In 2008, respiratory diseases were the fifth leading cause of early death across the country with the exception of Quebec where they arrived in third place. According to a 2021 report, Quebec was the province with the second highest number of premature deaths caused by air pollution, with 4,000 deaths. However, the province was ranked first for air quality deaths, with a rate of 48 per 100,000 in 2016. The same report shows that In 2016, Ontario and Quebec were the provinces most affected by air pollution in terms of the number of deaths, particularly in the Windsor-Quebec corridor, where the fine particles in suspension responsible for air pollution are highly concentrated there. In fact, these fine particles cause several health problems like early death in people with heart and lung problems. The same region also obtained high concentrations of NO2 – between 5.1 and 12.4 ppb. The health effects of NO2 are similar and impact the respiratory system.
In order to know more about the sources of these pollutants, you can read ‘Air pollution due to wood burning’ and ‘The combustion of poor quality fuels in the maritime transport sector’.
In Quebec, between 2016 and 2019, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 5 megatons, despite a decrease observed between 2005 and 2015. This is equivalent to a reduction of only 4.4%, while the current trend demonstrates an increase in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. So who is to blame?
Since 1990, the industrial sector has reduced its emissions by 7.8 megatons compared to the transport sector, which has seen an increase of 9 megatons. In fact, transportation emissions have increased by 60% since 1990 and currently account for more than 40% of Quebec emissions. It is therefore not surprising that the 2030 Plan for a green economy is focused on decarbonizing the sector.
The problem is that it’s focused on transport electrification (for more on that, read ‘Insufficient Emissions Reduction Plan’). However, it seems that Quebecers are reluctant to make the switch, because the number of light trucks on Quebec roads has increased by 260% while emissions have increased by 150%. Despite the plan’s emphasis on reducing emissions from transportation, there seems to be no incentive to reduce the consumption of these gas-guzzling vehicles since Quebec refuses to limit advertising for SUVs. In the absence of concrete measures, we can expect that greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise
The plan of 2030 for a green economy in Quebec aims to help the province achieve its objectives of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 37.5% compared to 1990 levels by 2030 and becoming carbon neutral by 2050. However, it is focused on electrifying the transport industry – with some initiatives aimed at improving the energy efficiency of buildings and developing green energy, including renewable natural gas and other production of bioenergy. In addition to significantly neglecting social reproduction, the plan will reduce emissions by only 15% below 1990 levels.
Moreover, the electrification of transport is not the “green solution” that it is claimed to be, given the damage caused by the extraction of lithium for batteries. It has been found that carbon dioxide emissions during the life cycle of electric vehicle production are approximately 60% higher than during the production of internal combustion vehicles when lithium is extracted according to Chinese standards, while North American and European standards are less polluting. However, extracting one ton of lithium from the salt flats requires approximately 500,000 gallons of water, and the necessary evaporation of the water afterwards can leak toxic chemicals into the air and the environment. To reduce the environmental nuisances of the transport industry, it is necessary to invest in public transport, which would dissuade Quebecers from using their personal vehicle.
Quebec’s 2030 plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is strongly focused on the electrification of all modes of transport (cars, trucks, public transport). However, the ban on the sales of new gas-powered vehicles only includes vehicles for personal use, and not vehicles used for industrial and commercial purposes. In 2020, there were more than 6,834,681 million vehicles on the road in the province, and less than 2% represented electric vehicles. The number of cars is increasing faster than the number of people in the city of Montreal, and only 415,705 people use public transport to get to work, while 1.2 million people drive, many of them coming from the suburbs in Montreal to work downtown.
Industries in Quebec account for 44% of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions, just behind transportation. Among these industries, cement plants and metallurgical companies, including aluminum smelters, are the most polluting.
The company McInnis Cement promised the plant would not harm the environment, saying it would use less fuel and energy compared to competitors, but in 2020 it became the province’s biggest polluter, and this while it has not yet reached its maximum production. Emissions from this industry have increased significantly since 2016, contributing to 1,213,002 in tons of CO2 in 2020.
The Aluminum Alouette plant is the largest aluminum producer in all of North America, with a production of more than 620,000 tons. Consequently, it is also the third most polluting industry in Quebec (after oil refineries), contributing, in 2020, to 1,124,715 tons of CO2.
In the Quebec’s Green Plan 2030, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in building construction are limited. Among these are targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by heating buildings by using more renewable natural gas and eliminating the use of fuel oil in favor of electricity. In terms of building materials, it is also proposed to increase the use of wood or other organic materials (which ones are not mentioned). However, there is no question of limiting the use of cement, bricks or other dangerous materials. Also, it is still not possible to build a house or a building only out of wood, underground parking lots always require the use of cement.
There is a lot of greenwashing that happens with new infrastructure projects (e.g. the Royalmount project in Montreal or the Turcot), where projects are considered “green” due to the planting of vegetation and gardens around buildings. In addition, the budget tabled in March 2021 by the CAQ government provides for infrastructure projects that will require a lot of cement and that do not fit with the vision of the Green Plan 2030. In addition, in this budget, $67.9 million over the next 5 years has been dedicated to accelerating environmental assessments, which does not necessarily increase the rigor of these.
As well, the expansion of the motorway system as with the third link for example, contributes to increasing greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging car use.
Burning low-grade fuel in shipping emits various air pollutants, including carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, sulfate particles, black carbon, and organic matter particles. These pollutants reduce air quality by producing particulate matter and ozone, while nitrogen and sulfur deposition contribute to acidification and eutrophication (see report here). On its own, black carbon has numerous impacts, including severe health and respiratory effects, preventing cloud formation and thereby altering regional weather patterns. Also, it accelerates the melting of ice and snow, thus reducing the albedo effect, preventing the sun’s rays from being reflected towards the atmosphere causing a rise in temperatures hampering the health and productivity of plants. In total, it has a warming effect 4.60 to 1,500 times stronger than carbon dioxide. Canadian regulations on black carbon emissions in the Arctic are insufficient, it is estimated that between 2024 and 2029, the use of black carbon fuel (HFO) in ships is expected to increase.
Despite the air pollution caused by the shipping industry, Quebec insists on moving forward with the construction of Port Contrecoeur near Montreal, thus promoting the continued growth of Quebec’s share of the shipping industry.
The Ministry of Education asked schools in Quebec to test the concentration of CO2, in order to check if the ventilation was sufficient to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Even though 95% of classrooms in Quebec have favorable air quality, 2000 classrooms in the province still had higher than average carbon dioxide levels. It is also reported that approximately 30% of classes still have to deal with non-functional CO2 detectors.
Expert groups have spoken out on the need for air purifiers to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and say it is an effective strategy in the fight against the pandemic.
When the CO2 level is higher than 1500 ppm, the air quality is not optimal and the government’s only recommendation is to open the windows, even in winter.
- https://www.journaldequebec. com/2022/02/23/detecteurs-de-co2-a-lecole-5-des-classes-ont-une-pouvaise-qualite-de-lair
- https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/libre-opinion /674997/libre-opinion-il-faut-miser-sur-la-qualite-de-l-air-interieur
- https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/education/590400/des-tests-secrets-revelent- bad-air-quality-in-
Since 2014, Quebec has had a provincial cap-and-trade system with California known as the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) in which Quebec places a cap on maximum emissions, and companies that exceed it must buy carbon credits to offset their surplus. The minimum cost of a loan is determined by the government, but the actual cost is left to market forces, with an average of $20.82 per ton in 2019. In comparison, the new federal tax will be $50 per ton in 2022 and will increase by $15 each year until reaching a tax of $170 per ton in 2030. Quebec, which has been part of the WCI for years, will be exempt from this tax. This means that Quebec businesses, and surely also the population, will not be as encouraged to minimize their carbon footprint.
Essentially, Quebec is left alone with its lower than average tax rate. It is proven that the price on carbon is not high enough to incentivize behavior change as emissions continue to rise, especially in the transportation industry (for more, read “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Continue to Rise”). This is largely because the system is designed to shift costs to industrial companies rather than the general public, although Montreal drivers are taxed at the rate of 3¢ per liter. An increase in the carbon tax would encourage Quebec drivers to use public transport or to buy electric vehicles, which is ultimately the objective of the 2030 plan for a green economy. Without an adequate carbon tax rate, there will be no incentive for real change.
The urban heat island effect occurs in cities when there is low tree cover, dark materials (such as plenty of parking lots) that absorb sunlight and radiate heat, and the presence of tall buildings that trap heat. The effects of an urban heat island include increased energy demand for air conditioning, which increases the amount of pollutants and greenhouse gases in the air, increased water temperature , which affects aquatic species, and a negative impact on human health, which can lead to heat-related illnesses, exhaustion, respiratory problems and even death.
The urban heat island effect in dense cities like Montreal, which can have significantly higher temperatures than urban areas. Vulnerable populations living in urban heat island areas are twice as likely to die (as seen in 2018 where 66 people died in 6 days of extreme heat). Because Quebec is built around the use of cars, this type of construction (i.e. parking lots or high lanes) traps heat and contributes to this heat effect. In downtown Gatineau, temperatures are always a few degrees higher, because more than half of the area (70%) is built of concrete and asphalt. Adding green spaces and revegetating urban areas can help mitigate and prevent heat islands from forming.
In 2020, greenhouse gas emissions from carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide continued to rise despite the pandemic. Nitrous oxide has been suggested to be 300times more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide, and its concentration continues to rise in the atmosphere. Near 70% of the amount of nitrous oxide added to the atmosphere comes from agriculture and the use of nitrogen fertilizers. This problem arises not only in summer, but also in winter, because the bacteria convert nitrates into nitrous oxide which is released into the air when the soil melts.
More of 1.5 million tons of road salt are used every winter in Quebec. A recent study shows that there is a chemical bond that forms from a reaction between a propellant gas and road salt, which when hit by the sun can break apart and release chlorine atoms and nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere (nitrile chloride). The study showed that 80 to 100% of the nitrile chloride particles analyzed came from road salt aerosols. In addition,residues from winter salting and sanding create a thick layer of dust and dirt along the roads, which, when disturbed by cars, can become a breathing hazard.
This type of salt also has an impact considerable impact on water sources such as rivers and roadside water wells, where salt can contaminate water and make it unfit for consumption and can cause damage to biodiversity
In the under the cap-and-trade system, companies buy carbon credits to offset their excess emissions (for more, read “The Carbon Tax Is Not High Enough To Incentivize Behavior Change”) . Companies buy credits and therefore their products are sold at a higher price corresponding to the higher cost of production. However, Quebec allocates free carbon permits to large industrial emitters known as issuers exposed to emissions trading (EITE). These are issuers whose competition consists of companies located in territories where environmental regulations are less strict. Thus, they cannot sell their products at a higher price and remain competitive in the market. Also, the market is not binding enough to push companies to emit less carbon and prices are not high enough, which undermines the efficiency of the carbon market system.
Unfortunately for the health of our planet, EITEs include some of Quebec’s biggest polluters, including aluminum smelters, steel mills, cement plants and pulp and paper mills. Together, these four industries represent 51 of the 100 most polluting companies in Quebec and were responsible for more than 13 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2019. For reference, total greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 were 78.6 million tons. This means that the emissions of these four industries in 2019 were equivalent to 16.5% of Quebec’s total emissions in 2017. Once again, Quebec proves that it is more attached to its economy than to the protection of the environment. To find out more about polluting industries, see the “Emissions from aluminum and cement works” section.
Pollutants at Montreal Trudeau Airport are fighting for compensation due to levels of metallic nanoparticles around the airport that were higher than those downtown. If people inhaled them for long periods, they could pose a risk to their health. Unfortunately, their claims were rejected by the Supreme Court due to lack of sufficient evidence.
Another example of an air quality charge dismissed by the Supreme Court. The Port of Quebec and Arrimage Quebec were sued by people living in the Limoilou area who said dust caused by port activities and the unloading of minerals was causing disruption and inconvenience. The case was dismissed because there was no evidence to support the origin of the dust. Also, despite the nickel regulations imposed in Quebec in 2013, no fines or penalties seem to have been remitted in the Limoilou region, while nickel rate exceedances have been noted on several occasions around the Port of Quebec.
Sea levels are rising. Between 2014 and 1993, sea level has risen 6.6 centimeters, and continues to rise about 0.32 centimeters per year. This phenomenon is largely due to thermal expansion of the oceans, melting glaciers and melting sea ice, all of which are linked to anthropogenic global warming.
The rise in sea level has its share of effects in Quebec. For example, it contributes to the shoreline degradation, with homes on the Magdalen Islands being exposed to cliff erosion. The same is true along the Gaspé Peninsula. The rise in sea level therefore directly affects the St. Lawrence River and the risk of seeing the banks and certain islands submerged will be more frequent. In addition, with disturbances to the hydrological cycle as a whole, which bring more intense precipitation, there is an increase in the frequency and intensity of floods on the Island of Montreal. Other possible consequences of flooding include landslides – as of April 30, 2019, spring flooding had already caused 82 landslides in the province. At the same time, 9,070 homes and 273 businesses were flooded, displacing 12,000 people. As sea levels continue to rise and hydrological systems to be disrupted, these effects can be expected to worsen.
The smoke produced by the burning wood in fireplaces and stoves emits a hundreds of different toxic substances, including carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, fine particles, nitrogen oxides and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (read their health impacts here). Wood smoke causes approximately 900 premature deaths per year on the island of Montreal. In fact, between 2002 and 2008, residential wood heating accounted for href=”https://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/air/chauf-bois/index-en.htm”>42.7% of emissions of fine particles in Quebec, ahead of both industry and transportation.
The CAA estimates that nearly 100,000 homes on the island of Montreal are heated with wood, as are 20% of homes in the province. Wood burning is the source of 39% of fine particulate emissions in Montreal, leading to a 2018 ban on residential wood-burning appliances that emit more than 2.5g per hour. Thus, only devices approved by the Environmental Protection Agency are allowed, which does not include devices sold before 2009. As well, it seems that wood heating is becoming more and more popular. It is however important to note that apart from the municipal decree of Montreal, the rest of the province is not likely to be subject to the same rigor. Indeed, the Quebec law on wood heating only concerns the sale of wood-burning appliances, not their use.
In Montreal, we see that immigrant residents experience high cumulative air pollution because these areas tend to receive little public investment and services and emphasize green spaces. In the most disadvantaged areas, population density tends to be higher and environmental quality lower. In areas where there are fewer trees and less access to green spaces and parks,rents may be lower and therefore attract low-income people. A study showed that people living in the east end of Montreal (where the majority of industries are located and, therefore, low-income areas) have a 9-year lower life expectancy than people living in other parts of the city, due to increased air pollution. In addition, in Montreal North, only 3.9% of the borough is covered with green spaces compared to 11.4% for the rest of the city of Montreal.
A mapping project, Goodscore, which measures the environmental quality of streets in Canada, found that Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver all three have poorer households in neighborhoods with less walkability, less green streetscapes and pollution traffic-related atmosphere is worse. The health consequences of this situation are diabetes, reduced physical activity and poorer birth outcomes.
It’s no secret that garbage gives off foul odors, but for those who live near landfills, the situation is almost unbearable. Landfill odors come from the decomposition of waste. While most of the gases released are carbon dioxide or methane, those that contribute to the putrid smell are the 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 the landfills. A landfill located in Pierrefonds-Roxboro is the subject of complaints about the smell of a local site since 1985. After attempts to capture the smelly biogas, the site finally closed in 2020 after thirty-five years of odor complaints. Recently, the Valoris LET expansion project in Bury has been the subject of citizen opposition because of its likelihood of emitting foul odors. The Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement also ruled on this expansion project in June 2021, and recommended that the project could go ahead, but fears remain, particularly on the issue of the deterioration of the Bury and Bégin streams.
The new 2030 Plan for a green economy focuses primarily on the electrification of transportation to reduce Quebec’s greenhouse gas emissions. After industry, Quebec’s transportation sector represents 30% of final energy use ; in 2018, Quebec consumed 165,000 barrels of gasoline per day.
Despite its attempt to electrify the transportation sector, Quebec’s recent history shows no signs of abandoning hydrocarbons. In 2018, Quebec refineries needed approximately 350,000 barrels of crude oil per day. According to a report by Canada’s Energy Regulator, natural gas represented only 14% of Quebec’s energy consumption in 2017, compared to 40% for refined petroleum products. The same report reveals that Quebec consumed approximately 591 million cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2018. To have a true “green economy”, Quebec must considerably reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons, and not only in the sector of transport. Progress on this point has also been made with the recent Bill 21, which aims to prohibit the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in Quebec.
Transporting hydrocarbons can be very dangerous. Let’s not forget the Lac-Mégantic disaster, when a train carrying 7.7 million barrels of crude oil from North Dakota to New Brunswick killed 47 people. A tank truck transporting oil from Quebec to Ottawa caught fire as recently as April 22, 2021.
As far as maritime transport is concerned, the ports of Quebec see the entry and exit of 25 million tons of crude oil and other petroleum products per year, 89% of which pass through the ports of Quebec and Montreal. These resources increase the risk of oil spills devastating 13% of marine emissions in the world and are the cause of 114 million tons of CO2 released in the atmosphere every year.
There is also the issue of pipelines, which is discussed in detail in the section entitled “Pipeline Safety”. In Quebec, some of the Major pipelines include Enbridge’s Line 9 with a capacity of 300 million barrels per day, the Trans-Northern Pipeline which 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 throughputs dropped in 2018 to 2.5 million barrels per day.
Although there are many issues surrounding pipelines, including Quebec’s commitment to continue using fossil fuels and issues relating to the lands the pipeline will cross, the main risk to pipeline safety is their potential for leaks. Although pipeline companies are required to design protection programs to prevent and control spills, this rate across Canada between 2011 and 2014 was still an average of 1,084 barrels per year, the equivalent of two tank cars. Between 2004 and 2017, there were 23 spills of refined petroleum products or crude oil in Quebec alone. No, this number does not decrease over time: 55% of Quebec pipeline incidents between 2008 and 2018 occurred in 2017 alone. In the winter of 2021, Ottawa announced that it would invest $500,000 in the manufacture of drones by Les Systèmes Flyscan to help detect pipeline spills. This investment has been portrayed as a step towards a green recovery, but it only supports the continued use of pipelines. To eliminate the risk of spills, pipelines must stop working.
