and a four-year moratorium was put in place in 2019 to stop the contamination. However, given that it is the second time since the moratorium that PFAS are detected in the lake, citizens are fighting for a permanent moratorium which has yet to be accepted.

For lead contamination, Quebec’s method used for testing has been criticized as inaccurate given that it flushes water out of taps for five minutes before retrieving the sample. This severely underestimates the lead concentration in tap water, as an independent study found that 466 samples across 96 municipalities showed lead concentration exceeding the limit between 2015 and 2018, which was 10ppb at the time. In Montreal, 58% of samples had levels exceeding Canada’s new limit of 5ppb. More recently, several First Nations schools and daycares have found that their tap water lead concentration exceed the limit, though many were not warned of this until months after the results were discovered. Worse, the solution proposed to them was to let the water run for 10 minutes everyday before schools open. It is important to note that despite holding an official limit, there is no blood level of lead that has been identified as safe. Moreover, potential side effects include learning and attention problems, a decrease in intellectual ability, and behavioral changes.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Bulk Water Exports» expanded=»true»]

In June 2018, Quebec announced a water management plan that seemed to close the door on the idea of exporting water in bulk. Before then, Quebec had a major problem with the issue. For instance, in 2017, just nine companies withdrew 2, 084, 284, 500 liters of water and paid only $145, 899.92 in royalties. This is consistent of the fact that, since 2010, the royalties on water has been $0.07 per 1, 000 liters for companies that pump more than 75, 000 liters per day. This rate is far too low for a resource that is a common good, and one that will be increasingly scarce with climate change.

Despite the 2018 plan, water continue to be exported in bulk. In 2019, there were at least 18 companies that were withdrawing over 75, 000 liters of water per day (view the list here). That means at least 1, 350, 000 liters were being extracted per day for just $94.50. What’s worse is that the Ministry of Environment is concealing most of the information, including the exact amounts extracted and their uses. This is simply no way to treat such an invaluable resource.

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[expand title=»Increased Risk of Flooding due to Urban Sprawl» expanded=»true»]

The Quebec flood map of 2017 to 2019 shows areas affected by spring flooding. Although most of the flooding seems to be in agricultural field by the shoreline, an increasing number of residential areas are subject to spring flooding as well. Though information on the matter in Quebec is scarce, an interesting report that studied the relationship between urban sprawl and flooding globally found that urban sprawl may be worsening the effects of floods, which are ultimately caused by climate change. Urban sprawl refers to the expansion of low-density urban development, whereby homes and business are spread farther apart than in city centers. The report explains that urban sprawl has led development to expand into marshes, wetlands, and flood-prone areas. Not only does this mean that more people are living in places susceptible to flooding, but the concretisation means that floodwater had increased difficulty draining, exacerbating floods. Given the recent spring flooding in Quebec (read more about this ‘Rising Sea Levels’), any worsening can be seriously damaging.

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Transportation 

[expand title=»Lack of Public Transit» expanded=»true»]

According to a report by the Montreal Metropolitan Community (CMM), of the CMM and bordering municipalities, 94% of workers primarily use a car to get to work. Plante argues that this is because the bordering municipalities do not have to abide by the same density rules as the CMM, which result in low-density, car-dependent neighborhoods. What is needed, is better urban planning, and better public transit infrastructure to deter private vehicle use. Meanwhile, the Quebec government is still favoring road expansion over public transit as the budget for public transit is nearly half of that of asphalt (Rad more about this in ‘Never-ending Road Expansion’). A study conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation found that Montreal youth are hesitant about public transit because it is unreliable, and the services are not flexible.

To combat these shortcomings, Quebec must invest in public transport. Having more frequent run times and larger networks may help with both the metro, bus, and train systems. It might even deter single vehicle use enough to reduce traffic, which would help with the bus service’s reliability. Additionally, the government cannot continue privatizing public transit which may discourage its use by raising user fares and having routes that are guided by profit rather than public interest (read more about this in ‘Privatized Public Transit’). For instance, the REM project may be infringing on the anticipated expansion of the blue metro line because the two will now be sharing similar routes; a feature the private REM conveniently overlooked.

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[expand title=»Underestimated Environmental Impacts of Electric Vehicles» expanded=»true»]

Electric vehicles are being painted as the end-all solution to environmental problems in Quebec, while the adverse affects of electric vehicles are conveniently overlooked. The major environmental problem with electric vehicles arises from the lithium required for their batteries. In 2016, a leak in the Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium in Tagong resulted in dead fish, cows, and yaks floating downstream the river after having drank from contaminated water. To extract lithium in South America, a hole is drilled in salt flats to pump mineral-rich brine to the surface. After 12-18 months of evaporation and filtration, the lithium can be extracted. In total, it takes about 500, 000 gallons of water to produce 1 tonne of lithium. For reference, the battery of a Tesla Model S has about 12 kilograms of lithium in it, thus requiring about 41, 670 gallons of water. The evaporation pools also have the potential to leak harmful minerals into the surroundings. In Nevada, fish 150 miles downstream were affected by lithium processing. Recycling lithium batteries is also extremely difficult for a number of reasons, which ultimately make recycling them 5 times more costly than extracting new lithium.

This all being said, electric vehicles are still a solution. Transitioning to electric vehicles was likely and overdue. However, it cannot be seen as the perfect solution to lower our environmental impacts—there needs to be some added efforts to compensate for the harms of electric vehicles. Furthermore, we need to reduce the overall consumption of personal vehicles by transitioning to using more public transit.

For more information on electric vehicles, follow these links:

https://www.downtoearth.org.in
https://www.weforum.org
https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org
https://www.wired.co.uk

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[expand title=»Overdependence on Air Travel» expanded=»true»]

As of 2019, Air Canada airlines no longer offers flighst in many of the regions in Quebec, and the underserviced regions are looking to the government to provide assistance for more regional airlines. The problem with the airlines that still offer regional services is that they are smaller carries which use ageing aircraft which are not efficient in terms of energy consumption and air and sound pollution. Moreover, these airlines offer services from Montreal to Quebec City for example, which is a one-hour plane ride. A round trip between these two destinations would contribute to 82.2 KG of CO2 per passenger. Compared to taking the train which would only emit 11.2 kg In Quebec’s “Plan pour une economie verte 2020”, the government has set aside $3.6 billons dollars to reduce emissions from the transportation industry, however there is no mention of reducing emissions from air travel ,which globally, represents 2.5% of the world’s CO2 emissions.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Lack of high speed rail for interregional transit » expanded=»true»]

Passenger rail within Quebec by VIA rail runs from Montreal to Quebec City. However, there are frequent delays in the services, inconvenient scheduling times and the projected time between stations is not more efficient than taking a car. A survey conducted from January 2017 to March 2019 estimated that one in three trains crossing Quebec arrived late by over one hour. Reasons for the delays are because passenger trains use the same tracks as freight trains, and priority is given to the latter, which limits the availability of service schedules.  The “high frequency rail” plan, proposed by VIA rail would allow them to build new tracks or repurpose unused tracks, a project that would costs $4.4 billion dollars. Although trip times would decrease compared to current schedules, they would still be slower than express trains that existed in the 1900s and early 2000s.  Within Quebec, this proposed plan would include an additional station in Trois Rivieres.

There has been a reduction in interregional transportation in Quebec, however little to no funding has been given to this.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Lack of Freight Transportation for goods» expanded=»true»]

Over 6302 km of railway tracks are located in Quebec. 73% of these tracks are of federal jurisdiction and 27% are of provincial jurisdiction. The regulations for the transportation of goods and the infrastructure for unloading or delivery of goods are weaker in Quebec compared to Canada’s regulations which requires railways to move any product that can legally be transported. The level of the use of railway tracks depends on politics, available technologies, and the availability of the infrastructures.  Eight years after the derailment of a train derailment carrying crude oil and damaging the town of Lac Megantic, a bypass project is still under discussion with the federal government. All while the rail line continues to pass through the town, putting the citizens lives at risk.

