After a municipal backlash, Quebec unveils a plan to limit urban sprawl

The government promises to table a fiscal policy based on the document after the October general election.

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After having suffered criticism from the mayors of the province, the Legault government announced Monday that it will now work to limit urban sprawl.

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Quebec Minister of Municipal Affairs Andrée Laforest included this commitment in unveiling a framework of provincial standards for architecture and land use planning.

The document says the government will “steer urban growth towards areas that already have public infrastructure and services…thereby limiting urban sprawl”.

“We have to change our practices,” Laforest said at a press conference in Saguenay, adding that she was moved to be able to present a policy that she described as “raising awareness”.

“We know we have to deal with climate change, so it’s important for us as a government to review and rethink (the use of) our territory.”

Last April, the Minister of Transport of Quebec, François Bonnardel, had provoked the reaction of the mayors after having described the densification of urban development as a “fad”. The minister had also opened the door to residential development in the agricultural region of Bellechasse with the ministry’s project to connect Quebec and Lévis by an underground tunnel.

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The mayor of Quebec, Bruno Marchand, then accused the Legault government of holding a “populist” and “misleading” speech.

Marchand argued that “whenever someone lives very, very far from where they work, they ask the government to build highways. … This increases costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Laforest acknowledged Marchand’s view on Monday, saying, “When you build anywhere, it costs a fortune in municipal infrastructure.”

The policy announced on Monday calls for “reducing distances and travel times between home, work and shops”, as well as “forms of development that counter the loss of natural habitats and agricultural land”.

An increase in the supply of “quality, accessible and affordable housing” as well as a “diversification of the transport offer, particularly public transport”, are also contained in the policy.

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The document, which will serve as a reference for Quebec municipalities, was produced after consultation with nearly 4,500 people.

The government promises to table a fiscal policy based on the document after the October general election.

Reaction to Laforest’s announcement was cautious. “The strategic vision presented today is an important step forward,” said Sylvain Gariépy, head of the Ordre des urbanistes du Québec, but added that the document contains “few concrete commitments, no budget, not even a detailed itinerary. of action.

Gariépy said “it is therefore difficult to say that this announcement contains the hoped-for paradigm shift that Quebec needs”.

This feeling was shared by the Ordre des architectes du Québec, which underlined the importance of “transforming this vision into ambitious actions and delivering the announced plan within the promised timeframe”.

The Quebec Federation of Municipalities welcomed this announcement, pledging to “contribute positively to its implementation in the years to come”.

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Melissa C. Keyes