In 2011, 42% of the total biomass-derived energy potential was realized, most of which came from forest biomass: the potential developed for residential firewood, wood processing waste, slash, pulp waste paper and paper and spent liquor were 100%, 89%, 0%, 63% and 100%, respectively. On the contrary, the energy potential of urban biomass (municipal wastewater and putrescible household waste) and agri-food biomass (crop waste, manure, carcasses, and more) has been largely untapped. In 2020, biomass accounted for only 7% of Quebec’s national energy production . Meanwhile, oil and natural gas are 50% of its energy sources. Furthermore, in 2019, 1.5 million tons of organic waste has been sent to landfill, despite targets to reduce this amount to zero by 2020, even if the percentage of organic matter has increased in recent years. There is still a lot of work to do to increase the use of biomass in Quebec, and focusing on urban and agri-food biomass is an excellent starting point.
Although almost all the energy in Quebec is produced by hydroelectricity, Quebecers are still very dependent on oil used in industry and transport. Energy is responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec.
Additional energy sources will be needed in Quebec as energy needs increase, especially in winter when the demand for electricity increases and with the emergence of electric vehicles. It is unlikely that hydroelectric dams will continue to be built, as they are much more expensive than other renewable energy sources. Solar and wind power are energy production options from renewable sources that are interesting for Quebec. With all this evidence pointing towards renewable energy, the Legault government is funding a gas pipeline project that promotes natural gas fracking as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, believing electrification is more difficult to achieve. However, the exploitation of natural gas by fracturing emits methane which is a greenhouse gas 30 times more powerful than CO2.
McGill University refuses to divest from the fossil fuel sector. Students are pressuring its banks (whose University Board is dominated) to withdraw their investments in fossil fuels and in particular, in the oil sands, and on the Board of Governors which is invested in fossil fuel-intensive industries.
Pressure is building on the province of Quebec to divest from fossil fuels as the effects of ocean acidification caused by burning fossil fuels. Today, Fossil fuels represent 1% of the portfolio of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which is equivalent to $4 billion. However, la Caisse has committed to divest itself of these investments by the end of 2022, in order to eventually achieve carbon neutrality of its investments by 2050.
As early as 2005, Quebec recognized the dangers of methane discharged from landfills and created programs aimed at reducing or recovering the biogas discharged. In 2011, Quebec set itself the goal of diverting all organic waste from landfill by 2020. 10 years later, Another 1.5 million tons are disposed of there. In 2019, the Biofuel production represented only 7% of Québec’s energy sources. These numbers are far too low.
More recently, new biomethane projects have started to emerge. The new Coop Agri-Énergie Warwick, whose construction began in 2020, should produce 2.3 million m3 of renewable natural gas. the CBAQ de Québec, currently under construction, should process 86,000 tons of food waste and 96,000 tons of biosolids per year starting in 2023. The Rivière-du-Loup plant, which is already in operation, produces approximately 3 million m3 of liquefied biomethane per year. Even taking into account the recent spike in new biomethane projects and Quebec investments in the field, several cities in the province, such as Montreal, are lagging behind in the advancement of certain biomethanation projects.
The carbon footprint of buildings has increased over the years, since 51% of buildings in the province depend on the use of fossil fuels. In commercial and institutional buildings, 46% of the energy consumed was from fossil sources. This high percentage is linked to the energy building code of Quebec which, until 2020, had not been updated since 1983. Glass buildings are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in urban centers, according to experts, due to the amount of energy needed to cool them. Moreover, the use of refrigerants, especially in air conditioning , consumes a lot of energy and poses a considerable challenge for the reduction of energy consumption in buildings. Thus, a reduction in fossil energy consumption is possible in the building sector by improving air conditioning strategies, by opting for more ecological building materials such as wood and by establishing strict environmental standards.
A Hydro-Quebec’s project (a proposed 100 km transmission line from Estrie to Maine) is expected to begin without consultation with First Nations. The risks that this may have on the Innu-Atikamekw-Anishnabeg Coalition are that there have been several cases of flooding on their lands because of the dams. Rising water endangers their traditions of hunting and transport. However, due to a referendum held in Maine, the project is on hold.
Quebec is also lagging far behind in enforcing safety laws aimed at controlling spring flooding and managing river flow, even though flood damage can be very costly – remember the flooding of the Saguenay in 1996 which cost the province more than $1.5 billion in repairs. Although hydroelectric dams are a renewable source of energy, the environmental costs of a flood caused by a dam are significant. When areas of trees, peatlands and soils are destroyed, the stored carbon breaks down, which releases CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. The environmental cost of flooding a dam, which causes rapid decomposition of plants, is increased mercury levels in fish, which can negatively impact human health.
In 2015, Quebec had planned to put 100,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2020. By the end of 2020, 92,000 EVs had been purchased, largely driven by the cost of owning a vehicle. Electric vehicles represent less than 2% of all vehicles purchased in the province, which may be related to limited supply and vehicle models. Limited supply also means Quebecers must be placed on a waiting list several months to a year before they can obtain their electric vehicle. This situation will be problematic in the years to come, because Quebec plans to ban the sale of all gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.
The problem with achieving these goals is that the cost of making an electric vehicle is more than the profit, which may not be worth it for these companies.
Although Quebec is the Canadian leader in electric vehicle registration, there is a lack of charging stations for these vehicles: 6,295 charging stations for the entire province, including 462 fast, as of 2021. There is still a lot of research to be done to make these stations more accessible and convenient for consumers. In 2018, Quebec changed the electrical code to require builders to include wiring for EV charging in homes and offer rebates to existing homes that want to install one. However, the older existing buildings may not have the infrastructure to install a charging station.
Regions of the province, such as Abitibi-Témiscamingue, are exploring the possibilities of obtaining 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.
Most 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) represent 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from the industrial sector. Suncor recently invested more money to increase its production capacity to 203,000 barrels per day by 2021, then to upgrade it to potentially add 20,000 to 30,000 barrels per day by 2024-2025, which could further increase emissions. Ironically, Suncor’s chief sustainability officer was named a ‘climate champion’ and praised for moving Canada toward net zero emissions, despite the oil company’s increased production.
Food and Agriculture
In Quebec, there are more than 10,075 cattle farms, half of which are dairy farms, which makes Quebec the largest producer in Canada. Although beef production in the province represents 4% of Canadian production, veal production represents 80%. Livestock production requires huge amounts of land for animal feed production, and is likely to be grown in monoculture, which can cause soil erosion and negative impacts on the ecosystem of the floor.
Quebec milk producers are asking farmers to stop enriching the diet of their cows with palm oil, they are also asking the government to ban the import of dairy products where there have been traces of palm oil in animal feed. Although this has been done for over ten years (to provide cows with extra energy), the Minister of Agriculture claimed that he was not aware of this practice. Ingestion of palm oil in their feed can cause heart disease in cows, but very little is known about the impact on animals. The main concern is the impact of palm oil production on the environment and how it influences the lives of indigenous people in different parts of the world. Moreover, the main environmental impact of cattle breeding is the emission of methane, which is a natural byproduct of food digestion formed in the intestinal tract of cows. According to a 2015 report, more than 27% of Canada’s methane emissions come from agriculture, with the majority of these emissions being attributed to those formed by cows.
In 2022, Quebec was the leading pork producer, accounting for 40% of hog slaughter in Canada. A pigsty for 4,000 pigs is to be installed in Maricourt , which worries citizens about the quality of water in the region. Producers want to avoid a BAPE assessment, as this would jeopardize their potential profit gain. More recently, the Government of Quebec has authorized a piggery project in Saint-Adelphe with more than 12,000 animals, without an assessment by the BAPE, which raises some fears among citizens. Some of the risks associated with hog production are the spread of pathogens and diseases such as cases of swine flu which can infect people living near pig farms such as workers. Raw, unprocessed livestock waste is commonly used as fertilizer to grow food consumed by humans. However, the Manure disposal methods are poorly monitored and documented, which can lead to health issues such as E. coli contamination of drinking water.
Soil degradation is a global problem. Industrial farming practices favor monoculture, which produces a higher yield but requires more tillage (see “Monocultures” section). However, plowing weakens the soil and increases the need for chemical pesticides. In fact, the United Nations has found that if farms maintain their habits, the earth’s topsoil will gone in 60 years. This is a problem that we are already seeing in Quebec.
The black soil , responsible for some of the best yields in the country, is eroding at a rate of 2 cm per year, leaving only 50 years before it is gone. Experts blame agricultural practices and urban sprawl, which have destroyed 528 square kilometers of natural land in southern Quebec, where black soils are concentrated. To make matters worse, soil degradation releases greenhouse gases and leads to the disappearance of wetlands.
A farming technique known as regenerative agriculture has been shown to improve soil health, but corporate farming companies seem to resist it because it could reduce their profits.
To know more about regenerative agriculture, click here:
Glyphosate, a common ingredient in Round Up herbicide, used on corn, soybeans and canola crops in Canada, has been associated with cancers, infertility and liver disease. Despite the risks associated with glyphosate, it has not been banned only in Quebec in the forest industry and continues to be used in agriculture. Health Canada, which has identified “no major risk” linked to this herbicide, continued to certify its use for another 15 years. However, since glyphosate has been banned in many European countries, Canada is finding it harder to export its products (especially grain products), especially as more and more people are demanding a glyphosate-free environment. Due to continued use of glyphosate on crops, weeds have developed resistance to this herbicide. In Canada, more than 75 weeds have become resistant to herbicides, which can lead to yield loss and the need to use more chemicals, which can be very costly for farmers.
The use of glyphosate as well as other pesticides, including atrazine and neonicotinoids, was found in nearly 100% of samples taken from rivers near agricultural farms in Quebec. Moreover, the presence of some of these pesticides exceeded the “normal” quantity for the water quality. In rivers such as the Yamaska, the Mascouche or the Acadie, the researchers had discovered 20 to 30 types of pesticides, many of which could be harmful to the aquatic life that resides in these waters, as well as the flora and fauna that depend on them. Despite the harmful effects, Health Canada has not imposed a ban on pesticides like the neonicotinoid because it believes it poses no risk to human health and the environment.
Recent studies have shown that the cause of Parkinson’s disease (which affects one in 500 people in Canada) is linked to long-term exposure to pesticides, including paraquat (used to kill weeds) and chlorphrifos (used to kill insects). The number of Quebec farmers who will develop Parkinson’s disease should double by 2040. Despite these risks, the Prime Minister Legault has not banned the use of pesticides, as he believes the issue needs to be further examined before the government can take action. However, several municipalities in Quebec, such as Laval and Montreal have banned the use and sale of several pesticides, including glyphosates.
Phosphorus is commonly found in fertilizer and manure, two common elements in Quebec agriculture. Rainfall can transport phosphorus to nearby waters, a phenomenon called “ runoff of fertilizers “, which can lead to eutrophication (for more information, see the sections “Degradation Of Lakes” and “Lowering the biodiversity of lakes”). Essentially, the increase in nutrients stimulates the proliferation of algae, which in turn create hypoxic environments known as dead zones.Unfortunately, Quebec is a very heavy fertilizer user, especially compared to the rest of North America with phosphorus standards that are very permissive. Regulatory leniency is largely due to the fact that fertilizer manufacturers have seats at the decision-making table. The effects are measurable. Between 2017 and 2019, the nine analysis stations along the St. Lawrence River reported more than 10% of samples containing phosphorus concentrations above the guidelines, including six reported 50% of samples. Between Saint-Augustin and Saint-Charles, Lake Saint-Augustin is classified as eutrophic, while the other six lakes are mesotrophic to meso-eutrophic (halfway to eutrophic). Water quality will continue to deteriorate unless agricultural regulations are tightened, which is unlikely with profit seekers at the decision-making table.
35) Dezoning Agricultural Land In Quebec , the agricultural land represents only 2% of the province’s land mass. Unfortunately, there is a huge demand for the rezoning of agricultural land for residential developments, economic projects, occupation of land by non-farmers, etc. Development companies tend to build on agricultural land because it is cheaper than cleaning up industrial land. Moreover, as there is less land available, the price per hectare of agricultural land has risen dramatically over the past ten years, from $6,280 to $21,446 in 2015. This figure continues to rise, while in 2019, where in Montérégie-Est, the average price for one hectare was $36,098. The risks associated with this situation are that once cultivable agricultural land has been paved over, it would take several centuries for the soil to regenerate. The municipality of Neuville (popular for its sweet corn) risked losing 50% of its agricultural land to make way for residential projects. Although the project was turned down, there is a continuing risk for farmers that even if a small portion of their land is dezoned, it could have a negative impact on production rates and farmers’ capacities. In 2019, a residential project was proposed to build 28,000 new housing units, on more than two square kilometers of the last agricultural land in Charlesbourg, Quebec. Although the Union of Agricultural Producers of Quebec is pressuring the city to focus on development projects in already zoned areas. At the start of 2021, Google has announced that it will build its first Canadian data center in Beauharnois on 62.4 of land currently zoned for agricultural purposes. The Government of Quebec will grant $3.54 to the Union des producteurs agricole to relocate agricultural activity to equivalent land belonging to Hydro-Québec and adjacent to the proposed construction project. More information:
In Quebec , the agricultural land represents only 2% of the province’s land mass. Unfortunately, there is a huge demand for the rezoning of agricultural land for residential developments, economic projects, occupation of land by non-farmers, etc. Development companies tend to build on agricultural land because it is cheaper than cleaning up industrial land. Moreover, as there is less land available, the price per hectare of agricultural land has risen dramatically over the past ten years, from $6,280 to $21,446 in 2015. This figure continues to rise, while in 2019, where in Montérégie-Est, the average price for one hectare was $36,098. The risks associated with this situation are that once cultivable agricultural land has been paved over, it would take several centuries for the soil to regenerate. The municipality of Neuville (popular for its sweet corn) risked losing 50% of its agricultural land to make way for residential projects. Although the project was turned down, there is a continuing risk for farmers that even if a small portion of their land is dezoned, it could have a negative impact on production rates and farmers’ capacities. In 2019, a residential project was proposed to build 28,000 new housing units, on more than two square kilometers of the last agricultural land in Charlesbourg, Quebec. Although the Union of Agricultural Producers of Quebec is pressuring the city to focus on development projects in already zoned areas.
At the start of 2021, Google has announced that it will build its first Canadian data center in Beauharnois on 62.4 of land currently zoned for agricultural purposes. The Government of Quebec will grant $3.54 to the Union des producteurs agricole to relocate agricultural activity to equivalent land belonging to Hydro-Québec and adjacent to the proposed construction project.
Over the past 50 years, the size of Canadian farms has nearly doubled, but the diversity of crops has declined. The agricultural lands are mainly dominated by four crops: soybeans, wheat, rice and corn. In Quebec, in 2016 it was reported that 4 million tons of maize were grown (an increase from 250,000 tons in 1973) and over 800,000 tons of soybeans were grown (up from 50,000 tons in 1990) – exporting 75% of their harvest. Because these four crops are considered monocultures, they often require large amounts of chemicals that are harmful to the environment. These cultures require more fertilizer to compensate for the greater loss of nutrients, more pesticides due to increased pest problems, and require more water than diversified crops due to reduced moisture retention of the ground. Other problems related to monocultures are the reduction of biodiversity, the weakening of habitats and the use of heavy machinery. which compact less organic soils and promote soil erosion. Furthermore, the land becomes less fertile, making it very difficult for other crops to grow on the same soil.
Due to the use of fertilizers and pesticides, many insects and birds are threatened by the limitation of food sources, and the production of monocultures themselves does not leave much scope for the expansion of biodiversity.
Despite the environmental impact of monocultures, public aid (including an agricultural loan, stabilization insurance and crop insurance) have allowed monocultures to exist over time. Proposals have been made to diversify Canadian farmland, but none have had the same financial value as monocultures, which is why they continue to exist.
In recent years, greenhouse vegetable production has increased in Canada, but Quebec accounts for only 7% of greenhouse area, compared to 70% in Ontario. Because of this low percentage, it is difficult for Quebec to be competitive. For these productions to be successful, the government should provide tax credits. Most of these greenhouses produce tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Although Quebec can produce enough tomatoes, it is unlikely that he will be able to supply tropical fruits, vegetables or bananas, at least not anytime soon. If Quebecers want to eat local and seasonal products, they will have to take what is possible to produce. In addition to greenhouses, Quebec needs to make more use of greenhouse crops, which are well suited for the production of carrots, potatoes, and onions, and will allow the province to extend growing seasons.
The risk of producing fruits and vegetables all year round is whether the production will be able to support the local market or if it will be exported. For some crops, such as cabbage, Quebec production does not correspond to consumption and is therefore exported. However, spinach production meets only 17% of demand, while strawberry production meets 44%.
Many greenhouses in the province still depend on fossil fuel gases to heat and light their facilities. In 2020, a proposal was made for the reduction in the electricity tariff of $0.10 to $0.0559 for photosynthetic lighting and greenhouse heating, extended to more than 1,000 greenhouses in Quebec. This decision helps to stimulate the growth of the industry. The cost of electricity is one of the main reasons why a large number of greenhouse growers do not operate in winter due to high electricity costs. More research needs to be done on how to modernize enterprises, and also to provide training to have more specialists capable of handling cutting-edge technology. Another challenge, as greenhouse production increases in Quebec, is the lack of workforce. Many people in the region do not want to work in the greenhouses because of the low wages, so Quebec hires people from abroad. Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many difficulties for people traveling to Quebec.
Thanks to provincial incentives that allow to pay agricultural producers to convert their land to organic production, the number of organic farmers in Quebec increased to 2,337 in 2019, the highest in all of Canada. Organic farming consists of produce food without using man-made chemicals (i.e. pesticides and fertilizers). However, the use of manure in organic agriculture can be a factor in the spread of bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. Over the past ten years, Canada has seen more recalls of organic products due to these factors.