The lack of additional infrastructure can also harm the local economy when there are damages to the rail or blockages as was the case in 2020 where First Nations members of the Mohawk territory of Tyendinaga blocked the tracks. This halted the transportation of goods, resulted in layoffs of rail workers, and delays costs companies thousands of dollars in additional costs.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Increase in Registered Vehicles Each Year» expanded=»true»]

Although the city of Montreal has been making efforts to be green, the dependence on cars isn’t helping to achieve adequate GHG reductions. Road transport emissions represent more than a third of Quebec’s carbon footprint, and in response emissions have only decreased by 3.1% since 1990. Quebec has the second highest number of registered vehicles in the country totaling over 8.9 million vehicles. And this number has been increasing each year. In response to this dependence, cars and roads in Quebec generate over $51 billion per year.  The Quebec government plans to develop 100 kilometers of reserved lanes on the main highways which would be reserved for bus lanes, at certain times, to encourage public transportation. However, these lanes will not restrict cars as electric and hybrid vehicles will be able to use these lanes and experts say this plan will only further encourage the use of private vehicles as there would be more opportunity and space in which to drive.

[/expand]

[expand title=»STM Blue Line expansion project delayed» expanded=»true»]

The STM’s blue line in Montreal has been promised to be extended to St. Leonard and Anjou has been a promise for over thirty years. Now that it is underway, the project is at least 18 months behind schedule due to the construction of the REM de l’Est in that area. This project is expected to cost $600 million.  Initially the construction of this extension was place on a fast track under Bill 61, however the CAQ government has abandoned this bill. The area of Saint Leonard has been long awaiting the expansion of the blue line as this project would bring an enlargement of sidewalks, 200 trees, more public spaces, but this has all been postponed due to delays. The CAQ government has also expressed concerns that with the construction of the REM which would be built in a similar area to the blue line, that they don’t want to duplicate the service, which would require the City of Montreal to reevaluate their plan to optimize the project. It is likely that this extension project will not be ready by its projected date in 2026.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Increase of Market Share of SUVs » expanded=»true»]

The numbers of SUVS purchased in Quebec continue to rise. The sale of these vehicles represents 70% of the market share in the province. According to data from the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change the number of SUVs in Quebec has jumped more than 260% since 1990. This increase in additional cars on the road increases traffic congestion which doubles travel times and increases the rate of traffic jams. And because of their size contribute to more greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Internal Energy Agency making SUVs is the second largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector.  However, there are no plans to reduce advertisement of these vehicles and the sales of SUVs will continue to rise.

[/expand]

[expand title=»Lack of Active Transport Infrastructure» expanded=»true»]

As a way to reduce to emissions in the transportation sector, Quebec should be urging its citizens to be taking up modes of active transport such as walking, biking, roller blading, skating, and so on. Yet, at least in the Montreal area, 94% primarily use a car to get to work. A study of Montreal students found that, despite 75% hoping for a multimodal future, many are discouraged from using active transportation because of vulnerability to motorized traffic, accidents, and weather. Although weather is essentially uncontrollable, the other two factors limiting youth from partaking in active transportation can be remedied by better urban planning.

In 2019, 71 pedestrians and 8 cyclists were killed in road accidents, 210 pedestrians and 56 cyclists were severely injured, and over 4000 others were mildly injured. With these statistics, it is no wonder that citizens feel unsafe. To combat this, there must be initiatives to facilitate active transportation. However, it is possible to have poorly planned initiatives if the public is not consulted—an array of projects aimed at facilitating active transportation across Quebec have failed. An increase in cycling paths, changes in crossroads, lowering of speed limits, integration of multimodal networks, construction of chaucidoos… while they are good ideas in theory, public consultation is key to identifying the best solutions to current transportation problems. This is in addition to the fact that low-density urban planning depends on personal vehicle use, so high-density planning should be prioritized (read more about this in ‘Never-ending Road Expansion’).

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[expand title=»Few Tolls on Roads» expanded=»true»]

Quebec is notably lacking tolls on roads. With the exception of the highway 30 and the bridge on highway 25, there are virtually no tolls on Quebec roads. Toll rates range between $1.20 to $3.46 (for those with a customer account, otherwise it is $9.24) for category 1 vehicles. At both tolls, electric vehicles are exempted. This creates an incentive to drive electric vehicles, which inundates the 2030 Plan for a Green Economy. However, given that there are only two tolls in Quebec, the incentive remains quite low.

This is the case even without driving an electric vehicle. Increased tolls can not only alleviate expenses for road work (read more about this in ‘Never-ending Road Expansion’), but they can also be used to encourage Quebeckers to opt for public transit. This may be especially important since Quebec’s carbon tax is arguably weak (read more in ‘Carbon Tax Not High Enough to Incite Behavioral Change’). Quebec drivers are hardly taxed, except for the 3¢ per litre tax on Montreal drivers. All in all, Quebec is seriously lagging in the encouragement of sustainable travel. Increasing the number of toll roads could be a simple first step.

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[expand title=»Privatized Public Transit» expanded=»true»]

In recent years, there has been the issue of the privatization of public transit in Quebec. Most notably, the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) project, a light-rail train in Montreal that will be owned and operated by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ, which manages Quebec pension plans) for 99 years. The project is being criticized for being privately funded, with CUPE arguing that it is more concerned with making profits than with serving the public good. This means that fares will likely go up, with the public being less involved in the decision-making process and social priorities like reducing greenhouse gases will be overlooked. CUPE members will also suffer as privatization will promote downward pressure on wages and working conditions, with some maintenance work even being outsourced to lower the CDPQ’s expenses. Furthermore, its integration in Montreal’s current public transit system will make the expansion of the transit networks difficult and will also interfere with the connectivity between existing networks.

Overall, the privatization of public transit does not benefit the public. By creating more barriers for transit users, it may discourage the use of public transit. In a time where we need to induce green changes, the privatization of public transit is a step backward.

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[expand title=»User Fees Too High» expanded=»true»]

Despite Quebec’s 2030 Plan for a Green Economy focus on reducing emissions in the transportation sector, Quebec’s strategy is to electrify the industry rather than shifting drivers to take public transit. This is clearly reflected in the fact that Quebec’s user fees remain comparatively high. For instance, the cost for a single bus fare in Montreal is $3.50. Compared to major cities of other provinces, it is the highest single bus pass fare tied with Calgary. A monthly bus pass in Montreal is $88.50 (though this will be increasing to $90.50 in July 2021). Compared to major cities of other provinces, Montreal prices rank much better, with costs lower than a monthly pass in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary. However, a study conducted in the United States shows that the average bus pass in America’s major cities is $67.07 USD, or $81.12 CAD.

The Montreal ARTM have a habit of increasing fares. In 2013, protesters denounced the $3.00 bus fare. Between 2004 and 2014, single bus fares increased by 20%. From 2013 to 2021, costs for a single bus pass increased by 16.6%. Apparently, the continuous hikes reflect inflation rates, a consequence of privatizing public transit (read more about this in ‘Privatized Public Transit’). If Quebec is aiming to reduce emissions in the transportation sector, increasing public transit costs is not the way to do it.

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[expand title=»Never-ending Road Expansion» expanded=»true»]

The Quebec government seems to put a lot of effort into road infrastructure—maybe too much. In the Plan québécois des infrastructures (PQI) 2021-2031, Quebec is allocating $28 billion on asphalt i.e., on restoring and construction roads, compared to $12.8 billion on public transit (read more here). This represents a 3% drop in public transit expenditures from the last budget. In the 2021-2022 Quebec Infrastructure Plan, $2.6 billion is being invested to “ensure the good condition of the road network.” Of that, $471.4 million is going towards the construction of new lanes to flexibility and reliability of the public transit network as well as increase its subsidies to reduce user fares (read more about this in ‘User Fees Too High’). This would incite more drivers to transition to public transit, relieving congestion on the roads and removing the need to construct new lanes.

Urban sprawl is also largely to blame on Quebecker’s dependence on personal vehicles. The poor planning of low-density, estranged suburbs leaves residents relying on personal vehicle use to travel to work. Of the 82 municipalities of the Montreal Metropolitan Community and another 100, 000 commuters from border municipalities, 94% primarily use a car to get to work. Better urban planning is needed to discourage personal vehicle use—a phenomenon that largely contributes to Quebec’s greenhouse gas emissions. With better care, the construction of new roads could finally be a thing of the past.

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[expand title=»Lack of Regulation for Private Yachts » expanded=»true»]

In 2019, a project by the Yacht Club St- Benoit raised concerns among residents of Sargent Bay and Lake Memphremagog because they wanted permission from the Ministry of the Environment to install 99 sites only in front of their property (up to 150 meters from the shore) to avoid paying rental fees. The residents who live in that area were concerned that their quality of life would suffer with the increase in boats along the water. Although the plan was denied by a judge, the municipality was at fault because they had initially allowed for this project to go through and had granted permits to the Yacht Club St. Benoit.

Speed limits of private boats and ships in Canada, particularly along the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence fluctuate depending on if a whale is spotted or not which can cause inconsistencies among drivers. In 2019, six ships, including a luxury yacht were fined for going above the speed limit, before the government had reduced it, which can increase maritime traffic around sites frequented by North Atlantic whales. Additionally, although there is a limit within protected zones, there is no consistency for speed limits around these zones, which puts the whales at risk of being struck.

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Forestry 

[expand title=»Disruption of Natural Forest Cycle
» expanded=»true»]

One of the most consumed resources by government organization is paper. Ironically, since the arrival of the technology the paper consumption has actually increased within governments. This is one resource, along with many others, that requires additional cutting of trees. In Canada, every minute an area of the boreal forest (the size of seven NHL hockey rinks) gets chopped down. Instead of protecting forest areas that are still standing, the Forestry Ministry predicts to double forestry activities by 2080. An increase of almost 15% logging activity is expected over the next five years. Moreover, Pierre Dufour, the forestry minister said that cutting more trees would be a solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. His argument was that Quebec would be increasing the amount of harvested wood (which would store carbon in the future) and will open up more forest to logging (that younger trees can absorb more carbon) and increase government incentives. Moreover, an increase in forestry activities also risks the exploitation of forests, which under the Forest Stewardship Council are supposed to be managed sustainably. The reality is that forest areas are usually left littered with forest residues and tree trunks.

With an increase in logging comes an increase in additional waste of tree products that are not used. Quebec mills produce almost four million tons of bark a year, yet only half of that bark is exported or used as a byproduct and Quebec’s forestry industry has nowhere to put it.

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[expand title=»Loss of Jobs due to Automation» expanded=»true»]

A study conducted by IRIS found that jobs in the forest sector have seen a striking decline in recent years. Between 2001 and 2018, jobs decreased from 94, 000 to 59, 900, not including self-employed forestry workers. These losses included a 53% decrease in logging, a 37% decrease in papermaking, and a 27% decrease in wood manufacturing. While the small loss in wood manufacturing could be attributed to a number of factors, the loss in papermaking may be at least partly related to electronification. More importantly, the loss of jobs in logging may be attributed to the automation of the logging industry. A ‘semaine verte’ episode by Radio-Canada titled Automatisation de la machinerie forestière explores how quickly and to what extent the forestry industry is becoming automated. From one worker operating two vehicles, to the projected possibility of trucks driving themselves, it seems like the need for employees in the industry will continue to decrease with increase automation.

Additionally, the purposes of the forest industry are changing. In the documentary L’Erreur Boréale, forestry in Quebec seems to be rooted in employing the population. Now, its sole purpose seems to generate economic growth (read more about this in ‘Corporate Control over Forest Industry’). Between the industry’s dirty secrets and the reduced potential for jobs, forestry is no longer in Quebec’s best interest.

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[expand title=»Indigenous Rights not Taken into Consideration by Industry» expanded=»true»]

In 2020, Quebec announced a significant expansion of protected areas in Eeyou Istchee, the Cree homeland, which would increase the area from 12% to 24%. However, this expansion does not specify sufficient protection in the Broadback, one of the last intact forests in the Cree’s territory which are a refuge for boreal caribou, and is one of the most carbon dense places in the world.The risk is that the around this area over 30 000 km of logging roads scar the landscape which puts Broadback as risk of becoming one of them.

Corporate companies, which continue to dominate logging practices in many of Canada’s forests, risk operating sustainably and upholding Indigenous People’s rights without strong and binding protections which can come from government intervention. This has also been the case with the Attikamek communities which the Ministry of Forestry gives them financial assistance to help participate in various forest consultations. However, the First Nations’ recommendations or development plans are often ignored and the forest areas are often cut no matter what. Moreover when Indigenous People are involved in the management of the forests, they are not given credit for their accomplishments made over the years.

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[expand title=»Loss of Urban Forests» expanded=»true»]

The increase in residential construction and development and renovation of infrastructure within the province has increased the loss of urban forests. Construction in forest areas not only reduce canopy cover, it also damages the roots of the trees which may persists for many years and reduce the chances for the trees to regrow successfully. A forest is being cut down In Saint-Jerome to make space for a residential development project which has been classified by developers as an «ecological neighbourhood» In Point Claire, Cadillac Fairview Corporation in collaboration with Ivanhoe Cambridge of the Fairview Mall proposed to convert the Fairview Forest into a 50 hectare development. Not only is this forest area an important greenspace for the citizens but it is also home to various types of trees and wildlife which include foxes, owls, snakes, and raptors. Additionally, cutting down the forest would only intensify the heat island effect which is already a problem in the area around Fairview.

Many projects resulting in loss of urban forests occur without public consultation. For example, the entrance of the Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, over 500 trees will be cut down to make space for a development park of 1.2 million square metres. Besides the loss of the forest, citizens are concerned about the increase in noise from the planes which was previous blocked by the forest cover. However, citizens were not consulted as they only found out about the project when the deforestation had already started.

However, even when there is public consultation, it doesn’t always have an effect in favor of the citizens. For example , in 2008, the forest in the Lac Kenogami region was declared a protected area, but December 2020, trees were cut down anyway. Kenogami residents are fighting for the protection of the forest, which is home to over 400-year-old trees, and feel that the Ministry’s public consultation has no effect.

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[expand title=»Pollution from Sawmills & Paper Factories» expanded=»true»]

In Quebec, the paper and pulp factories are on the top of the list as one of the most pollutant industries in the province, emitting millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Between 2012 and 2019 the paper mill factory, Domtar, almost doubled their greenhouse gas emissions going from 70 000 to 130 000 tonnes during that period. The paper company, Westrock in Trois Rivieres emits 1.25 million tons of greenhouse gases a year which is more than refineries in Quebec and Montreal.

Sawdust particles from sawing wood disperse into the air which can be dangerous if they settle in people’s lungs. Sawmills also emit toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Additionally, if located near water, the runoff from sawmills can harm biodiversity in these areas.

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[expand title=»Disruption of Woodland Caribou Habitat» expanded=»true»]

With the increase in logging, it leaves behind degraded forests and disturbed soils which diminish growth potential for the forest. As a result, it is pushing woodland caribou to extinction. In Charlevoix, there are less than twenty caribou as of 2020 and the Mountain Caribou of Gaspe, which once was around a population of 150 ten years ago, are now down to about 50 in the area. In Val D’Or , there are less than 10 caribou remaining.  In 2018, the Quebec government refused to fund the efforts to protect the woodland caribou. Environmentalists argue that the short term gain of the forestry industry does not come close to parks that are not only home to the caribou but that also will attract tourists and hunters all year-round.

Furthermore, when the government rejected 83 proposed protected areas in 2020, it is clear that they prioritized protecting the forestry industry over protecting wildlife (read more about this in ‘Protected Areas Only in North’). Pipmuakan, which was foregone by the government protected areas, is home to 140 caribous and represents one of the southernmost populations. Peribonka River was also overlooked despite housing 225 caribou that the MFFP supposedly did not know of. The woodland caribou is evidently being literally sacrificed in the name of logging.

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[expand title=»Lack of Accountability and Oversight» expanded=»true»]

The Quebec government allows the forestry industry to establish the market value of timber cut on public land, which causes the province to lose millions of dollars in forest royalties because companies fail to report up to 25% of bill. Because there is no formal government intervention within the forestry industry, the sampling, weight of the wood handled, quality of the wood declared inferior to reality are all ways the companies are falsifying figures to make an additional profit. The price of wood has increased by three times the amount at the beginning of 2021 and yet the wood producers aren’t seeing any of the profit. However the Quebec government doesn’t want to discuss forestry management to regulate the price and discuss the distribution of wealth among private owners. In addition to the increase in wood prices, the wood isn’t staying within the province for Quebecers to purpose, instead it is being exported to the United States, causing a wood shortage in Quebec.