Another problem with organic foods is that they are usually more expensive than non-organic products (between 20 and 60%). The reason for the price increase is the absence of chemicals in the production, which leads to a higher cost for the farmers. In addition, for products to receive organic certification from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, one of the factors is that sellers, transporters and farmers must ensure and prove that their organic products are not have not been in contact with non-organic products during storage or transport. Although the demand for local foods is on the rise in Canada, many people tend to favor the price over the product and to buy an imported product, because it is generally cheaper. There is also competition between products labeled “organic” and “natural” which can confuse consumers. Producers of “natural” products are not held to the same standards as organic farmers and can therefore sell their products at a lower price.
Quebec has only one organization that represents its agricultural producers. The Union of Agricultural Producers represents approximately 42,000 Quebec farmers, all forest producers and represents 90 local sections, 12 regional federations, 130 unions and 26 specialized groups. It is the only official organization that speaks on behalf of all agricultural and forestry producers in Quebec. All farmers in Quebec are required to pay a contribution to the UPA. Under Bill 85, if a farmer does not pay this contribution, he won’t get his property tax refund. This monopoly model is unique to Canada and does not exist anywhere else in the world. The problem with having a union monopoly is that they favor larger farms that have large scales of production or have large quantities for export. The quotas imposed by the UPA are too expensive for small farms just starting up, and agricultural financing is only granted to farmers with large-scale production. While people don’t want to end the UPA, they want to divide it into smaller syndicates to give other, more local producers a chance to compete. Although the Quebec government is seeking to be more self-sufficient, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be difficult if the UPA monopoly remains. According to Union paysanne co-founder Roméo Bouchard, in 1985 the province was 80% self-sufficient, but due to the loss of many small farms under the UPA, this figure dropped significantly to 30%. Another negative factor of the UPA monopoly would be its concentration on the export of subsidized agricultural products (such as pork in Quebec), which also reduces food sovereignty and increases dependence on food imports.
Current Farm Laws of Quebec discourage small local agriculture and pave the way for industrial farms. The Act respecting the preservation of agricultural land and agricultural activities achieves this in two ways: Section 28 prohibits the division of a single lot and Section 29 prohibits the division of two contiguous lots. This means that a small section of a lot cannot be sold even if the area is not used, as this would result in the division of the lot. It also means that when an owner buys two neighboring lots, even if they are divided by a road or a river, they become merged forever and cannot be divided in the future, according to Article 28.
This illustrates Quebec’s preference for large industrial and profitable farms. For example, when a farmer from Sainte-Anne-de-la-Rochelle tried to sell the maple grove located on his land, having been unable to reach the quota. The MRC concerned refused the request, because she was worried about the potential profitability of a business on such a small piece of land.
Yet Quebec should do what it can to support local farmers. In general, family farms are usually more sustainable than industrial agriculture, as they are not solely driven by profit. Also, as a province that has always been committed to creating jobs for its citizens, it seems logical to support local farmers rather than focus on factory farms. Bill 103 voted in 2021 allows the fragmentation of land, which would make it possible to reduce the size of agricultural holdings to encourage emerging agricultural activities and family farms. However, some fear that this will accelerate urban sprawl and therefore call for guarantees that the parceled land is for agricultural production purposes.
Quebec is involved in several trade agreements that reduce or completely eliminate tariffs. These agreements are based on free trade, which encourages countries to invest in the products for which they have a comparative advantage (products they can produce at a lower cost than other countries due to skilled labor pools, abundance of resources, climatic factors, etc.) The goal of free- exchange is therefore to make the greatest number of products available at the lowest cost. Which, in many respects, discourages local production in Quebec.
Between 2009 and 2013, Mexico increased its blueberry production by 537%. Unlike Quebec, where the growing season is short due to our cool climate, Mexico can produce blueberries all year round, which makes them competitive with Quebec blueberries. The same kind of competition exists between Quebec and Europe for cheese production. Imports of this kind, without trade barriers to level the playing field, make Quebec products more expensive and ultimately Canadians tend to choose the cheapest option, even if not local. This forces Quebec farmers to increase their yield means of pesticides or receive compensation from the government, which is not a long-term solution – it is absurd to reduce the cost of products to the public and then compensate farmers with taxpayers’ money. Ultimately, free trade agreements affect our food sovereignty and only benefit businesses.
In Quebec, the quota system prevents the raising of animals on a small scale. The quota system is based on supply management, which sets limits on production to ensure that supply meets demand (for more on supply management in Canada, click here). Quotas apply to chicken, eggs, turkey and Quebec milk, without which they cannot be sold. Quebec farmers can be exempt from these quotas if their production is low enough – farmers can produce 99 chickens, 99 laying hens and 25 turkeys without quotas. Unfortunately, these numbers are too low to be able to sell and make a profit as artisanal farmers. A farmer says its family eats 60-70 chickens, and the rest is spent on dinners with friends, making it nearly impossible to make a profit.
In addition, there are also minimum quotas for those who produce beyond the quota-free limits. These quotas are limited, often unavailable and incredibly expensive. In 2017, the minimum quotas were 775 chickens, 300 turkeys if outside the centralized selling system, whose quotas sold for $900 for 75 chickens and $500 for 6 turkeys. Note that the minimum chicken quota was 7750 before 2010, and due to strict quota transfer policies, no new smallholder farmers entered with the new 2010 quota in 2017 (read more about the quota system in Quebec here). This quota system therefore limits small-scale farming practices.
Low exemption limits coupled with unavailable (and therefore expensive) quotas directly discourage small farms. In addition, the UPA, which is the only union representing Quebec farmers, promotes large-scale production by financing large farms (to find out more, read the section “Monopoly of unions”).
Quebec agriculture can benefit from research and development to make these practices more sustainable. For example, cereals must be dried before being stored to prevent them from rotting. Many Quebec farmers still depend on propane for grain drying, as we saw during the 2019 CN strike, as farmers risked losing their crops. However, to think that our cereal production depends on hydrocarbons reminds us of our “overdependence on hydrocarbons” (read the “Energy” section on this subject). In the meantime, other grain drying technologies exist, such as natural air drying and solar grain drying.
Quebec tractors may also need a fresh start. In addition to the purchase of completely new electric tractors, the cost of which can hover around $100,000, research can be carried out for a possible conversion of diesel tractors to electricity. Even the new cable-powered John Deere tractor offers new insights into the future of sustainable agriculture by ditching the lithium battery (for more on the dangers of lithium mining, read “Inadequate plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” and “Underestimated environmental impacts of electric vehicles”).
The advent of Automatic weeders can reduce the need to use herbicides by effectively eliminating weeds without the use of labor. This is beneficial, as weeds can become resistant to herbicides with continued use, and they are also toxic to humans and the environment.
Overall, Quebec could benefit from research and development in agriculture to make it a more sustainable industry.
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a plant or animal (or other organism) whose genes have been modified in the laboratory to form a new organism that does not exist in nature. In Quebec, the three main GMOs are corn, soy and canola. Since 1999, the production of each of them in Quebec has increased, with genetically modified canola and corn representing almost all of their production in the province. One of the main alleged advantages of GMOs is the possibility increase yield, which can lead to lower feed costs. This is done in increasing resistance to viruses and tolerance to herbicides and pesticides. However, according to a 2016 report, the alleged benefits do not materialize. First of all, there is no proof that GMOs have increased rentability. Food prices continue to rise in Canada, even with GMOs. Furthermore, the sales of herbicides have increased of 199% between 1999 and 2016. The use of herbicides (and pesticides) is not only bad for the environment and health, but it also leads to the emergence of undesirable plants resistant to herbicides, which results in a decrease in yield and higher costs (for more information, read under this heading “Pesticide Use”).
Furthermore, the industry lacks transparency. Firstly, when a new GMO arrives on the market, security tests are done by the companies themselves, and not by Health Canada. In addition, lethe labelling on the products is not obliged to indicate if a product is a GMO or not, even if 88 % of canadians would like it otherwise.
Despite the possibility that GMOs may have other possible advantages in the future, such as the increase in nutrient content, reduction of allergens, and the improvement of food production, it seems that GMOs are mainly intended for a commercial use at this time and for increasing resistance to herbicides and pesticides.
Waste management in Quebec is insufficient to treat the waste generated in a sustainable manner. To begin with, the communities of Nunavik have to deal with several constraints related to infrastructure, such as the lack of roads to transport recyclable waste from village to village or a lack of human resources to take care of recycling operations. There are no incinerators and therefore the waste is burnt in the open air and no study has been made to observe the impacts of these practices on the environment and on the health of the inhabitants near where the waste is incinerated. Thus, Quebec will have to invest in waste infrastructure in the North if it really wants to reconcile the two communities.
In addition, Quebec is sorely lacking in recycling infrastructures. Until 2018, Quebec exported 60% of its recyclable materials to China – only 40% was recycled in the province. China has refused to continue accepting shipments in part because waste was often mixed in there. This means a lack of awareness (or a lack of incentive) to the good recycling habits of Quebecers. The hazardous materials found in a recycling center in Gatineau are an example. In addition, in 2019-2020, 1.2 million tons of recyclable materials were sent to landfill. It also means a lack of infrastructure in Quebec to process recyclable materials here. After China refused to accept shipments, Montreal turned to new markets in Asia, including India, Indonesia and Korea, to ship materials there. In just a few months, nearly 8,000 tons of materials that would normally have been shipped to China have accumulated.
Although the focus is generally on densely populated areas, it is clear that Quebec lacks essential waste management infrastructure throughout its territory. To make a significant difference on a global scale, Quebec will have to invest in new technologies to treat its own waste. This will allow Quebec to be responsible for its waste and hopefully encourage waste reduction at the source.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for the average consumer to know what goes in the recycling bin and what should be thrown away. There is also a lack of standardization and accountability with individual brands adding labels and claims to their products but not having third party certification meaning what they claim to be recyclable may not actually be accepted by some recycling facilities. Product labeling is also a concern, as individual recycling programs may choose not to recycle certain materials (even if they state they are recyclable) or may not be able to do so for various reasons, which causes the products to be thrown away.
Because people are confused, they end up throwing everything they find in the bins assuming it will be sorted by someone at recycling facilities later. Many people in Quebec believe that it is up to sorting facilities to review items and decide what can be recycled, which would ensure that on 485,000 tons of materials sent to factories, 18% are rejected, sorted or not recycled. The problem with this approach is that mixing recycled (or dirty) products can cause contamination that can ruin books of recyclable materials. Although not the highest on the scale of contamination rates for residential recycling in Canada, Montreal’s rate is 7.3%. Environmental groups point out that the recycling industry should reintroduce the concept of separation of recyclable materials by citizens in order to facilitate sorting in recycling facilities and reduce the risk of contamination. However, in Montreal, this process was stopped decades ago because it was believed that having citizens throw everything in one bin would encourage recycling habits in the city.
Studies have shown that 926,000 tons of recyclable materials are consumed each year in homes, but more than a third of these materials are thrown away. Reasons for this are that people don’t care, it’s too hard for them to recycle, or they know that many items won’t be recycled anyway. As a result, waste accumulates in landfills, is burned, or adds to islands that are already full of plastic waste. The problem with recyclable materials that aren’t disposed of properly is that they can end up in places they should be, like the side of the road. A farmer in Grand-Saint-Esprit is seeing an increase in metal cans and bottles thrown into his fields by motorists. These fields produces the crops used to feed his cows, which, if not picked up, can be harvested, chopped, and fed to the cows, which can be fatal to the animals. Although fines exist, they may not be high enough to discourage the increase in litter thrown out of cars.
The rate of composting in Quebec is discouraging. In 2020, 1.5 million tons of organic waste was sent to landfill despite the government’s plan to take that number to zero by then – equivalent to 60% of the province’s waste. No wonder, when only 57% of Quebecers had access to food waste collection services. The 2018 data shows that only 31% of organic waste is composted. Outside the residential sector, only 5% of organic waste is composted. Also, the residual materials sector was responsible for approximately 5.8% of GHG emissions in Quebec. This is a major concern.
Currently, the waste sector emits 4.55 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year and is the fifth largest contributor of the provinces. A new plan aims to make the services of food waste collection accessible to all Quebecers by 2025 in order to eliminate 270,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2030. This is an extremely important objective, because sending organic waste to landfills is harmful to our climate : in landfills, decomposing organic waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. However, it is observed that although food waste services are increasingly available, the application of composting practices by citizens is not sufficient, such as in schools, where although compost bins are available, no training is given on the proper ways to compost. Finally, to effectively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, Quebec will have to tackle the pollution caused by inefficient waste disposal.
In Canada, more of 3 million tons of plastic waste are thrown away every year, which represents a loss of value of almost 8 billion dollars and a huge waste of precious resources and energy. Only 9% of plastic waste thrown away in Canada is recycled, the rest ends up in landfill. In 2018, Montreal banned single-use plastic bags, but opted for thicker bags at a higher cost. However, despite this change, behaviors have not changed. 70% more plastic ends up in the landfill because of the thickness of the bags. In Chambly, the municipality has drafted a proposal to ban single-use plastics, but also plastic bottles of less than one liter. The risk of this ban is the loss of sales, customers who want to buy these plastic bottles must go to another municipality to make their purchases, which would reduce Chambly’s income.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated the use of more single-use products – including the return of plastic bags (due to restrictions in many stores that prohibited the use of reusable bags), Quebec has slipped back in meeting its waste reduction targets. A 2020 study showed that while Canadians are still aware of the environmental impacts of single-use plastics, 29% of people said they consumed more single-use products during the pandemic. Besides, in 2019, 72% of people wanted a total ban on single-use plastics, while in 2020 support for the ban dropped to 58%. Most people think the country should wait until the pandemic is completely over before placing new bans on single-use plastics. It is proposed that the ban will come into force during the year 2022, which includes carrier bags, stirrers, six-pack drink rings, plastic cutlery, straws, and hard-to-recycle food wrap. However, this ban only affects a small percentage of single-use plastics. The Government of Canada has argued that many items such as garbage bags, snack wrappers, PPE, etc. will not be banned because the country does not have affordable or available alternatives, and that these other items show that they do not have major impacts on the environment.
Starting in January 2021, Quebec’s Minister of Education had made it mandatory for high school students to wear surgical masks, with each student receiving two masks a day. The department estimates that this will result in more than 318 million masks by the end of the year. The problem is that these masks are at risk of ending up in landfill, especially if there is no investment for proper mask recycling. The problem of non-reusable masks extends to the workplace, since the Quebec government had made it mandatory to wear medical masks at work in April 2021 and not reusable masks. On the other hand, recycling masks may not be the best option, as the environmental impact may be higher than if they were thrown in the trash. The reason is that many of the recycling programs that exist do not work in Quebec. So you would have to go to the United States, for example, which would increase carbon emissions. In addition, the costs associated with recycling masks are higher than the value of the recyclable material.
The “Lieu d’enfouissement technique” (LET), which contains 80% of the residual materials, located at the limit of Haut-Saint-Francois and Sherbrooke, should reach its capacity in the spring of 2021. A call has been launched for an expansion in order to allow it to operate for another 54 years. The expansion would add 29.5 hectares which could hold 5.34 million tons of waste. Environmental risks associated with this disposal and expansion of the landfill would include contamination of the surrounding environment by emissions or leaching water, health risks associated with contamination, odors, unpleasant changes in the landscape and the degradation of wetlands.
More than 600 tons of hazardous materials from the Montreal REM project will be landfilled in Ontario instead of being decontaminated in a more environmentally friendly way to reduce costs. It was possible to send the materials to Saint-Ambroise, in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, where a treatment that neutralizes the contaminants could be used, but the managers chose not to do so because of the high costs. . The environmental impact associated with landfilling hazardous waste is that it can produce vapors that can escape into the atmosphere, and liquids accumulated from the waste can seep into the ground and affect water supplies. drinking water from surrounding areas. In Pointe Claire, it took nearly 6 years to clean up an illegal PCBS landfill (a man-made chemical made up of carbon, hydrogen and chlorine atoms found in electronics and plastics). Exposure to these chemicals can cause respiratory problems and liver problems in humans.
Many questions have been raised about how to dispose of PFAS (used in heat, oil, grease and stain resistant coatings, such as on textiles or food packaging). These products typically end up in landfills, leading to soil and groundwater contamination. Once they are in water or in the ground, they will take at least a thousand years to die out. In February 2021, PFAs were found in the drinking water supply of Lake Memphremagog, which was linked to a nearby landfill. Unfortunately, in Canada, there is a lack of policy or support for the regulation of ATP disposal. There are over 5000 PFAs in use in Canada, and none of them are restricted. Furthermore, Health Canada has indicated that they are not of concern to human health, especially at the level of exposure they present. However, a recent study revealed that children may be negatively affected by PFAs, particularly through breast milk.
Quebec’s scrap yards support a growing load of abandoned vehicles. The situation is even worse for isolated communities, whose scrap metal has nowhere to go. For example, Chevery is a municipality on the Lower North Shore with only 236 inhabitants, but whose scrap piles up and keeps piling up, monopolizing the territory. A big part of the problem for this municipality is that it is not not connected to a main road, so waste collection companies do not bother to remove their waste.
Similarly, many vehicles are illegally abandoned. This creates a huge problem because as long as the vehicle is registered in a person’s name, it cannot be sold or recycled without its signature. Additionally, if the vehicle has been abandoned on private land, the Sûreté du Québec has no power over it. Therefore, the vehicle remains in place and can contaminate the ground if, over time, gasoline or oil begins to leak.
Automobile waste does not seem to be in short supply and one can only imagine the amount of waste generated by abandoned vehicles and appliances and the resulting number of scrap yards. The fact that Quebec does not encourage the purchase of used vehicles does not help: while buyers of new electric vehicles are entitled to $8,000 rebates, used electric vehicle buyers are only entitled to $4,000. In wanting to save the environment by electrifying the transport sector, Quebec has forgotten too much about the waste generated by the purchase of new vehicles.
When purchasing electronic devices, you may have noticed that a small fee called an “ecofee” is added to your bill. This fee is administered by ARPE-Québec to ensure the proper treatment of end-of-life electronic devices (see the importance of this fee in the “Electronic waste” section). The fees cover the cost of collection, transport and recycling of electronic products, as well as the financing of EPRA-Québec. Fees are relatively low: between $5.50 and $24 for the purchase of a new television, depending on its size, $1.25 for printers, $0.80 for laptops and $0.07 for cell phones, among others. These fees appeared in 2012 and were controversial ever since.