Environmentalists are protesting this lack of management on Quebec forests because of the destruction of the biodiversity in the area. They argue that the Ministry of Forestry is too preoccupied with the economic motives of the forest instead of the environment.

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[expand title=»Subsidization of Lumber» expanded=»true»]

In 2018, the Trump administration imposed a tariff on Canadian softwood lumber of 20% after allegations of Canadian lumber being unfairly subsidized. The argument, essentially, is that Quebec logging occurs on public land with cheap harvesting fees, while US lumber is harvested from privately-owned land. This in turn makes Quebec lumber cheaper than US lumber, so the implemented tariff puts both suppliers on an even playing ground. However, in 2020, the World Trade Organization found that the tariffs were unfounded because softwood lumber from Ontario and Quebec is not subsidized by Canada, leading to a reduced tariff of 9% that December.

While Quebec denies subsidizing the industry, the government seems to subsidize it nonetheless, only it does so indirectly. For instance, between 2019 and 2020, the Quebec government spent 100 million dollars on the construction of logging roads under the guise of multi-usage roads. By claiming they can be used by anyone, Quebec pretends not to be subsidizing the industry, avoiding tariffs in the US. Meanwhile, an episode published by RADIO-CANADA shows that these roads are truly in the middle of nowhere, with nothing nearby but La Patate du Gouin. While the roads may be available for everyone’s use, it is clear that their primary intention is to serve the forestry industry.

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[expand title=»Construction of Forestry Roads» expanded=»true»]

As of March 2021, Quebec has 468, 000km of forestry roads—enough to circle the planet 10.5 times. It was after the documentary L’Erreur Boréale that Quebec forestry companies began reducing the size of their cutting sites to make the landscape more visually appealing, but that required the construction of logging roads to access new sites. However, this has serious environmental effects. Not only do the dispersed sites require further travel and therefore increase diesel usage, but they also severely undermine biodiversity. Unlike a clear-cut forest which, with time, could eventually regrow, paved roads do not allow trees to grow back. Thus, logging roads scar Quebec’s forests. Additionally, their construction can also affect animals. In 2020, a 126-kilometer logging road proposed in Cree territory would have bisected three caribou herds’ habitat, a species whose numbers are already in decline. The barren roads aid predators, making their prey increasingly vulnerable. Even now, the construction of new logging roads is still underway. As of May 2021, a logging road in Charlesbourg is projected to undergo expansion which would threaten nine wetlands, ten terrestrial environments, and seven rivers—an endangered area of 114, 000 square meters.

For more information, consult these resources:
ici radio article
L’Erreur Boréale
ici radio episode

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[expand title=»Impact of Forestry Operations on Tourism » expanded=»true»]

Northeast of Lac Saint Jean, a logging project is proposed to begin in the summer. The Peribonka River, where the project would occur, was proposed as a protect area to protect 80 km of the river which would include a forest ecosystem that is rare in Quebec. This proposal was one of 83 protected area projects that was rejected by the Legault government which authorized logging in this area. The irony is that the government has awarded grants for the development of ecotourism and adventure tourism in Quebec, yet the logging project would be done at the place planned for the recreational tourism and would destroy the tourism potential along the Peribonka River and Lake Tchitogama. Moreover, roads and infrastructure will have to be built to access the areas where trees will be cut.

Logging project also destroys and reduces the quality of popular hiking trails as in the case near of the Récré-eau des Quinze trails in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. It was said that clear cutting of this area was necessary due to the infestation of the spruce budworm. Along a bicycle path in Écodomaine des Forges, residents were surprised to see trees cut down by Hydro-Quebec

Residents of the Écodomaine des Forges were surprised to see trees cut down by Hydro-Quebec along a bicycle path. Hydro Quebec said it was because the trees were too high and might impact the powerlines. The project had been postponed due to the pandemic and citizens were not reconsulted.

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[expand title=»Protected Areas Only in North» expanded=»true»]

Quebec was bound by the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Aichi Target 11 to protect 17% of land and freshwater representative of Quebec’s overall biodiversity by 2020. As a result, Quebec promised to protect 20% of Plan Nord’s territory (at least 12% in boreal forests north of the 49th parallel) and to establish a representative network of protected areas covering at least 10% of the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence. On January 1st 2021, Quebec had protected 17.03% of its area but notably lacked protected areas below the northern limit for forest allocations. This did not happen because of a lack of available sites. On the contrary, 83 sites totally 19,882 square kilometers were rejected including Peribonka River and Pipmuakan.

Firstly, this area is not representative of Quebec’s biodiversity if most of the protected area is in the North (read more about this in ‘Conservation % Objectives’). Worse, the chosen protected areas conveniently allow for logging activities to continue undisrupted. For instance, shortly after Peribonka was rejected as a protected area, the government authorized logging on the territory. Quebec is doing the extraordinary by seemingly achieving its international environmental commitments and simultaneously prioritizing cutting down forests over protecting them. By strategically protecting areas that do not interfere with the provinces economic goals, Quebec is masking its unsustainable practices under the guise of environmental protection.

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[expand title=»Unsustainable Biomass Practices» expanded=»true»]

In 2011, 0% of slash biomass had its potential energy being realized. In forestry, slash refers to the residual tree debris after logging. This residual material is apparently what is used nowadays to generate biomass energy. While the increase in use of slash is impressive, Quebec apparently wants to take things a step further by cutting white birch, red maple, and aspen for energy, thus increasing the harvest of undesirable trees. The Stratégie nationale de production de bois says the cutting of such trees would make those that are desirable by the forestry industry more accessible.

Cutting down trees just to burn them is by no means sustainable, and burning biomass at all is misleading as a sustainable option. Wood debris are critical for the habitats of hundreds species including woodpecker and fungi. Cutting trees also released the carbon dioxide stored in their tissues. What is concerning is that this carbon dioxide is not considered in greenhouse gas emissions inventories because it is assumed that it will be absorbed by the forest or by the required reforestation. This is deceiving for two reasons. First, if trees continue to be logged, the forests will not be able to absorb all the carbon that was released. Second, the Quebec government does not verify how many trees are replanted. While biomass energy may be a step in the right direction, better management is needed to ensure its sustainability.

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[expand title=»Corporate Control over Forestry Industry» expanded=»true»]

The forestry industry is almost entirely controlled by foresters and corporations rather than by the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife, and Parks. Meanwhile, Quebec’s forests are a public good and need to be carefully protected to help maintain biodiversity and mitigate climate change. Still, the Ministry, which has more than 2,000 forestry employees, is subservient to the industry. An episode by Radio-Canada titled “L’argent pousse dans les arbres” revealed secrets of the forestry industry. First, it seems that about 25% of wood cut is unaccounted for, and that the reforestation is overestimated (read more about this in ‘Lack of Accountability and Oversight’). It was stated that the Quebec government has no way of knowing what percentage of our forests are virgin or how many trees are being replanted. The Ministry of Forests is also highly politically influenced by industry lobbyists—they had funded the investigation but withdrew after the findings were revealed.

Having forest control dominated by the industry can have serious environmental impacts. The ministry and Deputy Ministry both shows a disproportionate economic interest as there are plenty more meetings that take place with the industry compared to environmental groups. “Special orders” are given out to companies that do not meet environmental standards to keep them running. Without proper oversight, there is no way to ensure sustainable forest management. When the people responsible for protecting forests serve the interests of those wanting to destroy them, something must be done. Investigations into Quebec’s forestry are insightful but meaningless if nothing is done is response.

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Mining 

[expand title=»Lack of Regulation of Mining Industry» expanded=»true»]

Quebec mining industry has multiple legislative issues. First, it is not required that all new proposed mining projects go through a BAPE (Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement). On its own, this would not necessarily be an issue if there was some sort of legal force to ensure that mining companies follow environmental issues, but there is not. The Directive 019 sets a list of recommended guidelines for mining companies to adhere to, though it is not legally binding. For instance, the Directive 019 provides a framework for proper management of tailings, an issue that is increasingly relevant across the province (for more information, read ‘Destruction of Lakes’). However, this framework has no legal backbone. Thus, the government has entrusted mining companies to police themselves rather than enforcing environmental regulations. Between the issues with Minerai de fer Québec and Nouveau Monde Graphite, it is evident that this is not enough.

For real safety, Quebec must make some environmental regulations that are forceable by law. This will be increasingly important as Quebec continues to electrify the transportation industry.

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[expand title=»Surface Water Pollution» expanded=»true»]

Surface water pollution from mining occurs from acid mine drainage (where sulpheric acid is produced when sulphides in rocks are exposed to air and water), heavy metal contamination and leaching, processed chemicals which spill, leak or leach into the water, and erosion and sedimentation. Disposal of waste from mining activities is prohibited unless a permit is issued by the Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Disposal at Sea Program – a program that specifies non- hazardous wastes that can be considered for disposal into the water. Despite these regulations, some mining projects don’t have adequate waste management plans. For example, the Champion Iron Mine in Bloom Lake plans to dispose mine tailings in nearby water which would negatively impact 151 hectares of lakes and rivers. The Becancour River in Thetford Mines, which is bordered by mountains of asbestos mining residues, river has an increase of sediments which has originated from dumps as well as fecal coliform contamination (caused by years of sewage spills), which if not cleaned up will continue to contaminate the lake where the river empties. It is estimated that it would cost $2 million to clean up the river.

Many residents in Saint-Michel-des-Saints are opposed of the Nouveau Monde Graphite mining project as they fear the waste from the mine will contaminate and increase the flow of acidic liquids into Lake Taureau which has 240km of shores and sandy beaches and is an important location for vacation and recreational tourism.

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[expand title=»Destruction of Lakes» expanded=»true»]

Mining projects in the past have contributed to the destruction of lakes, and that practice continues today. As explained in ‘Lack of Regulation in Mining Industry’, there is essentially no legal means to restrict mining companies from committing environmental harms. Recently, Champion Iron declared their plans to store 872 million tonnes of tailings in Lake Bloom, destroying eight lakes while affecting 38, 41 streams, and nearly 75 hectares of wetlands. Tailings are the residual materials from mining—fine particles that can release toxins, increase erosion, and contaminate the water and sol. Unsurprisingly, the Ministry of l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC) said that there is no prohibition over backfilling lakes or other water reserves. This is an important issue for the Green Party of Quebec who has already taken a stand to stop this mining project.

Similarly, Nouveau Monde proposed a 2.6 kilometer open-pit mine within the watershed of Lake Taureau. The projects relies of experimental measures to prevent the acid-rich waste from affecting the lake. In 2018, the government also authorized ArcelorMittal project which was predicted to destroy 11 lakes, 15 ponds, and 25 streams. Mining projects are consistently destroying surrounding lakes, and the government of Quebec authorizes this by not enforcing any environmental regulations. While they act seemingly helpless, the government has the power to enforce restrictions.

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[expand title=»Impact on Local Environments» expanded=»true»]

There are many environmental impacts associated with mining. Waste rock and mine tailings can be released into the water or soil.  When rocks are dug up and crushed they can release a significant amount of dust into the air. Additionally, mine tailings which can contain toxic waste can become airborne. Both of which can impact human health. The construction of roads and use of heavy machinery is likely to destroy wildlife’s habitat. Birds and other wildlife can be poisoned if they drink contaminated water found in tailings ponds. In Alberta, over 100 birds died after being found near an oilsands tailing pond. There have also been accounts of deaths among trout, salmon, and other aquatic organisms due to the increase in sedimentation or acidity in the water caused by mining activities. In British Columbia, the trout population decreased by 93% downstream of Teck’s Elk Valley coal mines.

The proposed iron mine on Lac Bloom in Fermont will destroy lakes, streams, wetlands and woodlands to store 872 milions tonnes of tailings. Environmental organizations believe that the mining company has not proposed enough solutions or alternatives to their environmental destruction, especially since there is already a record of environmental damage caused by another mining project in the same area back in 2014. The Nouveau Monde graphite project was given the green light to commence mining activities even though several studies concerning the risk of water pollution, management of acid waste, and the overall environmental impact of this mine were missing.

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[expand title=»Subsidies for the Mining Industry» expanded=»true»]

The Quebec Government supports the mining industry by offering a large number of tax incentives to firms that engage in exploration and mining activities within the province. The combined tax rate for corporations in Quebec is 26.6% (as of 2019) which is one of the lowest in North America. This allows the mining industry to operate competitively while providing the Quebec government with fair compensation for the minerals extracted. A study which analyzed the amount of subsidies given to industries in Canada from 2010-2016 indicated that Quebec was the province that spend the most in subsidies ($44.3 billion in this period).

In 2020, the Quebec government launched the Québec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals (CSM) to promote the development of minerals used in technology and green energy over the next five years. Within the plan, the government will provide subsidies to businesses for training costs as well as paying the wages of the workers. The federal government announced that it will provide a wage subsidy to mine workers who were unable to work during the pandemic. Not only does the government was to support the thousands of people whose job depends on the mining sector, they want to make it possible for mining activities in the country to resume.

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[expand title=»Construction of Railroads» expanded=»true»]

In 2020 the Cree Nation and the Quebec government signed the Grand Alliance agreement which would allow for the planning and execution of a 30-year infrastructure program to facilitate transportation of people and goods. Within this agreement, the rail network would be extended to reduce the negative impacts of trucking. Moreover, Premier Legault, believes that this infrastructure will allow the new nations to take advantage of the mining potential in northern Quebec.

A proposed 800km rail line which would connect the Port of Sept Iles to a mining region north of Schefferville, Quebec, is important, according to Premier Legault because it would allow mining companies to easily access untapped deposits of lithium.

In 2020, the government of Quebec awarded $150 000 grant to Valdorian company Minrail for the development of a new mining system, which will bring together a series of machines which could be moved by a rail system in the mines.

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[expand title=»Mining for Electric Vehicles (EVs)» expanded=»true»]

As described in ‘Inadequate Plan to Reduce Emissions’ and ‘Underestimated Environmental Impacts of Electric Vehicles’, the mining for EVs could be seriously polluting. In those sections, the impacts of extracting lithium from salt flats were explored, though Quebec’s own lithium is primarily extracted from pegmatites. While this product may not drain water or risk the contamination of nearby ecosystems the way brine done, extracting lithium from pegmatites is not an entirely green solution: it requires nearly triple the amount of carbon dioxide to produce one tonne of lithium carbonate equivalent compared to extraction from brine. It was found that the carbon dioxide intensity of battery quality lithium hydroxide is also seven times greater for lithium extracted from pegmatites. This is not to say, however, that other environmental impacts can happen. Between 2013 and 2018, the North American Lithium mining company in Quebec caused over 80 environmental accidents, leaking hundreds of thousands of litres of lithium sulfate, hydraulic oil, diesel, and other pollutants into surrounding groundwater.

While Quebec is attempting to be a green EV leader by encouraging sustainability at every link in the supply chain, excessive mining is never green. Even with the most environmentally-friendly options, as long as mining persists, so do the potential environmental harms associated with them.

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[expand title=»Lack of Enforcement of Mining Company Clean-Ups» expanded=»true»]

According to Quebec’s Mining Act, mining companies are responsible for designing a restoration and rehabilitation plan for mining sites before operations begin, and it must begin within three years after operations cease. It is perplexing, then, that Quebec has so many abandoned mines that the government itself must pay to clean. According to the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, there are still over 400 sites in need of inspection and restoration that are under ‘real and probable responsibility’ of the state. It is reported that since 2006, 178.5 million public dollars have been invested in restoring mining sites, while these are supposed to be the responsibility of mining companies. Meanwhile, the value of ‘liability’ from these sites remains at $1.2 billion, the same as in 2010-11. The amendment of the Mining Act of 2013 requires that mining companies provide the government with 100% of the restoration costs, however, this does not necessarily put the responsibility of cleaning the mine in their hands. Even if the costs are covered by mining companies, it may take a while before Quebec ‘catches up’ to the newly abandoned projects, when there are still 400 sites to clean first.

Time will tell if the amendments relieve Quebec of its abandoned mines, though stronger legislation requiring companies to be responsible for the actual clean-up may be a stronger way to enforce proper management.

Here is a list of abandoned mining sites and their current stage in the restoration process.

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[expand title=»Lack of Local Autonomy» expanded=»true»]

In Canada, the provincial governments are responsible for regulating mining within their jurisdictions. Involvement from the federal government is limited and includes the nuclear fuel cycle of uranium, mineral activities related to federal Crown corporations as well as activities on federal lands and in offshore areas. Municipalities have no say in where mining activities occur, how close mineral exploration and mining can happen. As in the case in Montabello, where residents are worried that mining projects will affect their local environment and tourism activities. They wrote to Quebec’s ministry of energy and resources to ensure that residents and tourism operators are consulted prior to the commencement of the mining projects.