Essentially, the cost of recycling electronics falls on the consumer. It is important for consumers to be aware of the real environmental costs of the products they buy, as this could encourage them to make more sustainable purchases. However, with fees reaching a maximum of $24 and some being as little as pennies, these fees are too marginal to induce behavior change. Moreover, eco-charges do not raise awareness of the waste problem in the way that education campaigns would. Given that these taxes are unlikely to change consumer habits, one wonders why they are not paid by manufacturers instead. When products are created, it should be common practice to take responsibility for all stages of the product life cycle. Manufacturers should therefore make products taking into account that they also have to take care of them after use. This logic would probably favor a more circular economy.
So, to get the most out of ecofees, the costs should either be increased as a sort of environmental tax to incentivize sustainable consumption habits, or passed on to manufacturers to manage the end of life of their own products.
Electronic waste, or E-waste, has experienced a strong increase in our constantly changing world, where we prefer to buy new rather than repair. However, this waste is particularly toxic to the environment. In “Inadequate Emissions Reduction Plan”, “Underestimated Environmental Impacts of Electric Vehicles”, and “Mining for Electric Vehicles”, the environmental impacts of lithium mining have been investigated, but the pollution also continues for its end-of-life phase. Lithium from batteries contained in electronic waste is flammable. When batteries are improperly disposed of, the presence of lithium mixed with the abundance of paper is a dangerous combination, as some recycling centers have found an increase in fires. In addition, electronic products contain a variety of toxic materials such as beryllium, cadmium, mercury and lead. These toxins can seep into the sludge at the bottom of landfills and contaminate groundwater and surrounding waters, harming wildlife and people.
The problem is largely due to our consumption of new electronic devices. It doesn’t help that buying a new printer is often cheaper than buying new ink or that upgrading our phones is much more accessible than fixing them. Of course, these practices are highly unsustainable. In Quebec alone, 140,000 tons of electrical products have been recycled since 2012. In the province, only 9% of cell phones are recycled and 3% of laptops are, so progress in this area is needed.
The food waste refers to food discarded by retailers or consumers, including food scraps, spoiled food and plate scraps. Globally, food waste is a major environmental problem; when food breaks down, it releases methane, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. That’s why it’s imperative that food waste is composted rather than landfilled (read more under ‘Lack of composting’). The UK organization WRAP found that while food waste in the UK was removed from landfills, this would be equivalent to removing 20% of cars from UK roads. In Quebec, the province’s organic waste is equivalent to approximately 3.48 million tons per year.
Quebec is stepping up to fight food waste. In 2017, it launched the program of supermarket take-back, in which grocery stores donate excess food to food banks. Besides that, Quebec participates in various initiatives aimed at reducing food waste. Hopefully their plan to make composting services accessible to all Quebecers will help solve the province’s food waste problem.
In Canada, millions of tons of waste from industrial activities are produced every year. These wastes include acids, phenols, arsenic, lead and mercury. Industrial waste can also include waste from petroleum refining, chemical manufacturing and metal processing. Dumping of untreated industrial waste can pollute the air, lakes, rivers and soils and can affect all living organisms residing in these areas. In 2019, more than 320 substances from industrial waste were reported to emit 4.9 million tons of emissions. 2.9 million tons of these emissions were released directly into the air (from sulfur and carbon monoxide), into the water (ammonia) and into the ground (heavy metals). 822 kilotons of tailings have been reported which could have negative impacts on lakes and rivers. In Quebec, the government does not prohibit a mining company working on the Lac Bloom iron mine from destroying lakes and wetlands to store 872 million tons of tailings.
In addition to the environmental impacts of industrial waste landfills, the expansion of landfills can degrade the sites and render the land unavailable for other uses. As wind power develops, the blades (which only last about 20 years) are made from composite materials, i.e. fiberglass or carbon, which makes recycling these materials very difficult. While these materials don’t necessarily seep into soils, they end up taking up a lot of space in landfills. Another issue is the impact of these landfills on nearby communities. In Kanesatake, more than 400,000 cubic meters of industrial waste is piled on their land, which was once covered with trees, bushes and vegetation. In addition to the terrible smell that emanates from this landfill, it is located one kilometer from ten wells used for drinking water and irrigation. It is also three kilometers from the Lac des Deux Montagnes, which extends to the northern suburbs of Montreal and the western limit of Laval.
In Quebec, more than 190,000 tons of textiles are thrown away each year. Montreal alone represents 60,000 tons of this waste, 90% of which is still portable, but ends up in landfill. Since there are not enough textile waste recycling infrastructures in Quebec, fewer than 40% of textiles are recovered each year. In addition, it also represents a significant cost for companies who must pay fees to bury these textiles. Although thrift stores are an environmental alternative to disposing of unwanted textiles, they still have a problem where much of the unsold tends to end up in landfills, forcing community or charitable organizations to pay hundreds of dollars to bury waste containers.
People are buying twice as many clothes as 15 years ago and wearing them for less. More than 50% of clothes are thrown away within a year of being made. To reduce the number of items ending up in landfills, Canada sends large quantities of unwanted clothing overseas. However, the clothes sent are usually of poor quality and are thrown away in local landfills. African countries, for example, are now imposing tariffs to reduce the amount of textile waste collected by Canada and dumped in their landfills. Many companies do not know how to manage their excess waste, especially that from returns. Many returned items are either sent to landfill or destroyed because it’s cheaper and easier for businesses than trying to resell them.
While Montreal wishes to reduce its textile waste by 85% by 2030, its strategy is minimal. The city emphasizes the donation of textiles and the increase in donation bins and wants to ban the disposal of unsold products and production rejects in industry and retail, but does not specify how it plans to do it and does not include a plan for individuals who dispose of their textile waste.
Montreal’s daily wastewater production varies between 2.5 million m3 on dry days and up to 7.6 million m3 on rainy days. Although the city has the largest sewage treatment plant in North America, it only performs the primary treatment of wastewater, that is, it removes solids and nutrients, but leaves behind bacteria, viruses, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals and other contaminants. Sewage sludge is the main waste produced by a wastewater treatment plant. An average wastewater management plant produces approximately 40 grams of sludge per day and per inhabitant. In Quebec, more than 124,000 tons of domestic sludge are produced annually. A study conducted from 2018 to 2020 found that seven out of ten municipalities in Quebec contaminate rivers by discharging wastewater (which can include human waste, street drainage, cigarettes, plastic, food waste) from obsolete water treatments. According to the study, these treatment plants discharged sewage into their rivers 53,645 times in 2018. This represents a discharge of more than 21 million cubic meters of untreated sewage into the environment. In Quebec, more than 60,660 sewage spills were recorded in 2019. The city of Longueuil would have the worst record of these spills in all of Quebec. Since 2014, Quebec municipalities have been waiting to receive new standards that would set the number of acceptable overflows from treatment records. In March 2021, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu spilled 25 million liters of wastewater into the Richelieu River, bringing the total to 210 million liters discharged in three years. At present, 80 municipalities in the province do not have a wastewater treatment plant.
In 2015, it was announced that the city of Montreal would dump over 2 billion gallons of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. It is the main source of potable water in Montréal. In Québec, the Ministry of the Environment has declared that the dumping of sewage has very minimal effects on the environment. This way of cleaning up sewers became unacceptable in the 1980s, but the city of Montreal obtained the permission of Quebec’s Ministry of the Environment, in order for the city to go on with the demolition of Bonaventure Highway. In Canada, in 2017, 215 billions of liter of untreated sewage has been spilled in lakes, rivers and ocean, a process that seems to be considered as “normal” in the country.
Animal waste,in particular equine waste, can be worrying, although they are used as fertilizer on farms, they can be released without treatment onto the land. Manure disposal methods are poorly monitored and documented in Canada, as standard practices and regulations are rarely followed. Due to the large scale of livestock and manure, there is often too much manure that is applied beyond the natural absorption rate of the soil, which can run off to water sources. Poultry waste is just as harmful because it contains high amounts of phosphorus which can also leach into water sources. Waste and recyclables from farms are usually disposed of on-site by the producer or by specialized farm waste management companies, resulting in a mismanagement by local governments.
In Quebec, agricultural operations generate more than 11,000 tons of plastic waste per year and only 2,300 tons end up being recycled. Currently, there are no provincial recycling guidelines or programs that would allow farmers to dispose of their plastic waste (which includes scooping twine, grain bags, hay wraps and pesticide containers) in a sustainable way. Burying and burning plastic waste on farms is a common practice in Canada and can have a significant impact on air quality.
Construction waste , renovation and demolition (CRD) are the residual materials from the construction, renovation or demolition of buildings and other civil engineering infrastructure. These wastes may include concrete, wood, asphalt, gypsum, metal, glass, etc. The recycling of this type of waste is extremely important for the environment, as it helps to avoid further damage caused by the exploitation of virgin resources and to preserve landfill space, by preventing the escape of these materials (see the section “Electronic waste” for learn more about this issue). As such, the Québec Residual Materials Management Policy aims to reduce residual waste by sending only the ultimate residue (waste that can no longer be recovered) to landfill. the 2019-2024 action plan aims to recycle 70% of CRD waste by 2023.
While recycling is important, we also need to think about our consumption habits. How often is it necessary to build, renovate or demolish existing infrastructure? Is it because they are falling apart or because they are outdated? In 2015 alone, the Recyc-Québec’s CRD program has made it possible to avoid the landfilling of 1.8 million tons of CRD. That’s a lot of CRD waste to recover- in 2020, a sorting site overflowed while the building was buried in waste. There was no more access to the inner courtyard without having to climb over the piles of waste, and two fires resulted in the spillage of contaminated water.
The 11 Aichi objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) requires states to protect 17% of inland areas 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” (to learn more about this objective, click here). As of March 2021, the protected areas in Quebec cover 16.7% of terrestrial environments and 12.22% of marine and coastal environments. To do this, Quebec has protected 19.15% of the Plan Nord, an area of approximately 1.2 million square kilometers, or about 78% of the area of the province of Quebec. This means that, of the 16.7% of terrestrial environments protected, 89.4% were above the 49th parallel (in the Plan Nord area). This proportion is disproportionate to the actual area occupied by the Plan Nord in Quebec.
This poses a few problems. First, the border of Plan Nord closely follows the border of the northern limit of the forest allocation. Therefore, protected areas allow logging companies to have access to the hardwood temperate zone. This is not just a strategic move on the part of the Government of Quebec (for more on this, read “Protected Areas Only In The North”), but it is also not representative of the ecological plan. It could also be argued that these areas are particularly important for biodiversity, especially because they are threatened by deforestation.
Scientists estimate that between 0.01 and 0.1% of species disappear each year, an extinction rate of 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. The number of species coexisting with us is uncertain, but lies between 2 million and 100 million. If we calculate an average of 60 million species, this means that between 6,000 and 60,000 species disappear each year. If we take a new average of 33,000, this means that 90 species are disappearing every day. Another report indicates that about one million species could go extinct in a few decades.
A 2005 report showed that several known species had already disappeared at least locally in Quebec. From species currently at risk in Quebec include the beluga (to find out more, read the section “Whales/Decrease in the beluga population”), the North Atlantic right whale and the woodland caribou (to find out more , read the section “Woodland Caribou at Risk”). Officially extirpated (locally extirpated) species include the burrower, grizzly bear, Atlantic walrus, and rusty-legged bumblebee. Globally, climate change has led to the disappearance of species, mainly due to the destruction of habitats and invasive alien species (for more information, see the sections “Invasive Alien Species” and “Impacts Of Climate Change On Biodiversity”).
Although this issue is global in scope, its effects are being felt here in Quebec. We cannot claim that the source of the problem is on the other side of the world or that Quebec has no responsibility. At home, Quebec engages in many unsustainable practices, as this page hopes to reveal, including the reduction of the number of wildlife protection officers. These decisions illustrate Quebec’s superficial concern for the environment.
Climate change results from a number of different factors, most of which are anthropogenic, but the real crisis of climate change lies in the associated positive feedback. Positive feedback is a sequence of events that occur consecutively to amplify the initial change. For example, methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that warms the Earth’s temperature. However, warming temperatures are melting permafrost, releasing more methane and thereby warming the Earth further. The increase in carbon molecules, such as methane, contributes to acidification of the oceans, because these absorb carbon from the atmosphere (to find out more, see the section “Acidification of the waters”). This contributes to the “bleaching” or death of corals, which are among the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems.
Another important feedback related to climate change is the arctic sea ice. Sea ice is highly reflective and therefore reflects sunlight instead of absorbing it, resulting in cooler temperatures. However, global warming is accelerating the melting of sea ice, which has the effect of increasing surface temperatures and causing further melting. The effects can be observed right here in Quebec. Warmer temperatures prevented the formation of sufficient sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, resulting in the erratic absence of harp seal pups and other ice-protected animals.
Although these are just two examples, the effects of climate change on biodiversity are very varied. Higher temperatures may increase the risk of forest fires. Overall, climates that are changing at the current rate do not allow sufficient time for species to adapt, leading to loss of biodiversity.
Wetlands have been sacrificed many times in Quebec for development purposes. The fight for Saving Sandy Beach Wood in Hudson from the potential construction of 214 housing units continues. The project involves the backfilling of 4,266 square meters of wetland area. Similarly, the Saint-Laurent Technoparc has undertaken the destruction of wetlands. Since the construction of the REM (to find out more, see the “Privatized public transport” section), increased human disturbances are expected to have lasting effects on the wetland, with the most notable effects occurring during the migratory season. The city’s objective is to make the Technoparc the privileged place for sustainable development and clean technology companies. A developer has already backfilled 75 square meters of wetland in the area.
These examples are in addition to the project to expand the Bury landfill and the tailings dumping project of the Champion Mine in Bloom Lake, both of which can cause damage to surrounding wetlands (for more, see “Lake Destruction by Mining Projects”). It is clear that the protection of wetlands takes a back seat when it comes to industrial and residential development projects, whether they carry social license or not.
Due to their dependence on chemical fertilizers that contain nitrates and phosphates, Quebec farmers are the biggest consumers in North America. Excess fertilizer can contaminate waterways, drinking water and can contribute to excessive algae growth. The Quebec farmers also apply too many pesticides, due to limited regulations and an outdated law governing agronomists that has not been updated since 1945. Neonicotinoids are one of the most widely used pesticides in Canada. They are mainly used to control pests in agricultural crops such as corn and soybeans. They are dangerous for biodiversity, because they spread through plant tissues and can kill insects (especially bees and butterflies) by attacking their central nervous system. These pesticides can last a long time and end up in soils and waterways. Moreover, even at very low doses, they can have negative effects on birds by causing loss of sense of direction and weight loss. Ironically, a 2020 study found that neonicotinoids have no real benefit for corn and soybean crops and therefore have no benefit for farmers. They found that only 5% of these crops were at risk of insect infestation.
In Quebec, a larvicide called Bti has been used to kill mosquitoes, but it has a negative effect on bird species, as the larvicide also kills other insects that these birds need to survive. Studies have shown that due to the use of Bti, some bird species have declined by 30-60% over the past 50 years.
Invasive alien species are species that are somehow introduced into new ecosystems outside their typical geographic range. They are of concern because they can seriously alter the stability of the ecosystem they have invaded, multiple ways : in the absence of 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 in the ‘Lake degradation’ section).
The same observation can be made in Quebec, which has many invasive alien species. Aquatic examples include Eurasian watermilfoil, which, by forming dense colonies, threatens the biodiversity of waterways. Terrestrial examples include the 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 borer.
The complete list of invasive alien species in Quebec is available here.
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 the intensification of agriculture. The copper redhorse, an endangered fish that lives only in Quebec, is in danger of disappearing due to the construction of the Contrecoeur port terminal project which was approved in early 2021. The construction of the wharf, the dredging activities, the installation of the pipeline as well as the increase in maritime traffic and the increase in contaminants are all factors that will negatively influence the survival of the copper redhorse. The project proposes mitigation measures to protect this fish, but biologists do not believe this will have a large positive influence on the fish.
In urban areas, habitat fragmentation caused by development or neglect also impacts biodiversity. In Sainte-Julie, the MELCC is under scrutiny for having agreed to transplant a rare or endangered species of ginseng in order to allow the construction of houses. Citizens fear that the transplant will not be successful and that this plant species will be lost forever if construction is approved. In Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, Rare maple trees located near Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital are in danger due to dirty snow (mixed with garbage and de-icing salts) illegally dumped by the hospital.
Monocultures are also a source of habitat fragmentation. Monoculture blueberry and cranberry fields, while good for local growers, are not good for bees that do not produce honey, resulting in the death of many native bee colonies. Christmas tree production is one of the most intensive types of monocultures, as only four varieties of trees (Balsam, Fraser, Canaan, and Cook) are grown. To make room for these monocultures, multi-species forests or native grasslands are destroyed, reducing the number of birds, insects, mammals, plants and other elements of biodiversity that were previously found. Monocultures also use large amounts of pesticides which can further harm ecosystems and pollute soils and watersheds.
Species protection endangered in Quebec does not seem to be taken seriously. While at the federal level endangered species are protected by the Species at Risk Act, at the provincial level these organisms do not receive the special attention they need and are often sacrificed for economic growth and the construction of residential complexes.
For example, Western Chorus Frog populations in Quebec have decreased over the years – their historic range in Montérégie decreased by more than 90% in 2009 and their range in Outaouais has decreased by 30% since 1993, both largely due to development and intensification of ‘Agriculture. The environmental impact report for the Port of Contrecoeur expansion project confirms that the frog is present in the area, but that the project will not encroach on its habitat, although inventories of this information have not been made available to the public for verification. A residential project in the white oak forest of L’Île-Perrot, where the Western Chorus Frog is also found, has attracted the attention of protesters who demanded federal intervention to protect the species, because the provincial government had failed to do so.
The woodland caribou is another species at risk in Quebec (for more information, see the sections “Disruption Of Caribous Habitat” and “Endangered Woodland Caribou”). A proposed logging road in the Broadback Valley would cross the habitat of three woodland caribou herds. The refusal to make Pipmuakan a protection zone, which is home to one of the southernmost caribou populations in the province, has increased the vulnerability of these animals to the logging industry.