The Quebec government revised their guidelines concerning municipal power whereby Regional County Municipalities may exercise new land use planning authority and determine areas that are incompatible with mining activity in their land use and development plans. However, it is believed that despite this new power, there are strict guidelines established from the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the Quebec government which still leaves little room for local decision makers to maneuver as was seen in the Pincale, Sutton and Hereford mountains in the Eastern Townships that were unable to be protected from mining activity.

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[expand title=»Harassment of Towns by Mining Companies» expanded=»true»]

Mining companies in Quebec have fought hard with towns and communities to ensure their projects go through, despite the towns’ fears over disturbance or environmental harms. In the case of the Canada Carbon Inc. ‘Miller Project’ in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, the mining company was given permission to operate in the municipality from the previous council, but at the next elections, an entire new slate of council members were elected by the public on the mandate of preventing the mining project in their town; the Miller Project immensely lacked social acceptability. There were concerns over the environment, like the contamination of water, and noise disturbances from blasting, so the council adopted a new resolution so that the mine would no longer conform with the bylaws. In response, Canada Carbon Inc. sued the town for $96 million in loss profit from the mine which they ultimately won. The Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) conducted a survey to determine the project’s social acceptability, but the recommendations made by the BAPE are not legally binding and therefore would not necessarily incite change by the company. Furthermore, the municipality commissioned studies to determine whether water would be contaminated, if there would be potential impacts on agricultural land, and if the health of the forests would be at risk, though these studies could not be completed as the company refused access to their property.

Another similar situation occurred between Nouveau Monde Graphite and the Atikamekw. The government had approved of the project although key environmental studies were missing, as was consultation with the Atikamekw. The community set up a blockade to deter the workers which seemingly bulldozed right on through.

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[expand title=»Expropriation for Mining» expanded=»true»]

According to the Quebec mining act, the area of the land planning for mining activities must be comprised of a single perimeter with an area of no more than 100 hectares (unless special permission is granted by the Minister). For the production of peat, the area must not exceed 300 hectares. If a proposed project is located within municipal boundaries, then zoning laws and property taxes will have to be obeyed.  An open pit mine is to be located a minimum of 600 m from a dwelling or a minimum of 150m if it is a new mining project. This distances have caused concern in many municipalities. In the Petite Nation area of Outaouais, residents are concerned that a proposed graphite mining project near nearby towns will affect their quality of life as well as recreation and tourism activities due to the potential contamination of the lakes and rivers. In Chibougamau, the Vanadium One Iron Corp plans to operate an iron mine 18 kilometres from the downtown area of the municipality.

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Infrastructure 

[expand title=»Inadequate Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure» expanded=»true»]

Quebec has notoriously allowed sewage dumping into its natural waterways simply because there is no other option (read more about this is ‘Approved Sewage Dumping’). A simple solution, at least to the accidental overflows during heavy rain period would be to increase the province’s absorbency, for instance, by planting more trees and creating more green spaces. This is because concretization prevents water from draining naturally, reducing the land’s capacity to absorb excess water.

In March 2021, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu dumped wastewater for the fourth time in three years, culminating 210 million liters since 2019. This was apparently due to required maintenance work to avoid future overflows, but there must be better ways to carry out such work. Future water treatment facilities should certainly be built to avoid overflows from the start, though having plans for emergency procedures should also be custom. As of March 2021, 80 municipalities still do not have wastewater treatment facilities. On top of that, many municipalities are failing to meet regulatory standards in this department, signalling that the government should be working to enforce these standards legally. Furthermore, the existing treatment plants need to be upgraded, not only to addressing their aging, but to be able to treat new, harmful compounds.

Read more about this issue here.

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[expand title=»Expedited Sacrifice of Wetlands» expanded=»true»]

With the implemention of projet de loi 66, building projects are being pushed throughout the province without much consideration of the environmental risks. This would accelerate 181 infrastructure projects across the province, including the extension of the REM project. Many environmental groups are worried about the environmental implications of these accelerated projects. Projects with modern to low environmental risks will be allowed to commence and will only be required to provide environmental assessments mid-way through the construction. The risk of this acceleration is that certain projects will result in the loss of wetlands or bodies of water and will threaten already vulnerable species. Moreover, the bill will limit citizen participation in decision making on certain projects.

The passing of the Bill was controversial as well. Two of the three opposition parties voted against the Bill: Québec Solidaire and Parti Québécois. The Liberal party supported the Bill on the notion that some strict environmental rules can be overlooked in the name of economy recovery. The consensus is clear: Bill 66 will definitely have negative effects on the environment.

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[expand title=»Lack of Renewable Energy Infrastructure » expanded=»true»]

Although 95% of Quebec’s energy is currently supplied by hydroelectric dams, 70% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy sector. Worse, Hydro-Quebec revealed that its dams only have the capacity to supply energy until 2026 and power until 2025. To fulfill its energy needs, Quebec seemed more than willing to invest in natural gas (read more about this in ‘Construction of New Fossil Fuel Projects’ and ‘GNL Pipeline’), but how about non-carbon renewables?

While there is currently the issue of privatized wind farms (read more about this in ‘Privatized Wind Farms’), some municipalities in Bas-Saint-Laurent and in Gaspesie have had great success in implementing wind energy. Moreover, the energy return rate (how much energy is yielded compared to how much was needed to obtain it) is much higher for wind energy than for fossil fuels; 35 to 70 compared to 3 to 30 respectively. This is because fossil fuels require more energy over time as they get harder to extract.

In terms of solar energy, it currently makes up less than 1% of Quebec’s energy mix. Meanwhile, Quebec receives higher solar irradiation than Germany, which was the fourth largest solar energy producer in 2019. Rather than investing in fuel-burning energy resources, Quebec should diversify its clean, renewable energy sources with solar and wind energy.

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[expand title=»Missing Infrastructure to Decontaminate Soils » expanded=»true»]

In Quebec, there are about two million metric tonnes of contaminated soil is disposed of every year. Studies have shown that more than half of landfills and dumps designated for contaminated soil are in areas on public land and even beneath municipal parks. While toxic soil is supposed to be dumped on designated site, there have been cases where contaminated soil has been dumped onto farmland. In Saint Remi, a lettuce producer is located next to an open air dumpsite consisting of bricks, concrete and other building materials. The contaminated soil found at the dump site has been leaching into the agricultural land. However, although this was considered to be an illegal dumping site, no charges had been made. A similar case involving the seepage of PCBS (used to make coolants and lubricants) by a power equipment company into draining systems in Pointe- Claire occurred in 2013. Barrels containing the substance had been removed in 2013 however, the contaminated soil left untouched until 2021.

The city of Montreal has issues subsidies for both municipal and private projects to decontaminate their land by the end of 2022.  However, in the construction of the LRT, it was found that over 600 tonnes of hazardous materials will be buried in Ontario instead of decontaminated in a more ecological way in order to reduce costs, Quebec had issued a similar subsidy, investing $1 billion to decontaminate soil over a period of 10 years. However, over 400 problematic sites have been found throughout the province where there are elementary or secondary schools, CEGEPs or administrative buildings (many of which have been built near areas of existing mines), however despite the financial incentive, the Quebec government is taking a long time to initiate a decontamination plan.

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[expand title=»Inefficient Waste/Recycling Infrastructure» expanded=»true»]

In Canada, much of the country’s recyclable material is sent abroad because it doesn’t process much of its recycling domestically. In Quebec 60% of materials are sent to China while only 40% are processed and made into new products. The Canadian government has argued that not only does it not have proper infrastructure to manage its own waste, but they justify the economic benefits for developing countries to send their waste to them. However, the waste that is sent to these countries is unregulated and can be mixed and contaminated, which would not end up being recycled. This caused a ban for Canada to ship its waste to Asian countries. On the one hand, Canada has gone around this ban by shipping its waste to the US to then be exported, but on the other hand, much of the waste sits in processing facilities waiting to be picked up. In some Canadian cities, residents have been told that fewer items will be accepted by recycling companies to curb the amount of waste. If this continues, more potentially recyclable waste will end up in the garbage and in landfills.