It is obvious that the provincial government must take more measures to protect endangered species in Quebec. It should not be the duty of citizens to demand their protection or to demand federal action.
Eutrophication and invasive alien species both contribute to the loss of biodiversity in Quebec lakes. Eutrophication involves algal blooms that create hypoxic environments, as the inevitable decomposition of phytoplankton absorbs oxygen, reducing its availability in the water (for more on the process of eutrophication, see ” Degradation of lakes”). Hypoxic environments are also known as “dead zones” and are devoid of fishery resources, including fish and shellfish. They hamper biodiversity by reducing species growth and reproduction, increasing physiological stresses and reducing habitat suitability, leading to forced migrations. The area of hypoxic waters in the Saint-Laurent continues to grow.
Invasive alien species can also lead to a loss of biodiversity in Quebec lakes. For example, the Eurasian watermilfoil is known to form large, single-species colonies that can protect the shelter of some animals, but deter some species of fish and lead to a loss of the diversity of aquatic life. In addition, its rapid and dense growth crowds out native plants. In 2018, the plant had been found in the St. Lawrence River as well as in 180 lakes, and 87 other harmful invasive species were documented across the province.
Since the end of the 2010s, the belugas found in the St. Lawrence estuary went from status from “threatened” to that of “endangered”. In 2016, the beluga population in this area was around 900 individuals, however the size of their populations has decreased by 1% since the early 2000s. Studies have shown that the Population declines are linked to a change in migratory patterns caused by warming water temperatures. As a result, whales end up in areas outside their traditional migration routes, where there are few protective measures. Therefore, the whales die from collisions with ships and entanglements with fishing lines. Studies have shown that small fishing boats can also impact whales because even if the collision does not break the bones of the whale, it can cause fatal internal damage.
Water pollution can also impact beluga populations. The belugas are the most affected species since they are exposed to pollutants from the St. Lawrence all year round, compared to species that only frequent the river in summer. Several anthropogenic pollutants have been found in whale carcasses. Contaminants from aluminum smelters in the Saguenay region have been linked to intestinal cancers in belugas. These whales have the highest cancer rate of any other cetacean population in the world.
The decline of woodland caribou populations in Quebec is linked to a variety of factors, with the main threat being habitat degradation caused by logging, oil and gas exploration and extraction, and road networks . Due to the significant modification of habitats, caribou are more vulnerable to wolf predation which causes high mortality rates in these animals. In addition, the more an area is disturbed, the more the caribou must be on the lookout for predators, which leads to a decrease in feeding time. Pipmuacan is a traditional gathering place for the Pessamiulnut and is home to one of the southernmost populations of the endangered woodland caribou. Hazards come primarily from resort construction, logging, and snowmobiles. A 2020 study showed that the number of woodland caribou in this area has been declining since 2012 and the size of the animals has also decreased.
Hunting is another contributing factor to the population decline. Although there is a moratorium on the sport hunting of migratory caribou, the risk of reducing the caribou population is enormous if people continue to do so illegally. Long-term, climate change is expected to impact woodland caribou populations, as extreme weather conditions and events along with the increased frequency of the freeze-thaw cycle will make it more difficult for caribou to find ground food in winter.
The Western Chorus Frog, although not globally endangered, risks disappearing in Quebec due to the destruction of its habitat. These frogs are often found near major cities in Canada. In Quebec, they are found near the suburbs of Gatineau, and in the suburbs east of the Saint Lawrence River. These tiny frogs live in seasonal swamps and once these 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 carries an additional risk of contamination from pesticides or fertilizers), the population of the Western Chorus Frog could be extinct by 2030. A proposed real estate project in L’Île-Perrot would destroy the white oak forest, an area where this frog is found. Protesters are pressuring the federal environment minister to sign an order to protect this habitat and endangered species. Before this call for the signing of the decree, the protectors were ignored by municipal and provincial governments who allowed clearcutting. In addition, this area is home to the largest population of white oaks, a rare species in Quebec.
Another area where construction was to begin is in Gatineau, where a half-billion dollar development project was halted due to the presence of Western Chorus Frogs in a green space. The proponent, who was awaiting approval from the provincial government, argued that this project promotes sustainability and stems urban sprawl, and that it has proposed an alternate area of land for the frog that has higher environmental value. The Port of Montreal expansion project will also threaten Western Chorus Frog populations, which live in wetlands and on the shores of this region, due to the development of shipping. The director of the environment for the Port of Montreal authority argued that the port project would not cause a great loss of frog habitat because it is located away from the project site,but experts believe that the species will still suffer.
In Canada, eight species of wild bees are listed on the Canadian Species at Risk Registry. Three species (rusty-legged bumblebee, gypsy cuckoo bumblebee and macropis cuckoo bumblebee) have all lost at least 50% of their populations and are considered endangered. Climate change is one of the factors influencing the demise of native bees, with increased frequency of events (e.g. heat waves and droughts) pushing bees beyond what they can tolerate . Another factor influencing the disappearance of native bees is the increase in the number of honeybees that many people tend to keep in their gardens (either to produce honey, or as pollination services with economic or food security benefits, or in the belief that this will increase the bee population). The negative impact of the presence of honeybees is that not only are they not threatened with extinction, but they compete with native bees for flowers and pollen. In addition, honey bees can produce 50,000 to 100,000 individuals in a hive, while native bees are solitary.
Wild bees are important for pollinating crops in rural areas, residential gardens, and even rooftop gardens. With fewer native species, plants will be pollinated differently, which will likely negatively impact the entire ecosystem.
Studies have shown that the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on crops such as corn, soybeans, squash and pumpkins affect the behavior, reproduction, and growth of honey bees, bumblebees, and ground bees, which play a crucial role in crop pollination. Studies have also shown that when honeybees ingest the neonicotinoid, they are less likely to groom and eliminate a parasitic mite, which can lead to premature death.
Since the 1970s, the birds that rely exclusively on native grasslands for breeding have declined by 87%, swallows and swifts have declined by 59%, shorebirds by 55%, and 20% of seabirds found in Canadian waters are threatened species. A significant factor in this decline in bird populations is due to climate change, with the interval between spring plant growth and the arrival of bird species having increased by one day per year on average. Although many birds have been able to adapt to these changes,those that have not are missing a critical window to find good nesting sites and feed on early spring insects. An increase in extremely cold winters in Quebec, caused the reproduction of migratory Canada geese to drop from 192,000 in 2016 to 112,000 in 2018. In addition, the extension of a spring period in 2018 left many breeding sites covered in snow until the end of June.
Habitat loss is another factor influencing bird decline. We observe a trend towards increased monoculture food crops that dries up swamps, destroys forests and removes important feeding and nesting sites for birds. In spring, cornfields are bare to the ground, providing no camouflage for birds that are accustomed to nesting in hay three feet high. The Green Coalition, which has been fighting for many years, loses in court the development of the Technoparc area. The City’s objective is to make it a privileged place for companies specializing in sustainable development and clean technologies. However, it is an ecosystem that is home to over 80 species of breeding birds, including herons, raptors, songbirds and ducks, and attracts many people for birdwatching. However, the city of Montreal recently announced that it will protect certain lands of the technoparc.
The increase in the number of glass buildings in the province is a growing problem in the decline of bird populations. In Gatineau, an increasing number of birds have died in recent years after colliding with glass buildings. In Canada, collisions with glass can kill up to 16 to 42 million birds per year.
The quality of Quebec’s lakes has deteriorated over time, due to eutrophication, invasive species and acidification (to learn more, read the “Acidification” section). First of all, eutrophication is a natural process by which an increase in phosphorus in the lake leads to the proliferation of phytoplankton. When it dies, it sinks to the bottom and decomposes – a process that requires oxygen. Over time, a eutrophic lake becomes less transparent, more oxygen-depleted, and more sediment-filled. Although this phenomenon tends to occur in any lake over time, human activities that release phosphorus in the water accelerate this process. Significant anthropogenic causes include fertilizer use, shoreline alteration, discharge of sewage into waterways, and reduction of vegetation cover. Lac Saint-Augustin and Memphrémagog are just two Quebec lakes that are undergoing accelerated eutrophication.
There is also the issue of invasive species. Invasive species create an imbalance in the native ecosystem, as they increase competition for resources. Invasive species in Quebec lakes include Eurasian watermilfoil, common reed, round goby, snakehead, giant hogweed, zebra mussel, Japanese knotweed, flowering rush, loosestrife purple and goldfish.
Canada throws away 3.3 million tons of plastic each year where only 9% is recycled, the rest goes to landfill which is discharged into water systems that may harm marine animals. In 2014, researchers discovered microbeads at the bottom of the St. Lawrence River that threaten fish, birds and wildlife that mistakenly consume them. The study revealed that in one liter of sediment taken from the St. Lawrence River, there were 1000 pieces of microplastics. The St. Lawrence River is one of the worst rivers in the world in terms of microplastic pollution. Microplastics have also been found in Lake St. Charles. Two thirds of the samples analyzed were microfibers (from clothes) from the nearby sewage treatment plant which does not filter all the particles released by washing clothes.
Besides, the St. Lawrence River contains other pollutants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), mercury, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Most of this accumulation of pollutants in the St. Lawrence comes from urban wastewater and agricultural waste.
Toxic blue algae are becoming a growing problem in Quebec waters. Increased rainfall which results in water runoff and very hot summers cause an overabundance of cyanobacteria in the waters which can be harmful to human health.
- https://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/ water/eco_aqua/toxic/contaminants-emergent-Quebec-meridional.pdf
Policy concerns about flood maps indicate that they are created arbitrarily and there is no mention of governments helping to create appropriate infrastructure. Residents of Pierrefonds, whose area has been placed on the flood map, saw their property values go down and insurance rates go up. They can’t even get permits to do minor renovations, improvements or landscaping on their property. This area has not experienced extreme flooding since 2017.
Updated maps show flood risk along the Mille Îles, Prairies, but they could not be adopted for months, which means that construction can continue in these areas, while citizens wonder if their homes are in a flood zone and will remain uncertain about the consequences of floods on insurance rates .
- https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/clouds-faulty- flood-maps-1.5201127
Companies in Montreal’s industrial sector pay only a fraction of what it costs in Toronto and other major North American cities to use and dump drinking water into the sewer system. A typical large Montreal company pays approximately $185,660 for its annual water consumption in Anjou, compared to $960,000 for the same consumption in Toronto. Industries, businesses and institutions use 62% of Montreal’s water, but pay only 55%, while residents use 38%, but pay 45%. $70 per million liters of water for companies that use water as part of their product. It costs $2.50 per million gallons of water for companies that use water in their manufacturing process. Also, companies in Quebec pump billions of liters of water per year, but it is difficult to have precise figures, because the water consumption of companies is an industrial secret, it is therefore becoming difficult for the public to have access to the quantity of water pumped by companies. A water tax was proposed in 2019, but it would apply to homeowners and residences, not industries.
Around 31.4% (3 times more than 40 years ago) of fish stocks have been affected by overfishing. In addition to climate change altering the state of the oceans, overfishing is transforming the population of fish in the ocean and their geographic distribution. This can increase the exposure of fish to pollutants, thereby increasing the level of methylmercury present in many fish (e.g. cod or Atlantic bluefin tuna) consumed by humans. Over the past decades, Canada has lost half of the total fish, mostly due to overfishing. In the St. Lawrence River, the most well-known case of overfishing has affected cod, of which the population has decreased by nearly 100%. In 2019, the shortage of fish due to overfishing was so severe that a IGA of Saint-Laurent, in Montreal, had to close its fish department for a while.
Unfortunately, overfishing in Quebec does not contribute to feeding the population, because most of the fish caught is exported, and what is consumed in the province is imported from elsewhere.
Bloom Ore Iron Lake Quebec says that to store the 872 million tons of tailings it will produce over the next few years of operation, it must destroy lakes, streams, wetlands and wooded areas. At least eight lakes will be destroyed. Unfortunately, Quebec does not prohibit these actions, and until recently the province has given the green light for the storage of tailings from the Bloom Lake mine
The New World graphite mine project, 2.6 km long, is located in an ecologically sensitive and tourist area in the watershed of the Lac Taureau Regional Park. It is the largest and closest recreational body of water north of Montreal. This project will discharge its mineral waste into the Eau Morte stream which, after seven hours, will flow into the Matawin River and Taureau Lake. The water may be contaminated with acid due to the 400 tons of chemicals that are estimated to be used annually in the mining project.
Increased frequency of storms, mainly due to climate change, accelerates coastal degradation in the province. The anthropization of the coasts, industrial pollution and the circulation of off-road vehicles are other causes. It increases the vulnerability of people who live on the coasts and along the St. Lawrence River, because more than 2100 kilometers of coastline are threatened. Over the past ten years, the annual rate of erosion on the coasts of eastern Quebec has varied from 0.5 to 2 meters.
Private watercraft are having an impact on Quebec’s coasts, as an increase in the number and size of watercraft is found on the water. The impact of energetic waves stirs up sediment at the bottom of lakes, which can increase the amount of phosphorus in the water.
The environmental impacts of motor boats are numerous, they can promote the growth of algae and the expulsion of sediment, which can have an impact on water quality. Additionally, chemicals used to clean, protect and operate boats can leach into the water and negatively impact marine ecosystems.
On Lake Memphremagog, which is an important reservoir of drinking water, nautical activities can affect the water quality of the lake. Although the Quebec’s Environmental Quality Act states that the province can ban or limit the use of motorboats on a lake or reduce it to protect the quality of the environment, people living on Lake Memphremagog have been advised that the lakes are governed by federal law. This means that municipalities in Quebec have no control over boat activity on the lakes.
An assessment of the government of Canada has given It’s approval to the expansion of the Contrecoeur container port, which is to be built downstream of Montreal. However, concerned citizens have raised environmental issues that may have been overlooked during the environmental assessment. The project involves the excavation of over 750,000 cubic meters of beaches near the area. Moreover, erosion was not part of the impact study. In addition, marine species, such as the copper redhorse , found only in Quebec in a small area of the St. Lawrence and Richelieu rivers, will be affected by this project. Maritime traffic will destroy and/or modify the habitat by the increase of contaminants caused by maritime activity and will influence the reproductive system of the species.population Western Chorus Frog that lives on the banks and in the wetlands of the proposed project will also be threatened due to the development of maritime transport.
- 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/green-light-for-the-contrecur-port-terminal
The acidification of water refers to the decrease in its pH. Since industrialization, the acidity of the oceans has increased by 30%. One of the causes of this increase is the deposition of nitrogen and sulfur from ship emissions, and Quebec does not seem to be in a hurry to reduce the number of ships on its waters. A more pressing cause of acidification is the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide by the waters. We must remember that Quebec’s emissions have not stopped increasing (to find out more, read “Greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase”). Acidifying molecules can also precipitate and fall as acid rain.
Acidification can cause immense damage to ecosystems. This is because organisms need specific pH levels to function properly. An acidifying ocean can seriously harm phytoplankton, which is responsible for producing 60% of Earth’s oxygen. It has also been found that crustaceans exhibited higher mortality in low pH waters. In the St. Lawrence River, this means that the lobsters, northern shrimp, crabs and oysters are particularly vulnerable. Without a sufficient reduction in our emissions, marine species in Quebec will be seriously threatened.
In Quebec, part of the drinking water is contaminated with lead, but another part is also contaminated with PFAS. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are man-made chemicals that can have serious adverse effects on human health, including low birth weight, effects on the immune system, disruptions in thyroid hormones, and even the cancer. Lake Memphremagog, which crosses the border between Quebec and Vermont, is a source of drinking water for 175,000 Quebec citizens contaminated by this substance. The source is believed to be leachate from the Newport, Vermont sewage treatment plant, and a four-year moratorium was put in place in 2019 to end the contamination. However, because this is the second time that PFAS have been detected in the lake despite the moratorium, citizens are fighting for a permanent moratorium which has not yet been accepted.
For lead contamination, the method used by Quebec for testing has been deemed imprecise as it requires the flushing of water from faucets for five minutes before collecting the sample. This greatly underestimates the lead concentration in tap water, shown by an independent study that analyzed 466 samples in 96 municipalities, showing a lead concentration exceeding the limit between 2015 and 2018, which was then 10ppb. To Montreal, 58% of the samples showed levels exceeding the new Canadian limit of 5ppb. More recently, several First Nations schools and daycares found their tap water had lead levels above the limit, although many were not notified until months after the results were discovered. Worse still, the solution they were offered with, was to let the water run for 10 minutes every day before the schools opened. It is important to note that despite the existence of an official limit, no blood lead levels have been identified as safe. Besides, side effects include problems with learning and attention, decreased intellectual ability, and behavioral changes.
In June 2018, Quebec announced a water management plan that seemed to close the door to the idea of exporting water in bulk. Before that, Quebec had a major problem with this issue. For example, in 2017, only nine companies collected 2,084,284,500 liters of water and only paid $145,899.92 in royalties. This is due to the fact that, since 2010, water charges have been $0.07 per 1,000 liters for companies pumping more than 75,000 liters per day. This rate is far too low for a resource that is a common good, and which will be increasingly scarce with climate change. Moreover, the export of water in large quantities jeopardizes aquatic ecosystems and hydrological basins.
Despite the 2018 plan, water continues to be exported en masse. In 2019, there were at least 18 companies withdrawing more than 75,000 liters of water per day (see list here). This means that at least 1,350,000 liters were extracted per day for only $94.50. In addition, the Ministry of the Environment conceals most of the information, including the exact amounts pumped and their uses. This is simply no way to treat such a valuable resource.
Quebec flood map from 2017 to 2019 shows areas affected by spring flooding. Although most flooding appears to occur in agricultural fields along the coastline, an increasing number of residential areas are also prone to spring flooding. Although information on the issue in Quebec is scarce, an interesting report that studied the relationship between urban sprawl and flooding on a global scale found that urban sprawl could worsen the effects of flooding, which are ultimately caused by climate change. Urban sprawl refers to the expansion of low-density urban development, where homes and businesses are further apart than in city centers. The report explains that urban sprawl has led to the expansion of development into marshes, wetlands and floodplains. Not only does this mean that more people live in places prone to flooding, but the concretization made it increasingly difficult for floodwaters to flow, thus exacerbating flooding. Given the recent spring flooding in Quebec (for more information, see the “Sea Level Rise” section), any worsening of the situation could have serious consequences.
According to a report by the Montreal Metropolitan Community (CMM), among the CMM and neighboring municipalities, 94% of workers mainly use a car to get to work. According to Mayor Valérie Plante, this is due to the fact that bordering municipalities are not required to respect the same density rules as CMM, resulting in low-density, car-dependent neighborhoods. What is needed is better urban planning and better public transport infrastructure to discourage the use of private vehicles. Meanwhile, the Government of Quebec continues to prioritize road expansion in detriment of mass transit, while the budget allocated to mass transit is almost half that of asphalt (Rad discusses this at greater length in ” Endless Road Expansion “). A study conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation revealed that young Montrealers are reluctant to use public transit, because it is unreliable and services are not flexible.
To combat these shortcomings, Quebec must invest in public transportation. More frequent timetables and more extensive networks could help metro, bus and train systems. It might even discourage the use of individual vehicles enough to reduce traffic, which would contribute to the reliability of the bus service. Furthermore, the government cannot continue to privatize public transport, which could discourage Its use by raising fares for users and offering routes guided by profit rather than public interest . For example, the REM project may interfere with the planned expansion of the line of blue metro, as the two lines will now share similar routes, a feature the private REM has conveniently overlooked. As well, the COVID-19 pandemic will have greatly affected the income of transit companies, thus causing them to reduce their service and further contributing to the problem.
Electric vehicles are presented as the final solution to Quebec’s environmental problems, while the negative effects of electric vehicles are conveniently overlooked. The main environmental problem of electric vehicles comes from the lithium required for their batteries. In 2016, a leak at the Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium plant in Tagong led to the death of fish, cows and yaks that floated down the river after drinking contaminated water. To extract lithium in South America, a hole is drilled in the salt pans to pump the mineral-rich brine to the surface. After 12 to 18 months of evaporation and filtration, the lithium can be extracted. In total, it takes about 500,000 gallons of water to produce one ton of lithium. For reference, the battery in a Tesla Model S contains approximately 12 kilograms of lithium, which requires approximately 41,670 gallons of water. Evaporation ponds can also leak hazardous minerals into the environment. In Nevada, fish 150 miles downstream were affected by the process of lithium extraction. Recycling lithium batteries is also extremely difficult for a number of reasons, which ultimately makes recycling them 5 times more expensive than mining new lithium.
All this being said, electric vehicles remain a solution. However, it cannot be considered the perfect solution to reduce our impact on the environment – more effort is needed to compensate for the disadvantages of electric vehicles. In addition, we need to reduce the overall consumption of personal vehicles by shifting to increased use of public transport.
For more information on electric vehicles, follow these links:
- https://www.wired .co.uk
As of 2019, Air Canada no longer offers flights in many regions of Quebec, and underserved regions are looking to the government to provide aid to more regional airlines. The problem with airline companies is that they offer regional services with small carriers using aging aircraft that are not efficient in terms of energy consumption and heavily produce air and noise pollution. In addition, these companies offer services from Montreal to Quebec, which represents a one-hour trip by plane. A return trip between these two destinations would contribute to the emission of 82.2 KG of CO2 per passenger. In Quebec’s “Plan for a Green Economy 2020“, the government has earmarked $3.6 billion to reduce emissions from the transportation industry, but there is no question of reducing emissions from air transport, which represents 2.5% of global CO2 emissions.
Many passengers in Quebec go from Montreal to Quebec with VIA Rail . However, this service experiences frequent delays, timetables are inconvenient and the projected time between stations is no more efficient than taking the car. A survey conducted from January 2017 to March 2019 estimated that one in three trains crossing Quebec arrived more than an hour late. The reasons for these delays are that 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 train” plan, proposed by VIA Rail, would build new tracks or reallocate unused tracks, a project that would cost, according to the latest estimates, more than $12 billion. However, the high-frequency trains targeted by VIA Rail would run faster and would make it possible to arrive at their destination about thirty minutes before the current trains. In Quebec, the proposed plan would include an additional station at Trois-Rivières.
There was a reduction in interregional transport in Quebec, but little or no funding has been granted for this.
More than 6302 km of railways are located in Quebec. 73% of these routes are under federal jurisdiction and 27% are under provincial jurisdiction. Regulations relating to the transport of goods and infrastructure for unloading or delivering goods are weaker in Quebec than those in Canada, which require railways to transport any product that can be legally transported. The use of railways depends on policies, available technologies and the availability of infrastructure. Eight years after the derailment of a train carrying crude oil and damaging the town of Lac-Mégantic is still waiting for the bypass project, the construction of which is supposed to begin in 2022. All this while the railway continues to cross the city, endangering the lives of citizens.
The lack of additional infrastructure can also harm the local economy in the event of damage to the rails or blockages, as was the case in 2020 when First Nations people from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory blocked the tracks. This disrupted freight transportation, resulted in layoffs of rail workers, and delays that cost businesses thousands of dollars in additional costs.
Although the city of Montreal has made efforts to be more green, It’s dependency on cars does not help the city to achieve an adequate reduction in GHGs. Road transportation 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, with more than 8.9 million vehicles. And that number is growing every year. The Government of Quebec plans to develop 100 kilometers of reserved lanes on major highways that would be reserved for buses, at certain times, to encourage public transport. However, these lanes will not restrict cars, as electric and hybrid vehicles will be able to use them. According to experts, this plan will only further encourage the use of private vehicles, as there will be more opportunities and space to drive.
The extension of the STM blue line in Montreal to Saint-Léonard and Anjou has been a promise for more than thirty years. Now that it is underway, the project is delayed by at least 18 months due to the construction of the REM de l’Est in this sector. This project is expected to cost $600 million. Initially, construction of this extension was placed on an accelerated track under Bill 61, but the CAQ government abandoned this project. The Saint-Léonard sector has been waiting for the extension of the blue line for a long time, because this project would bring an enlargement of the sidewalks, 200 trees, more public spaces, but all of this has been postponed because of the delays. The government of the CAQ also expressed concerns about the construction of the REM which would be built in an area similar to that of the blue line, as it does not want to duplicate the service, which would force the city of Montreal to reassess It’s plan to optimize the project. It is likely that this extension project will not be ready on the scheduled date, i.e. in 2026.
The number of SUVs purchased in Quebec continues to increase. The sale of these vehicles represents 70% market share in the province. According to data from the Ministry of the Environment, the number of SUVs in Quebec has jumped more than 260% since 1990. This increase in the number of extra cars on the road increases traffic congestion, which doubles travel times and because of their size, they contribute to an increase of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Internal Energy Agency, the manufacturing of SUVs is the second factor in the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010, after the electricity sector. However, there are no plans to reduce advertising for these vehicles and SUV sales will continue to increase.
In order to reduce emissions in the transportation sector, Quebec should encourage I’ts citizens to adopt active modes of transportation such as walking, cycling, in-line skating, skating, etc. However, at least in the Montreal area, 94% of people primarily use a car to get to work. A study on Montreal’s students found that while 75% of them hope for a multimodal future, many are discouraged from using active transportation due to their vulnerability to traffic, accidents and weather conditions. Although the weather is essentially out of control, the other two factors that limit young people’s participation in active transportation can be corrected through better urban planning.
In 2019, 71 pedestrians and 8 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents, 210 pedestrians and 56 cyclists were seriously injured, and more than 4,000 others were slightly injured. With these statistics, it is no wonder that citizens do not feel safe. To combat this phenomenon, initiatives must be taken to facilitate active transportation. However, it is possible to have poorly planned initiatives if the population is not consulted – a panoply of projects aimed at facilitating active transportation across Quebec have failed. The increase in cycle paths, the development of intersections, the lowering of speed limits, the integration of multimodal networks, the construction of chaucidous… although these are good ideas in theory, the consultation is essential to identify the best solutions to today’s transport problems. Not to mention that low-density urbanism depends on the use of personal vehicles, and therefore high-density urbanism must be given priority (for more on this, read “The Endless Road Expansion”) .
Quebec is notably devoid of tolls on the roads. With the exception of highway 30 and Highway 25 bridge, there are virtually no tolls on Quebec roads. Toll rates vary between $1.20 and $3.46 (for those with a customer account, otherwise it’s $9.24) for Category 1 vehicles. At both tolls, electric vehicles are exempt. This creates an incentive to drive electric vehicles, which is in line with the 2030 Plan for a Green Economy. However, since there are only two tolls in Quebec, the incentive remains quite weak.
This is the case even without driving an electric vehicle. Raising tolls can not only ease roadwork expenses (read more about this in Endless Road Expansion), but it can also serve to encourage Quebecers to switch to public transit. This may be particularly important given that Quebec’s carbon tax is arguably low (for more, read “Carbon Tax Not High Enough To Incentivize Behavior Change”). Quebec drivers are barely taxed, with the exception of the 3¢ per liter imposed on Montreal drivers. Overall, Quebec is seriously lagging behind in encouraging sustainable travel. Increasing the number of toll roads could be a simple first step.
In recent years, the question of the privatization of public transit in Quebec has been raised. Specifically, about the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) project, a light rail transit in Montreal that will be owned and operated by the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec (CDPQ, which manages Quebec pension plans) for 99 years. The project is criticized because it is financed by the private sector, the SCFP arguing that the CDPQ is more concerned with making profits than serving the public good. This means that fares are likely to increase, the public will be less involved in the decision-making process and that social priorities such as the reduction of greenhouse gases will be neglected. CUPE members will also suffer, as privatization will put downward pressure on wages and working conditions, with some maintenance work even contracted out to reduce CDPQ expenses. Moreover, It’s integration into Montreal’s current public transit system will make it difficult to expand public transit networks and will also harm connectivity between existing networks.
Overall, the privatization of public transit does not benefit the public. By creating more barriers for users, it can discourage the use of public transit. At a time when we need to induce ecological change, the privatization of public transport is a step backwards.
Although Quebec’s Green Economy Plan 2030 focuses on reducing emissions in the transportation sector, Quebec’s strategy is to electrify industry rather than incentivize drivers to use public transport. This is clearly reflected in the fact that Quebec’s user fees remain comparatively high. For example, the cost of a single bus ticket in Montreal is $3.50. Compared to major cities in other provinces, this is the highest fare for a single bus pass, on par with Calgary. A monthly bus pass in Montreal costs $90.50. Compared to major cities in other provinces, prices in Montreal are much better, with lower costs than a monthly pass at Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. Nevertheless, a study conducted in the United States shows that the average price of a bus pass in major American cities is US$67.07, or CAD 81.12.
The Montreal ARTM has a habit of raising fares. In 2013, protesters denounced the $3 bus fare. Between 2004 and 2014, single bus fares have increased by 20%. From 2013 to 2021, the costs of a single bus pass have increased by 16.6%. Apparently, these continuous increases reflect inflation rates, a consequence of the privatization of public transport (read more about this in the section “Privatized Public Transport”). If Quebec aims to reduce emissions in the transportation sector, increasing the cost of public transit is not the way to achieve it.
The Government of Quebec seems to devote a lot of effort to road infrastructure – perhaps too much. In the 2021-2031 Quebec Infrastructure Plan (PQI), Quebec devotes $28 billion to asphalt, i.e. road repair and construction, compared to $12.8 billion in public transport (read here). This represents a 3% drop in spending on public transit. In the 2021-2022 Quebec Infrastructure Plan, $2.6 billion is invested to “ensure the good condition of the road network.” the flexibility and reliability of the public transport network as well as the increase in It’s subsidies to reduce user fares (read about this in “Use Fares That Are Too High”). This would encourage more motorists to turn to public transport, which would decongest the roads and make the construction of new lanes unnecessary.
Urban sprawl is also largely responsible for Quebecers’ dependence on personal vehicles. Poor planning of low-density and far-flung suburbs leaves residents dependent on using their personal vehicle to get to work. Of the 82 municipalities of the Montreal Metropolitan Community and the other 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 contributes significantly to Quebec’s greenhouse gas emissions. With better support, building new roads could finally be a thing of the past.
In 2019, a project of the Yacht-Club Saint-Benoît caused concern among residents of Sargent Bay and Lake Memphremagog, as 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 bank) to avoid paying rental fees. Residents who live in this area feared that their quality of life would suffer from the increase in the number of boats at the water’s edge. Although the project was rejected by a judge, the municipality was at fault, because it had initially allowed the realization of this project and had granted permits to the Yacht Club of Saint-Benoît.
Speed limits for private boats and ships in Canada, particularly along the Gulf of St. Lawrence, fluctuate depending on whether or not a whale is spotted, which can cause inconsistencies among drivers. In 2019, six ships, including a luxury yacht, were fined for exceeding the speed limit, before the government reduced it, which can increase boat traffic around sites frequented by Atlantic whales. Furthermore, although there is a limit inside the protected areas, there is no consistency for speed limits around these areas, which puts the whales at risk of being struck.
One of the resource most consumed by government organizations is paper. Ironically, even with the use of computers, paper consumption has actually increased within governments. This is one resource, among many others, that require additional tree cutting. In Canada, every minute, an area of the boreal forest (the size of seven NHL hockey rinks) is felled. Instead of protecting the remaining forest areas, the Ministry of Forests plans to double forestry activities by 2080. An increase of nearly 15% in logging activities is expected over the next five years. In addition, Pierre Dufour, the Minister of Forests, stated that cutting more trees would be a solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. His argument was that Quebec would increase the amount of wood harvested (which would store carbon in the future) and open more forests to exploitation (younger trees can absorb more carbon) and increase government incentives. In addition, the increase in forestry activities may also lead to the exploitation of forests, which according to the Forest Stewardship Council are meant to be managed sustainably. In reality, forest areas are usually left littered with wood residues and tree trunks.
With the increase in logging, comes an increase in additional waste of forest products that are not used. Quebec factories produce nearly four million tons of bark a year, but only half of that bark is exported or used as a by-product , and Quebec’s forest industry has nowhere to put it.
According to a study conducted by IRIS, jobs in the forestry sector have seen a striking decline in recent years. Between 2001 and 2018, jobs fell from 94,000 to 59,900, not counting self-employed forestry workers. These losses include a decrease of 53% in logging, 37% in paper manufacturing and 27% in wood manufacturing. While the low loss in woodmaking can be attributed to a number of factors, the loss in papermaking can be at least partially related to electronization. More importantly, the loss of jobs in logging can be attributed to the automation of the forest industry. An episode of Radio-Canada’s “Green Week” titled “ Automatisation de la machinerie forestière” explores the speed and extent of automation in the forest industry. From one worker driving two vehicles, to the projected possibility of trucks driving themselves, it looks like the need for employees in the industry will continue to decline with increasing automation, coupled with a significant shortage of labor.
In addition, the objectives of the forest industry are changing, as today, It’s sole purpose is to generate economic growth and not to provide employment. (for more, read “Corporate Control Over The Logging Industry”).
In 2020, Quebec announced a major expansion of protected areas in Eeyou Istchee, the homeland of the Cree, which would increase the area from 12% to 24%. However, this expansion does not provide sufficient protection in the Broadback region, one of the last intact forests in the Cree territory, which serves as a refuge for the Boreal woodland caribou and which is one of the most carbon-dense places in the world. 30,000 km of logging roads mark the landscape around this area, making Broadback likely to be one of them. The addition of protected areas in regions reserved for the forest industry also raises fears in the forest industry, which denounces possible job losses in the industry, while for the First Nations, it is an issue of protecting their ancestral lands.
Corporations, which continue to dominate logging practices in many Canadian forests, without the strong and restrictive protections that government intervention can provide, risk operating in a non-sustainable way and not respecting Firsts Nation’s rights. This is also the case for the Attikamek communities, to which the Ministère des Forêts grants financial assistance to help them participate in various forestry consultations. However, recommendations or development plans from First Nations are often ignored and forest areas are often cut down no matter what. Moreover, when indigenous peoples are involved in forest management, they are not recognized for their achievements over the years.
The increase in residential construction and the development and renovation of infrastructure in the province have increased the loss of urban forests. Construction in forested areas not only reduces vegetation cover, it also damages tree roots, which can persist for many years and reduce the chances of tree regrowth. A forest is being cut in Saint-Jérôme to make way for a residential project that has been classified by developers as an “ecological district” In Point Claire, the Cadillac Fairview Corporation, in collaboration with Ivanhoé Cambridge of the Fairview shopping center, offered to convert the Fairview Forest into a 50 hectare development. This forest area is not only an important green space for citizens, but it is also home to various types of trees and wildlife, including foxes, owls, snakes, and raptors. Furthermore, cutting the forest would only intensify the heat island effect, which is already a problem in the Fairview area.
Many projects resulting in the loss of urban forests are carried out without public consultation. For example, at the entrance to Jean-Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, more than 500 trees will be cut down to make way for a 1.2 million square meter development park. Besides the loss of forest, citizens are concerned about increased aircraft noise which was previously blocked by forest cover. However, the citizens were not consulted, as they only learned of the existence of the project when the deforestation had already started.
Also, even when there is a public consultation, it does not always have an effect in favor of the citizens. For example, in 2008, the forest in the Lake Kénogami region was declared a protected area, but in December 2020 the trees were cut anyway. Residents of Kénogami are fighting to protect the forest, which is home to trees over 400 years old, and say the ministry’s efforts to consult the public is not achieving anything.
In Quebec, pulp and paper mills are at the top of the list of the most polluting industries in the province, emitting millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Between 2012 and 2019, the Domtar paper mill nearly doubled its greenhouse gas emissions, from 70,000 to 130,000 tons during this period. The Westrock paper company, in Trois-Rivières, issues 1.25 million tons of greenhouse gases per year, more than the refineries in Quebec and Montreal.
Sawdust particles from sawing become airborne and can be dangerous if deposited in people’s lungs. The sawmills also emit toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. In addition, if they are located near water, runoff from sawmills can harm the biodiversity of these areas.