Recycling companies in Montreal are looking to the provincial government for funding to address the issue caused by the ban. In order for plastics to be properly processed, the products entering the recycling facility needs to be clean and well sorted. The existing machines can’t cope with cleaning it all, and if other material passes through, the machines can get jammed. Moreover, the increase in different types of plastics that ends in recycling facilities makes it challenging for proper recycling to occur. And because sorting facilities vary from municipality where certain plastic types are accepted in one and not in another, it reduced the amount of well-sorted and high-quality raw plastic that is available for processing. An investment is needed to promote an improvement in quality and the development of recycling outlets in Quebec by fixing old machines and producing better quality recyclable products.

In Arctic communities in Nunavik, Quebec, it was found that although they don’t produce the same amount of waste as areas in the south, they don’t have access to the service or infrastructure that would allow them to handle their waste. There are no incinerators, no programs aimed at recycling paper and cardboard, no household recycling programs.

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[expand title=»Inadequate Resources to Apprehend Environmental Criminals » expanded=»true»]

In Quebec, many environmental actions go unnoticed and environmental criminals go unpunished due to the lack of environmental police within the province.  According to the Environmental Law in Canada, there are environmental regulators in Canada who are appointment to environmental investigation as well as enforcement officers who have similar powers to police officers. However, this has not decreased the number of environmental fines over the years, especially in Quebec. In 2017 environmental fines increased 29% with over 9$ million dollars in penalties. Many of these unregulated activities happen in difference sectors. In the forestry industry, there is no regulation of the exploitation of forests and the impact on the environment as the focus is only on the economic benefits. In the mining sector, the Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers had found that a Quebec mining company was disposing dredged material outside of the authorized sea disposal area on four occasions. They were eventually fined $400 000 for damages. In Montreal, issues concerning waste pick ups has made the news over recent years. An investigation found that Services Environnmentaux Richelieu (SER) (a waste management firm) was charging Montreal for trash that it was taking from other municipalities, commercial garbage was being mixed in with residential waste at the city’s expense and it was found that on more than one occasion recyclable materials were being mixed in with garbage. Additionally, it was found that due to improper surveillance, the trucks were not being systematically weighed before starting their pickups and city employees were not paying attention to the GPS trackers on the trucks.

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[expand title=»Inadequate Greenhouse Capacity» expanded=»true»]

In Canada, due to the sudden decline in cannabis production in 2019, there are thousands of square feet of empty cannabis greenhouses that can be used to produce fruits and vegetables all year long. Quebec’s production of greenhouse fruits and vegetables rose to 9.3% in 2019, a small increase in comparison to Ontario (65%) and British Columba (19.2%). Premier Legault promised to double the value of greenhouse production in Quebec, estimating a budget of $50 over five years. However, there weren’t any specifics as to how this money would be used.  Experts suggest that in order to make greenhouse production successful, it will require technology, training, agronomists, all of which are lacking in Quebec. In terms of technology, these experts have addressed issues concerning heat and light (both of which are necessary to produce a greenhouse efficiently). It has been estimated that barely 40% of Quebec greenhouses have artificial lighting, which is a necessity during the winter and heating is supplied by natural gas or biomass when it should be supplied by unused hydroelectricity which is sitting in Quebec dams.

Another issue in Quebec in regard to greenhouse fruits and vegetable production is green roofs. Quebec has the strictest green roof policies in the world. Big cities like Montreal and Quebec City don’t have concrete laws to require green roofs, there is no funding from local governments, and no policies to install these green roofs on top of existing buildings. Much of the issues around green roofs come from the risk of water seepage as well as a building’s capacity to support the additional weight that comes from a green roof. Currently in Montreal, rooftops can withstand approximately 40 lbs of snow per square foot of surface area, whereas a cubic foot of wet soil can weigh up to 100 lbs. In January 2020, Gatineau’s new bylaws include a requirement that companies would need to install green roofs on top of any building larger than 2000 square metres. However, construction companies are fighting this new environmental requirement because they believe it will raise of the cost of construction.

More information:

https://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/canadas-agriculture-sectors/horticulture/horticulture-sector-reports/statistical-overview-of-the-canadian-greenhouse-vegetable-industry-2019/?id=1609252451699#a1.1

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[expand title=»Inadequate Flood Management Infrastructure» expanded=»true»]

Spring flooding in Quebec has become increasingly frequently and severe, yet municipalities at risk do not seem well equipped to deal with them. Until 2019, the floodplain map along the Rivière des Prairies had not been updated since the 1980s. Even in 2017, plans were to update the map using 2006 data. Outdated maps make planning for flood prevention incredibly difficult as it is hard to predict which areas need protection and to what extent. The new flood map includes the floodplains of the 2017 and 2019 spring floods—a helpful tool that was available far too late.

The obvious solution would be to deter development in river floodplains, allowing them what is called a ‘freedom space’. This would allow rivers to flood to their natural capacity and for the water to be absorbed, preventing flooding downstream (read more about concretization and flooding in ‘Increased Flooding due to Urban Sprawl’). This will be required in the long-term as climate change will continue to worsen the situation.

In the meantime, municipalities must better prepares themselves for spring floods. In 2019, residents in Île-Bizard, Pierrefonds and Ahuntsic were warned to prepare for evacuation because it was unknown which dikes would overflow. Just days later, a natural dike in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac broke, and in response the town constructed two gravel dikes. By the end of April, 9,070 houses and 273 businesses were flooded, displacing 12,000 people, and 82 landslides occurred to do the excess flooding. Montreal’s ’Flooding: How to protect your home’ page gives residents tons of measures to take to protect their homes from flooding including the building of sandbag walls. However, the duty should not be on citizens to protect themselves from floods. If the Quebec government had not updated its flood maps in decades and developers built houses in unknown risk zones, the government should be in charge of protecting houses. In 2018, Quebec announced that every municipality had two years to establish emergency flood plans. Here’s hoping Quebec citizens are better protected with increased flood management infrastructure, such as bigger dikes, more efficient draining, and no new developments in flood zones.

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[expand title=»Lack of Public Transit Infrastructure » expanded=»true»]

According to a report by the Montreal Metropolitan Community (CMM), of the CMM and bordering municipalities, 94% of workers primarily use a car to get to work. Plante argues that this is because the bordering municipalities do not have to abide by the same density rules as the CMM, which result in low-density, car-dependent neighborhoods. What is needed, is better urban planning, and better public transit infrastructure to deter private vehicle use. Meanwhile, the Quebec government is still favoring road expansion over public transit as the budget for public transit is nearly half of that of asphalt (Rad more about this in ‘Never-ending Road Expansion’). A study conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation found that Montreal youth are hesitant about public transit because it is unreliable, and the services are not flexible.

To combat these shortcomings, Quebec must invest in public transport. Having more frequent run times and larger networks may help with both the metro, bus, and train systems. It might even deter single vehicle use enough to reduce traffic, which would help with the bus service’s reliability. Additionally, the government cannot continue privatizing public transit which may discourage its use by raising user fares and having routes that are guided by profit rather than public interest (read more about this in ‘Privatized Public Transit’). For instance, the REM project may be infringing on the anticipated expansion of the blue metro line because the two will now be sharing similar routes; a feature the private REM conveniently overlooked.

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Land Use 

[expand title=»Increasing Urban Sprawl» expanded=»true»]

Urban sprawl is the phenomenon wherein urban planning favors low density development. The creation of suburbs around the dense inner city is an example of this—spread out neighborhoods that force citizens to be dependent on personal vehicles. In the surround Montreal municipalities, 94% of workers take the car everyday to get to their workplace. This type of urban planning increases greenhouse emissions in this matter, but it also severely harms wildlife.

Because this type of planning requires so much space, nature is often sacrificed for developments. Farmlands, forests, and natural habitats are at risk. In ‘Urban Green Space’, ‘Fragmentation of Habitats’, ‘Sacrificing Wetlands for Development’, and ‘Sacrifice of Wetlands’, the negative environmental impacts of urban sprawl are explored. From transplanting a rare species of ginseng for development in Sainte-Julie, to destroying a forest in Hudson to build housing units, building apartments on an area mean to be a park in Val D’Or, sacrificing an ecopark in Montreal for development, building a retirement home in a park in Laval, and eliminating a green space in Anjou for an industrial project—these are the effects of urban sprawl.

Urban sprawl has also worsened the impacts of floods. By converting wetlands, marshes, forests, and other natural lands that typically absorb excess water into concrete, water during spring floods and heavy rains builds up and increases flooding. This is known as concretization, a change in land use that can have devastating impacts on human wellbeing and infrastructure (read more about this in ‘Increased Risk of Flooding due to Urban Sprawl’ and ‘Inadequate Flood Management Infrastructure’).

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[expand title=»Sacrifice of Wetlands» expanded=»true»]

Time and time again, Quebec wetlands are sacrificed for new developments. Wetlands are important for us as they house biodiversity, reduce greenhouse gases, prevent drought by retaining water during dry conditions, and prevent flooding by reducing the amount of water sent downstream (read more about this in ‘Increased Risk of Flooding due to Urban Sprawl’). Across the country, wetlands are often drained be converted into agricultural land – an issue closely related to urban sprawl – or drained for infrastructure construction or extraction sites.

A wooded wetland in Hudson named Sandy Beach Woods is at risk of being converted into housing units. The project would entail backfilling 4,266 square meters of wetland. The Montreal Technoparc is also at risk of development. Until 2017, it was the largest wetland on the island but is now being sacrificed for the development of the REM, affecting over 100 species. Furthermore, the iron mine at Lake Bloom proposed a disposal plan wherein 872 million tonnes of mine tailings would be stored, destroying several wetlands but affecting 160. The same plan would encroach on 151 hectares of lakes and rivers. Additionally, the proposed LET expansion project in Bury would destroy 4.9 hectares of wetland.

Sacrificing wetlands for development is truly in no one’s interest. An increased environmental consciousness in urban planning is needed to stop the low-density neighborhoods that encroach important natural habitats. Other projects such as the REM, the iron mine, and the LET must also give more priority to the environment.

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[expand title=»Land Use for Animal Agriculture» expanded=»true»]

Today 80% of the planet’s agricultural land is used towards producing livestock. One third of arable land is used to grow feed for the animals, while 26% of the Earth’s ice-free surfaces is used for grazing. Ironically, despite the vast amount of land used for livestock, it only accounts for 18% of the world’s calories and only 37% of total protein. In Quebec more than half of all agricultural production is tied to livestock, with cattle production and dairy farming being the biggest followed by pork and poultry. In Quebec, there are about 8908 farm operations dedicated to cattle production. Cattle (and lamb) production take up the most amount of land, accounting for approximately 2.89 billion hectors for pasture and then 43% of cropland to grow animal feed. The issues that arise with the extended use of land for animal agriculture is that it reduces the diversity of landscapes and natural habits especially since more of the crops grown are monocultured crops (such as corn). These crops can cause soil erosion and negatively impact the soil ecosystem. It has been said by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that dietary changes which include plant-based diets and sustainable animal foods could free up several million square kilometers of land by 2050 and could potentially cut 0.7 to 8.0 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. However, in Quebec’s Sustainable Agriculture Plan which was published in October 2020, there is no mention of how to reduce land use from animal agriculture

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[expand title=»Loss of Urban Green Space» expanded=»true»]

In Quebec, there are many examples of existing green spaces being destroyed to make space for residential or commercial developments. The developers plant a few new trees or create a small park to offset the damage and make their project appear “greener”. There have been concerns over the Mercier-Hochelaga borough greening plan. Although the plans include planting trees and creating greenspace and gardens, a lot of trees have been cut down and gardens moved to make space for infrastructure projects. The plan also includes demineralizing sidewalks while mineralizing skate parks. An industrial project is proposed to be built on the site of the Metropolitan Golf of Anjou which would include 1 million square feet of buildings as well as a parking lot that could accommodate 1200 vehicles and trucks. This project would mean the elimination of a green space in this area as well as the obstruction of a green corridor between the Ruisseau Montigny park in the far north of the island the Promenade Bellerive park. The mayor of Anjou wants to go along with this project as he believes it is a good economic investment for the borough. In the City of Val-d’Or, part of the land intended for the future Parc des Pionniers is to be sold to allow for the construction of apartment buildings because the mayor believes it is a good investment and that there is very little other land to build on otherwise. A similar issue is being experienced in Laval where citizens are fighting to protect a park on the waterfront that is expected to be turned into a retirement home. This is after the fact that the municipal council had said they were not going to build there. Moreover, the citizens argue that it would be preferable to keep the entire land as a public park because public access to water is rare in Laval. And the area where the retirement home is planned to be built is in a flood zone.

In Montreal, the Green Coalition has lost their battle in court to the Technoparc Area. The City’s objective is to make it a preferred location for companies specializing in sustainable development and clean technologies. However, this is an ecosystem home to a large variety of bird species which are at risk and could experience as significant loss in population sizes with construction and felling of trees

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[expand title=»Exploitation of Forests » expanded=»true»]

There have been many instances in Quebec where rare or mature trees or forest areas have been cut down to make space for building developments, and very often there are not public consultations with the citizens. In Sainte-Foy in Quebec City, mature trees are being cut down to build a senior home. What’s unique about the area is it is occupied by an old church which had been sold to the Quebec government to be transformed into an old age home and surrounded by trees. Although the CIUSS says they will replant hundreds of trees to make up for the loss, but citizens don’t need the necessity to cut down the existing trees. Moreover, the citizens had received very little information about the entire plan to repurpose the church.

In Ile-Perrot, citizens were appalled to find crews cutting down a white oak forest to make space for a housing development. Not only is the white oak a rare species of tree in Quebec it holds an important ecological and historical values to the town. It is also home to a federally protected species of frog (the Western chorus frog) as well birds and foxes. According to citizens, there was no public consultation surrounding the project.

In Pointe Claire, there have been several instances of tree felling and pruning to make spaces for paved roads and for the new Pioneer condo project. According to the city, this was necessary for the rerouting of Hydro poles and wires. They say they will compensate for the loss of trees by planning four new fast growing trees in the village.

Along the Turcot Interchange and Montreal West, a 2.8 kilometer park will be built and will include cycling and pedestrian paths. However, between 400 to 600 trees will be cut down as part of the redevelopment plan. The city argues that cutting down the trees is necessary because the workers have to access the cliff to ensure adequate drainage and to protect the stability of the land surrounding this area. Environmental activists are angry with this plan because this forested area is home to over 65 species of birds, which are now at risk once felling begins.

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[expand title=»De-zoning Agricultural Land» expanded=»true»]

The Loi sur la protection du territoire et des activités agricoles was adopted in 1978 with the intention of protecting agricultural land from use non-agricultural purposes following the disappearance of 20, 000 hectares of farmland in Montreal in only a few years. The same act created the Commission de protection du territoire Agricole de Quebec (CPTAQ) with the power to authorize exceptions despite agricultural land making up only 2% of Quebec’s territory. In 2017, the CPTAQ accepted 75% of de-zoning requests, contributing to the loss of 35,000 hectares in just 20 years. Besides decreasing our food security, the increasing scarcity of agricultural land in Quebec also causes prices of the land to spike, making them more affordable to multinational companies than to farmers. This is concerning for two reasons: first, the amount of black soil in Quebec is already decreasing, so we should be more cautious with the agricultural land we give up (read more about this in ‘Soil Degradation’); second, once land is paved over, the soil lying beneath cannot be recovered—it is gone for good, or at least for several centuries.

In early 2021, the mayor of Neuville proposed the de-zoning of 58 hectares of land for residential development. Of the 58, 18.6 hectares, which were under his father’s name, have been removed from the proposal under speculation of favoritism. Although a partial relief, the rest of the plan is yet to be determined. If passed, the plan would not only reduce agricultural land in Quebec but would also impact existing farmland in the area given that spreading activities can only occur up to 75 meters of residential areas.

Moreover, Google is purchasing 62.4 hectares of agricultural land in Beauharnois from Hydro-Quebec. An opinion post by CTV News explains that agricultural land does not need to be removed for economic development—rather, it is preferred by developers because it is cheaper to acquire than to decontaminate industrial land. To prevent this type of behavior from repeating, the CPTAQ must be more rigid when it comes to protecting agricultural land. Additionally, the Quebec government must create incentives to decontaminate land both to restore the health of the land and to prevent further loss of fertile soils.

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FRANCAIS