The increase in logging leaves behind degraded forests and disturbed soils that reduce the potential for forest growth. Therefore, It pushes the forest-dwelling caribou towards extinction. In Charlevoix, there are less than twenty caribou in 2020 and the Gaspésie Woodland Caribou, whose population was around 150 individuals ten years ago, is no longer than fifty in the region. In Val-D’Or there remains less than 10 caribou. In 2018, the Quebec government refused to fund efforts to protect woodland caribou. Environmentalists claim that the short-term gain from the logging industry does not come close to parks that are not only home to caribou, but will also attract tourists and hunters year-round.
Moreover, when the government rejected 83 proposals for protected areas in 2020, it is clear that it has prioritized the protection of the forest industry over the protection of fauna and flora (for more, read “Protected Areas Only In the North”). Pipmuakan, which has been excluded from government protected areas, is home to 140 caribou and represents one of the southernmost populations. In February 2022, two Innu communities in Quebec sued the Government of Quebec, judging that the province had failed to fulfill its caribou protection responsibilities in the Lac-Saint-Jean and Côte-Nord region. Clearly, Woodland Caribous are literally being sacrificed in the name of logging.
The Quebec government allows the logging industry to establish the market value of timber cut on public lands, costing the province millions of dollars in logging royalties because companies fail to report up to 25% the invoice’s. Since there is no official government intervention in the forest industry, sampling, the weight of wood handled, the quality of wood being declared lower than the reality are all ways in which companies falsify the figures to make an additional profit. Timber prices have increased three times more than at the start of 2021 and yet timber producers are not seeing the benefits. However the Quebec government does not want to discuss forest management to regulate the price and discuss the distribution of wealth among private owners. In addition to the increase in the price of wood, the wood does not stay in the province to be used by Quebecers, but it is exported to the United States, which causes a shortage of wood in Quebec.
Environmentalists are protesting this lack of management of Quebec’s forests due to the destruction of biodiversity in the region. They claim that the Ministry of Forests is too concerned with the economic motives of the forest rather than the environment..
In 2018, the Trump administration imposed a 20% tariff on Canadian lumber after allegations that the Canadian wood industry unfairly subsidized. The argument, essentially, is that Quebec logging takes place on public lands with cheap harvesting costs, while American timber is harvested from private land. Quebec wood is therefore less expensive than American wood, so that the rate put in place puts the two suppliers on an equal footing. However, in 2020, the World Trade Organization ruled that the tariffs were unfounded because softwood lumber from Ontario and Quebec is not subsidized by Canada, which has led to a reduction of customs duties by 9% in December.
If Quebec denies subsidizing the industry, the government still seems to subsidize it, only it does it indirectly. For example, between 2019 and 2020, the Quebec government spent $100 million for the construction of forest roads under the guise of multi-purpose roads. By claiming that they can be used by anyone, Quebec claims not to subsidize the industry, thus avoiding customs tariffs in the United States. Meanwhile, an episode released by RADIO-CANADA shows that these roads are truly in the middle of nowhere, with nothing nearby but Gouin’s Potato. Although the roads can be used by anyone, it is clear that their primary intention is to serve the forest industry.
In March 2021, Quebec will have 468,000 km of forest roads, enough to circle the planet 10.5 times. This is after the documentary L’Erreur Boréal that Quebec logging companies have begun to reduce the size of their logging sites to make the landscape more visually appealing, but this required the construction of logging roads to access the new sites. However, this has serious consequences for the environment. Not only do dispersed sites require additional travel and therefore increase the diesel consumption, but they also seriously harm biodiversity. Unlike a clear-cut forest that over time might eventually regrow, paved roads do not allow trees to regrow. Thus, forest roads mark the forests of Quebec. In addition, their construction can also affect animals. In 2020, a 126-kilometer logging road proposed in Cree territory would have cut in half the habitat of three herds of caribou, a species whose numbers are already in decline. Bare roads help predators, making their prey increasingly vulnerable. Even today, the construction of new forest roads continues. In May 2021, a logging road in Charlesbourg is expected to undergo an expansion that would threaten nine wetlands, ten terrestrial environments and seven rivers, representing a threatened area of 114,000 square meters.
For more information, visit these websites :
Northeast of Lac Saint-Jean, a logging project is proposed to begin this summer. The Péribonka River, where the project would take place, has been proposed as a protection zone to protect 80 km of the river which would include a rare forest ecosystem in Quebec. This proposal was one of 83 protected area projects that were rejected by the Legault government, which authorized logging in this area. Ironically, the government granted subsidies for the development of ecotourism and adventure tourism in Quebec, while the logging project would take place in the place intended for recreational tourism and would destroy the tourism potential along the Péribonka River and Lake Tchitogama. Moreover, roads and infrastructure will need to be built to access the areas where the trees will be cut. However, logging projects in this region have been put on hold this year by the Quebec government, which is committed to registering this region as a protected area.
The logging project also destroys and reduces the quality of popular hiking trails, such as near the Récré-eau des Quinze trails in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Clearcutting of this area was said to be necessary due to spruce budworm infestation.
Residents of the Écodomaine des Forges were surprised to see trees cut by Hydro-Québec along a bike path. Hydro-Quebec said the trees were too tall and could impact power lines. The project had been postponed due to the pandemic and citizens were not consulted again.
Quebec was required by the Aichi Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to protect 17% of land and freshwater representative of Quebec’s overall biodiversity by 2020. Thus, Quebec has undertaken to protect 20% of the Plan Nord territory (including at least 12% in the boreal forest north of the 49th parallel) and to establish a representative network of protected areas covering at least 10% of the estuary and the gulf of the St. Lawrence. As of January 1, 2021, Quebec had protected 17.03% of its territory, but notably lacked protected areas under the northern limit of forestry allocations.
First of all, this area is not representative of the biodiversity of Quebec if most of the protected area is in the North. Worse still, the chosen protected areas conveniently allow logging activities to continue undisturbed. Quebec is doing the extraordinary by seeming to respect It’s international environmental commitments and by simultaneously giving priority to cutting down forests rather than protecting them. By strategically protecting areas that do not interfere with the province’s economic objectives, Quebec masks It’s unsustainable practices under the guise of environmental protection.
In 2011, 0% of the residue biomass had It’s potential energy realized. In forestry, the residues refer to the tree debris that remains after logging. This residual material is apparently what is used nowadays to generate biomass energy. If the increase in the use of residues is impressive, Quebec apparently wants to go a step further by cutting down white birch, red maple and aspen for energy purposes, thereby increasing the harvest of unwanted trees.
Cutting down trees for the sole purpose of burning them is by no means sustainable, and burning biomass is not considered a sustainable option. Wood debris are essential for the habitats of hundreds of species, including woodpeckers and fungi. Cutting down trees also releases the carbon dioxide stored in their tissues. What is worrying is that this carbon dioxide is not taken into account in the inventories of greenhouse gas emissions, because it is assumed that it will be absorbed by the forest or by the necessary reforestation. This assumption is misleading for two reasons. First, if trees continue to be logged, forests will not be able to absorb all the carbon that has been released. Second, the Government of Quebec does not check how many trees are replanted. Although biomass energy can be a step in the right direction, better management is needed to ensure its sustainability.
The logging industry is almost entirely controlled by foresters and corporations rather than the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks. Moreover, Quebec’s forests are a public asset and must be carefully protected to help maintain biodiversity and mitigate climate change. Yet the ministry, which counts more than 2,000 forestry employees, is subject to industry. An episode of Radio-Canada entitled “Money Grows on Trees” revealed the secrets of the logging industry. Firstly, it seems that around 25% of the wood cut goes unaccounted for and reforestation is overestimated. It has been stated that the Government of Quebec has no way to know what percentage of our forests is virgin or how many trees are replanted. The Ministry of Forests is also highly politically influenced by industry lobbyists – they had funded the survey, but pulled out after the results came to light.
The fact that forest control is dominated by the industry can have serious environmental consequences. The ministry and the vice-ministry both show a disproportionate economic interest, because there are far more meetings with industry than with environmental groups. “Special orders” are given to companies that do not meet environmental standards in order to keep them in business. Without proper monitoring, there is no way to ensure sustainable forest management. When those responsible for protecting forests serve the interests of those who want to destroy them, something has to be done. Surveys on forestry in Quebec are useful, but they have no meaning if nothing is done to answer them.
Quebec’s mining industry is facing multiple legislative problems. First, there is nothing that requires that all proposed new mining projects go through a BAPE (Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement). That in itself wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if there was some kind of legal force to ensure that mining companies respect environmental issues, but that’s not the case. The Directive 019 establishes a list of recommended guidelines that mining companies should adhere to, but it is not legally binding. For example, Directive 019 provides a framework for proper tailings management, a growing issue in the province (for more information, read “Lake Destruction”). However, this framework has no legal basis. Thus, the government has entrusted mining companies to do their own policing rather than enforcing environmental regulations. Between the problems with Quebec iron ore and New World Graphite, it is obvious that this is not enough.
For real safety, Quebec must adopt environmental regulations that are binding by law. This will be increasingly important as Quebec continues to electrify the transportation industry.
Surface water pollution caused by mining comes from acid mine drainage (sulphuric acid is produced when sulphides in rocks are exposed to air and water), heavy metal contamination and leaching, processed chemicals that spill, leak or leach into water, as well as erosion and sedimentation. Disposal of wastes from mining activities is prohibited unless a permit is issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Disposal at Sea Program – a program that specifies non-hazardous wastes to be disposed of in the water can be considered. Despite these regulations, some mining projects do not have adequate waste management plans. For example, the Champion Iron Mine at Bloom Lake plans to dispose of mine tailings in nearby waters, which would negatively impact 151 hectares of lakes and rivers. The Bécancour River in Thetford Mines, which is bordered by mountains of asbestos mine tailings, has increased sediment from landfills as well as faecal coliform contamination (caused by years of sewage spills), which, if not cleaned, will continue to contaminate the lake where the river empties. We think that cleaning up the river would cost $2 million.
Many residents of Saint-Michel-des-Saints oppose the New World graphite mining project, as they fear that waste from the mine will contaminate and increase the flow of acidic liquids into Lac Taureau, which has 240 km of shores and sandy beaches and is an important place for holidays and leisure tourism.
In the past, mining projects have contributed to the destruction of lakes, and this practice continues today. As we explained in the “Lack of Regulation in the Mining Industry” section, there is virtually no legal way to prevent mining companies from committing environmental damage. Recently, Champion Iron declared its intention to stock 872 million tons of tailings into Bloom Lake, destroying eight lakes while affecting 38, 41 streams and nearly 75 hectares of wetlands. Tailings are residual materials from mining operations – fine particles which can release toxins, increase erosion and contaminate water and soil. Unsurprisingly, the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MELCC) declared that there was no no ban on backfilling lakes or other water reserves. This is an important issue for the Green Party of Quebec, which has already taken a stand to stop this mining project.
Similarly, New World have proposed a 2.6 kilometer open pit mine in the Lac Taureau watershed. The project is based on experimental measures to prevent acid-rich waste from affecting the lake. In 2018, the government also authorized the ArcelorMittal project, which was to destroy 11 lakes, 15 ponds and 25 streams. Mining projects are constantly destroying the surrounding lakes, and the Quebec government allows it by not enforcing any environmental regulations.
Mining has many environmental impacts. Waste rock and tailings can be discharged into water or soil. When rocks are dug up and crushed, they can release a significant amount of dust into the air. In addition, mine tailings, which may contain toxic waste, can end up in the air. These two phenomena can have an impact on human health. Road construction and the use of heavy machinery are likely to destroy wildlife habitat. Birds and other wildlife can be poisoned if they drink contaminated water found in tailings ponds. In Alberta, more than 100 birds died after being found near an oil sands tailings pond. There have also been reports of the death of trout, salmon and other aquatic organisms due to increased sedimentation or water acidity caused by mining activities. In British Columbia, the trout population has declined by 93% downstream of Teck’s Elk Valley coal mines.
The proposed Bloom Lake iron mine in Fermont will destroy lakes, streams, wetlands and woodlands to store 872 million tons of tailings. Environmental organizations believe that the mining company has not offered enough solutions or alternatives to its environmental destruction, especially since there is already a record of environmental damage caused by another mining project in the same area in 2014. The Graphite Project Nouveau Monde received the green light to begin mining activities despite the absence of several studies concerning the risk of water pollution, the management of acid waste and the overall environmental impact of this mine.
The Government of Quebec supports the mining industry by offering a number of tax incentives to companies that engage in mining exploration and mining activities in the province. The combined corporate tax rate 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 Government of Quebec with fair compensation for the minerals extracted. A study that analyzed the amount of subsidies given to industries in Canada from 2010 to 2016 indicated that Quebec is the province that spends the most on subsidies ($44.3 billion for this period).
In 2020, the Government of Quebec launched the Quebec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals (PMCS) to promote the development of minerals used in technology and green energy over the next five years. Under this plan, the government will provide subsidies to companies for training costs as well as for the payment of workers’ wages. The federal government has announced that it will provide a wage subsidy to mine workers who have been unable to work during the pandemic. Not only does the government want to support the thousands of people whose employment depends on the mining sector, but it also wants to allow the resumption of mining activities in the country. These subsidies encourage a highly polluting sector which has a huge and negative impact on the environment. The province should instead direct its investments towards renewable energies, for example.
In 2020, the Cree Nation and the Government of Quebec signed the Grand Alliance agreement which would allow the planning and execution of a 30-year infrastructure program to facilitate the movement of people and goods. As part of this agreement, the rail network would be extended to reduce the negative impacts of trucking. In addition, Premier Legault believes that this infrastructure will allow new nations to take advantage of the mining potential of northern Quebec.
A proposed 800 km rail line that would link the port of Sept-Îles to a mining region north of Schefferville, Quebec, is important, according to Premier Legault, because it would allow mining companies easy access to untapped lithium deposits.
In 2020, the government of Quebec has awarded a grant of $150,000 to the Valdorian company Minrail for the development of a new mining system, which will bring together a series of machines that could be moved by a rail system into the mines.
As described in the sections “Inadequate Plan to Reduce Emissions” and “Underestimated Environmental Impacts of Electric Vehicles”, EV mining could be seriously polluting. In these sections, the impacts of lithium mining from salt pans have been explored, although lithium from Quebec is mainly mined from pegmatites. Although this product does not drain the water and does not risk contaminating the surrounding ecosystems as brine does, the extraction of lithium from pegmatites is not an entirely ecological solution: it takes nearly three times as much carbon dioxide to produce one tonne of lithium carbonate equivalent as extracting from brine. It was found that the carbon dioxide intensity of battery-grade lithium hydroxide is also seven times higher for lithium extracted from pegmatites. This does not mean that other environmental impacts may occur. Between 2013 and 2018, the mining company North American Lithium in Quebec caused more than 80 environmental accidents, releasing hundreds of thousands of liters of lithium sulphate, hydraulic oil, diesel and other pollutants into the surrounding groundwater.
As Quebec attempts to be a leader in green EVs 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 does the potential environmental damage associated with it.
According to the Quebec Mining Act, mining companies are responsible for designing a mine site restoration and rehabilitation plan prior to the start of operations, within three years of the end of operations. It is therefore surprising that Quebec has so many abandoned mines that the government itself has to pay to clean up. According to the Department of Energy and Natural Resources, there are still more than 400 sites to be inspected and restored that are the “actual and probable responsibility” of the state. Since 2006, 178.5 million public dollars have been invested in the restoration of mining sites, whereas these are supposed to be the responsibility of mining companies. Meanwhile, the value of the “liabilities” of these sites remains at $1.2 billion, the same amount as in 2010-2011. The Mining Act Amendment of 2013 requires mining companies to provide the government with 100% of restoration costs, however, this does not necessarily put the responsibility for mine cleanup in their hands. Even if the costs are covered by mining companies, it may take some time for Quebec to ‘catch up’ with recently abandoned projects, when there are still 400 sites to clean up first.
Time will tell if the amendments will relieve Quebec of its abandoned mines, although stronger legislation requiring companies to be responsible for the actual cleanup could be a stronger way to enforce proper management.
Here is a list of abandoned mine sites and their current stage in the restoration process.
In Canada, provincial governments are responsible for regulating mining within their jurisdictions. Federal government involvement is limited and relates to the uranium nuclear fuel cycle, mining activities related to federal Crown corporations, and activities on federal lands and in offshore areas. Municipalities have no say in the location of mining activities or the proximity of mineral exploration and mining. As in the case of Montebello, where residents fear that mining projects will affect their local environment and their tourist activities. They have written to the Quebec Ministry of Energy and Resources to ensure that residents and tourism operators are consulted before mining projects begin.
The Government of Quebec has revised its guidelines for municipal powers, under which regional county municipalities can exercise new land use planning powers and identify areas incompatible with mining activity in their development plans and development. However, it is believed that despite this new power, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the Government of Quebec have established strict guidelines that still leave little room for maneuver for local decision-makers, as seen in the mountains Pinnacle, Sutton and Hereford, in the Eastern Townships, which could not be protected from mining activity.
In Quebec, mining companies have waged an uphill battle with cities and communities to ensure their projects are carried out, despite cities’ fears of environmental disruption or damage. In the case of Canada Carbon Inc.’s “Miller Project” in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, the mining company received permission to operate in the municipality from the previous council, but in the following election a new the entire slate of council members was elected by the public with a mandate to stop the mining project in their town ; the Miller project was sorely lacking in social acceptability. Concerns about the environment, such as water contamination and noise pollution from explosions, have been expressed. The council therefore adopted a new resolution so that the mine would no longer comply with the regulations. In response, Canada Carbon Inc. sued the town for $96 million in lost profit from the mine, which it claimed finally won. The Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) conducted an investigation to determine the social acceptability of the project, but the recommendations made by the BAPE are not legally binding and therefore would not necessarily encourage the company to change. In addition, the municipality has commissioned studies to determine if water would be contaminated, if there would be potential impacts on agricultural land, and if the health of forests would be threatened, but these studies could not be carried out because the company refused access to his property.
Another similar situation occurred between New World Graphite and the Atikamekw. The government approved the project while the main environmental studies were lacking, as was the consultation of the Atikamekw. The community erected a roadblock to deter the workers who apparently went to the bulldozer.
According to the Mining Act of Quebec, the area of land intended for mining activities must consist of a single perimeter with a maximum area of 100 hectares (unless special authorization is given by the Minister). For peat production, the area should not exceed 300 hectares. If a proposed project is located within the boundaries of a municipality, zoning laws and property taxes must be respected. An open pit mine must be located a minimum of 600 m from a dwelling or a minimum of 150 m if it is a new mining project. These distances have caused concern in many municipalities. In the Petite Nation region of the Outaouais, residents fear that a graphite mining project near neighboring towns will affect their quality of life as well as recreational and tourist activities due to potential contamination of lakes and rivers. In Chibougamau, Vanadium One Iron Corp plans to operate an iron mine 18 kilometers from the town center of the municipality.
Quebec notoriously allowed the discharge of sewage into its natural waterways, simply because there is no other option (read more under “Approved Discharge Of Sewage”). A simple solution, at least for accidental overflows during periods of heavy rain, would be to increase the province’s absorption capacity, for example by planting more trees and creating more green spaces. Indeed, the concreting prevents water from draining naturally, which reduces the ability of the ground to absorb excess water.
In March 2021, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu discharged wastewater for the fourth time in three years, peaking at 210 million liters since 2019. This was apparently due to maintenance work needed to prevent future overflows, but there must be better ways to do such work. Future water treatment facilities should certainly be built to prevent overflows from the outset, although having plans for emergency procedures should also be customized. In March 2021, 80 municipalities still did not have wastewater treatment facilities. In addition, many municipalities do not meet regulatory standards in this area, indicating that the government should strive to enforce these standards legally. In addition, existing treatment plants must be modernized, not only to remedy their aging, but also to be able to deal with new harmful compounds.
To learn more about this issue, click here.
With the implementation of the law 66, construction projects are pushed across the province without much consideration for environmental risks. That accelerated 181 infrastructure projects across the province, including the extension of the REM project. Many environmental groups are concerned about the environmental consequences of these accelerated projects. Projects with modern or low environmental risks will be allowed to proceed and will only be required to provide environmental assessments halfway through construction. The risk of this acceleration is that certain projects lead to the loss of wetlands or water bodies and threaten already vulnerable species. In addition, the bill will limit citizen participation in decision-making on certain projects.
The signing of the bill was also controversial. Two of the three opposition parties voted against the bill : Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois. The Liberal Party backed the bill, saying some tough environmental rules can be overlooked in the name of economic recovery. The consensus is clear: Bill 66 will definitely have negative effects on the environment.
Although 95% of Quebec’s energy is currently supplied by hydroelectric dams, 70% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy sector. Worse still, Hydro-Quebec has revealed that its dams will have the ability to supply energy only until 2026 and electricity until 2025. To meet its energy needs, Quebec seems more than willing to invest in natural gas, but what about carbon-free renewable energies?
Although there is currently the issue of privatized wind farms, some municipalities in Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspésie have experienced a great success in the implementation of wind energy. Moreover, the energy efficiency ratio (the amount of energy produced compared to the amount needed to obtain it) is much higher for wind energy than for fossil fuels; 35 to 70 versus 3 to 30 respectively. This is because fossil fuels require more energy over time, as they become more difficult to extract.
With regard to solar energy, it currently represents less than 1% of Quebec’s energy mix. Meanwhile, Quebec receives higher solar irradiation than Germany, which was the fourth largest producer of solar energy in 2019. Rather than investing in combustible energy resources, Quebec should diversify its sources of clean and renewable energy with solar and wind power.
In Quebec, about two million metric tons of contaminated soil are removed each year. In 2015, studies showed that more than half of the landfills and dumps designated for contaminated soils are in areas on public land and even under municipal parks. While toxic soils are supposed to be dumped at designated sites, there have been instances of contaminated soil being dumped on agricultural land. In Saint-Rémi, a lettuce producer is located next to an open dump consisting of bricks, concrete and other building materials. Contaminated soil found in the landfill seeped into farmland. However, although this site is considered an illegal dump, no charges have been brought, despite notices of non-compliances having been given to the culprits in 2018. A similar case of infiltration of PCBS (used to make coolants and lubricants) by an electrical equipment company in Pointe-Claire drainage systems occurred in 2013. The barrels containing the substance had been removed in 2013, but the contaminated soil was not touched until 2021.
The city of Montreal issued grants for municipal and private projects to decontaminate their land before the end of 2022. However, in the course of building the SLR, it was found that more than 600 tons of hazardous materials will be landfilled in Ontario instead of being decontaminated in a more environmentally friendly way; to reduce costs, Quebec issued a similar grant, investing $1 billion to decontaminate soils over a 10-year period. Also, over 400 problem sites were found across the province where there are elementary or secondary schools, CEGEPs or administrative buildings (many of which were built near existing mine areas), but despite the financial incentive, concrete actions are lacking.
In Canada, a large proportion of recyclable materials are sent abroad because the country does not deal with much of its recycling at the national level. In Quebec, in 2017, more than 60% of the materials were sent to China, while only 40% were processed and transformed into new products. The Canadian government has argued that not only does it lack adequate infrastructure to manage its own waste, but that it justifies the economic advantages for developing countries of sending their waste there. However, the waste sent to these countries is not regulated and can be mixed and contaminated, which does not allow it to be recycled. This resulted in the prohibition for Canada to ship its waste to Asian countries. On the one hand, Canada has circumvented this ban by sending its waste to the United States for subsequent export, but on the other hand, much of the waste remains in treatment facilities awaiting collection. In some Canadian cities, residents were told that recycling companies would accept fewer items to reduce the amount of waste. If this continues, more potentially recyclable waste will end up in garbage and landfills.
Montreal recycling companies are looking to the provincial government for funding to solve the problem caused by the ban. For plastics to be processed properly, products entering the recycling facility must be clean and well sorted. Existing machines can’t clean everything, and if other materials get through, the machines can jam. Besides, the increase in different types of plastics that end up in recycling facilities makes satisfactory recycling difficult. And because sorting facilities vary from municipality to municipality, with certain types of plastic being accepted in one and not the other, this reduces the amount of well-sorted, high-quality raw plastic available for processing. Investment is needed to promote improvement and the development of recycling outlets in Quebec by repairing old machines and producing better recyclable products.
In the arctic communities of Nunavik, Quebec, it has been found that, although they do not produce the same amount of waste as the southern regions, they do not have access to the services or infrastructure that would enable them to process their waste. There are no incinerators, no programs to recycle paper and cardboard, no household recycling programs.
In Quebec , many environmental actions go unnoticed and environmental criminals go unpunished due to the absence of environmental police in the province. According to environmental law in Canada, there are environmental regulators in Canada who are appointed to conduct environmental investigations as well as enforcement officers who have powers similar to those of police officers. However, this has not reduced the number of environmental fines over the years, especially in Quebec. In 2017, environmental fines increased by 29% with over $9 million in penalties. Many of these unregulated activities occur in different sectors. In the logging industry, there is no regulation of logging and environmental impact, with the focus only on economic benefits. In the mining sector, Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers discovered that a Quebec mining company had disposed of dredged material outside the authorized sea disposal area on four separate occasions. The company was ultimately fined $400,000 for damages. In Montreal, waste collection problems have been in the headlines for the past few years. An investigation revealed that Richelieu Environmental Services (SER) (a waste management company) charged Montreal for the waste it took from other municipalities, that commercial waste was mixed with residential waste at the city’s expense and that on several occasions, recyclable materials were mixed with the waste. Additionally, it was found that due to inadequate monitoring, trucks were not routinely weighed before starting their pickup, and city employees paid no attention to the trucks’ GPS trackers.
In Canada, due to the sudden drop 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 round. Quebec production of greenhouse fruits and vegetables rose to 9.3% in 2019, a small increase from Ontario (65%) and British Columbia (19.2%). Premier Legault promised to double the value of greenhouse production in Quebec, estimating a budget of $50 over five years. However, he did not give details on how the money would be used. Experts suggest that for greenhouse production to be successful, it will take technology, training, agronomists, all things that are lacking in Quebec. On the technology side, these experts addressed issues relating to heat and light (both of which are necessary to efficiently produce a greenhouse). As of 2021, it has been estimated that barely 40% of greenhouses in Quebec have artificial lighting, which is a necessity during the winter and heating is provided by natural gas or biomass when it should be provided by hydroelectricity unused that lies in the dams of Quebec.
Green roofs are another issue in Quebec with regard to the production of greenhouse fruits and vegetables. Quebec has the strictest green roof policies in the world. Big cities like Montreal and Quebec don’t have laws to require green roofs, there is no funding from local governments, and no policy to install these green roofs on existing buildings. Also, in Quebec, the majority of municipalities do not require green roofs. Most of the problems with green roofs stem from the risk of water infiltration as well as the ability of a building to support the additional weight that a green roof represents. Currently, in Montreal, roofs can withstand about 40 pounds of snow per square foot of surface, while a cubic foot of wet soil can weigh up to 100 pounds. In January 2020, new Gatineau bylaws provide that businesses will have to install green roofs on any building over 2000 square meters. However, construction companies oppose this new environmental requirement, as they believe it will increase the cost of construction.
Spring flooding in Quebec is becoming more frequent and severe, but the municipalities at risk do not seem well equipped to deal with it. Until 2019, the map of flood zones along the Rivière des Prairies had not been updated since the 1980s. Even in 2017 there were plans to update the map using the 2006 data. Outdated maps make flood prevention planning incredibly difficult, as it is difficult to predict which areas need to be protected and to what extent. The new flood map includes flood zones from the spring floods of 2017 and 2019 – a useful tool that was available far too late.
The obvious solution would be to discourage development in the floodplains of rivers, granting them what is known as ‘space of freedom‘. This would allow streams to flow according to their natural capacity and water to be absorbed, thus preventing flooding downstream (for more on concretization and flooding, see the section “Increased Flooding Due To Urban Sprawl). These measures will be necessary in the long term, as climate change will continue to aggravate the situation.
In the meantime, municipalities must better prepare for spring floods. In 2019, residents of L’Île-Bizard, Pierrefonds and Ahuntsic were warned to prepare for evacuation, as it was unclear which dikes would overflow. A few days later, a natural dike at Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac failed, and in response the city built two gravel dikes. To the the end of April, 9,070 homes and 273 businesses were flooded, displacing 12,000 people, and 82 landslides occurred to cope with the excess flooding.’s “Floods: How to Protect Your Home” page gives residents tons of steps to take to protect their homes from flooding, including building sandbag walls. However, it should not be up to citizens to protect themselves against floods. If the Quebec government hasn’t updated its flood maps in decades and developers are building homes in unknown risk areas, the government should be tasked with protecting the homes. In 2018, Quebec announced that each municipality had two years to establish contingency plans in case of flooding. Hopefully, Quebec citizens will be better protected with increased flood management infrastructure, such as larger dikes, more efficient drainage, and no new development in flood-prone areas.
According to a report by the Montreal Metropolitan Community (CMM), among the CMM and neighboring municipalities, 94% of workers mainly use a car to get to work. According to Ms. Plante, this is due to the fact that bordering municipalities are not required to respect the same density rules as CMM, resulting in low-density, car-dependent neighborhoods. What is needed is better urban planning and better public transport infrastructure to discourage the use of private vehicles. Meanwhile, the Government of Quebec continues to favor the expansion of roads to the detriment of public transit, while the budget allocated to public transit represents close to half that of asphalt (Rad discusses this at greater length in “The Endless Expansion of Roads”). A study conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation revealed that young Montrealers are reluctant to use public transit because it is unreliable and services are not flexible.
To combat these shortcomings, Quebec must invest in public transportation. More frequent timetables and more extensive networks could help metro, bus and train systems. It might even discourage the use of individual vehicles enough to reduce traffic, which would contribute to the reliability of the bus service. Furthermore, the government cannot continue to privatize public transport, which could discourage its use by raising fares for users and offering routes guided by profit rather than public interest. For example, the REM project may interfere with the planned expansion of the blue metro line, as the two lines will now share similar routes, a feature the private REM has conveniently overlooked.
Land And Soil Use
Urban sprawl is the phenomenon by which urban planning promotes development at low density. The creation of suburbs around dense city centers is an example: sprawl neighborhoods that force citizens to be dependent on their personal vehicle. In the surrounding municipalities of Montreal, 94% of workers drive every day to get to work. This type of urban development increases greenhouse gas emissions, but it also seriously harms wildlife.
As this type of development requires a lot of space, nature is often sacrificed in favor of developments. Agricultural lands, forests and natural habitats are threatened. From the transplanting a rare species of ginseng for development purposes in Sainte-Julie, the destruction of a forest in Hudson to build housing units, at the construction of apartments on an area supposed to be a park in Val-d’Or, to the sacrifice of an ecopark in Montreal for development, to the construction of a retirement home in a park in Laval, and to the elimination of a green space in Anjou for an industrial project – these are the effects of urban sprawl.
Urban sprawl has also aggravated the consequences of flooding. By converting wetlands, marshes, forests and other natural lands that generally absorb excess water, water accumulates during spring floods and heavy rains and increases flooding. This is called concreting, a change in land use that can have devastating effects on human well-being and infrastructure urban sprawl).
Time and time again, Quebec’s wetlands are sacrificed for new developments. Wetlands are important to us because they harbor biodiversity, reduce greenhouse gases, prevent droughts by retaining water during dry spells, and prevent floods by reducing the amount of water sent downstream. Across the country, wetlands are often drained for conversion to agricultural land – a problem closely linked to urban sprawl – or drained for infrastructure construction or for extraction sites.
In Hudson, a forested wetland called Sandy Beach Woods is at risk of being converted to housing. The project would involve the filling of 4,266 square meters of wetland. The Technoparc de Montréal is also under threat of development. Until 2017 it was the largest wetland on the island, but now it is sacrificed for the development of REM, which affects over 100 species. In addition, the Bloom Lake Iron Mine has proposed a disposal plan in which 872 million tons of tailings would be stored, destroying several wetlands, but by assigning 160. The same plan would encroach on 151 hectares of lakes and rivers. Also, the LET expansion project in Bury would destroy 4.9 hectares of wetlands.
Sacrificing wetlands for development is really in no one’s interest. Increased environmental awareness in urban planning is needed to end low-density neighborhoods encroaching on important natural habitats. Other projects, such as the REM, the iron mine and the LET, must also give greater priority to the environment.
Today, 80% of the world’s agricultural land is used for livestock production. A third of arable land is used to produce animal feed, while 26% of the Earth’s ice-free surfaces are used for grazing. Ironically, despite the enormous amount of land used for livestock, it represents only 18% of global calories and only 37% of total protein. In Quebec, more than half of agricultural production is related to livestock, beef and dairy production being the most important, followed by pig and poultry production. In Quebec, there are approximately 8,908 farms devoted to beef production. Cattle (and lamb) production takes up most of the land, about 2.89 billion hectares for pasture, then 43% of cultivated land for the production of animal feed. The problems with the extensive use of land for animal agriculture are that it reduces the diversity of landscapes and natural habits, especially since most crops are monocultures (such as corn). These crops can cause soil erosion and negatively impact the soil ecosystem. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said dietary changes, which include plant-based diets and sustainable animal-based foods, could free up several million square kilometers of land by 2050 and potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 0.7 to 8.0 gigatons per year. However, in the Quebec Sustainable Agriculture Plan, published in October 2020, there is no question of reducing the use of land for animal agriculture.
In Quebec, there are many examples of existing green spaces being destroyed to make way for residential or commercial developments. Developers plant a few trees or create a small park to compensate for the damage and make their project appear “greener”. The Mercier-Hochelaga borough’s greening plan has raised concerns. Although plans call for the planting of trees and the creation of green spaces and gardens, many trees have been cut down and gardens moved to make way 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 Golf Métropolitain d’Anjou which would include 1 million square feet of buildings as well as a parking lot that could accommodate 1,200 vehicles and trucks. This project would lead to the elimination of a green space in this sector as well as the obstruction of a green corridor between the Montigny stream park in the far north of the island and the Bellerive promenade park. The mayor of Anjou wants to go ahead with this project because 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 must be sold to allow the construction of apartment buildings, because the mayor considers that this is a good investment and that there is very little other land to build otherwise. A similar problem arises in Laval where a home for seniors was built in a waterfront, despite the protests of the citizens, who preferred that all of the park’s land be retained. And the area where the retirement home is to be built is in a flood zone.
In Montreal, the Green Coalition lost its court battle against the Technoparc area. The City’s objective is to make it a privileged place for companies specializing in sustainable development and clean technologies. However, it is an ecosystem that is home to a wide variety of bird species that are endangered and could suffer a significant loss of their population with construction and the felling of trees. The city of Montreal, however, said it will protect 16 hectares of land in the Technoparc area.
There have been many cases in Quebec where rare or mature trees or forested areas have been cut down to make way for real estate developments, and very often there have been no public consultations with citizens. In Sainte-Foy, Quebec City, mature trees are cut down to build a home for the elderly. The particularity of this area is that it is occupied by an old church which had been sold to the Government of Quebec to be transformed into a retirement home and surrounded by trees. Although the CIUSS says it will replant hundreds of trees to compensate for the loss, citizens are arguing that there is no need to cut down existing trees. Moreover, citizens received very little information about the entire church redevelopment project.
In Île-Perrot, citizens were dismayed to see crews cut down a forest of white oaks to make way for a housing development. Not only is the white oak a rare tree species in Quebec, but it has significant ecological and historical value for the city. It is also home to a federally protected species of frog (the Western Chorus Frog) as well as birds and foxes. According to the citizens, there was no public consultation around the project.
In Pointe-Claire, there have been several instances of tree felling and pruning to make room for paved roads and for the new Pioneer condo project. According to the city, these operations were necessary for the rerouting of poles and electrical wires. They say they will compensate for the loss of trees by providing four new fast-growing trees in the village.
Along the Turcot interchange and Montreal West, a 2.8-kilometre park will be developed and will include bicycle and pedestrian paths. However, between 400 and 600 trees will be felled as part of the redevelopment plan. The city argues that tree removal is necessary because workers need to access the cliff to provide adequate drainage and protect the stability of the land surrounding this area. Conservationists are angry at the plan because this forested area is home to more than 65 species of birds, which are now endangered once logging begins.