(Quebec) The Urban Development Institute of Quebec (IDU), the lobby of real estate developers, wants to fight against sprawl and proposes the merger of the Ministries of Transport and Municipal Affairs to create a superministry of Territory.
“Things about the territory must contaminate Transport, and this territorial vision must contaminate all the other actions of the State. You have to have a global vision of the territory, ”says former Liberal minister Jean-Marc Fournier, head of the IDU for two years now, in an interview with La Presse.
In the debate over land use planning, Fournier says the position of the developers he represents is clear. He ranks behind the mayors and mayoress in favor of the shift towards densification. “The real estate industry, it’s on the same side as the environmentalists. We must avoid urban sprawl, we must rethink urban planning, we must develop local neighborhoods,” he says. Mr. Fournier is a proponent of the 15-minute town, where you have access to school, work and local shops within a 15-minute walk or bike ride.
In his opinion, the creation of a Ministry of Territory would make it possible to include the cost of urban sprawl in government choices. He cites the case of the Gatineau hospital. The City wants it to be built in the city center, which is not certain.
“At Health, I get it, they have a budget. They would like to go where the land is the least expensive, exactly as citizens do, because we don’t take into account the cost of establishing public transport, aqueducts, new public services.” he said. A land ministry could “consider the economic effects” of sprawl.
Mr. Fournier is impatiently awaiting the land use planning policy to be tabled in the coming weeks by the Legault government. It is, he says, a “road map that tells us where to go.” “It’s impossible to consider the climate context in front of us without rethinking our way of life,” he says.
He is not surprised by the declarations of the Minister of Transport, François Bonnardel, who considers that densification is a “fashion” and who proposes a highway tunnel project between Quebec and Lévis. “Automotive life existed until the 2010s. There is an awareness now, 2050 is getting closer and closer. The young people have gone there, the older ones, less. We are in a transition between the old world and the new world,” said Mr. Fournier.
Mr. Fournier, who describes himself as an “old man who is getting younger”, says he is “surprised” to see how little the political world talks about these issues.
Mr. Fournier sees several obstacles that must be overcome to build the city of tomorrow. First, municipal funding. Decontamination, development of cycle paths and shared streets, social housing: cities cannot afford their ambitions and are prisoners of the property tax. “I’m guilty myself, I was in Municipal Affairs in the 2000s and we didn’t do it. I say it by whipping myself,” he points out. The federal and provincial governments must therefore increase their funding.
Another problem: Currently, the system encourages the development of crowns. The government builds highways, paid for by all citizens, and land is cheap. On the other hand, in the centers, it is often necessary to decontaminate land, and governments charge royalties to promoters who densify around public transport projects, he laments. “We charge fees that penalize good climate behavior, but the state builds the highways, and all Quebecers pay for that. »
And finally, Mr. Fournier believes that it will be necessary to fight against the “not in my backyard” syndrome, which often comes, he says, to block densification projects.
To break this dynamic, Mr. Fournier believes that citizens must be better informed. “How aware are Quebeckers of what our territory represents, what the climate crisis means, and the need to change our way of life? We have to start talking about it. That’s where we’re going in the next 30 years,” he said.
We must also change the referendum formula, which, according to Mr. Fournier, blocks densification projects. “There may be other modes, other technical details to be added to prevent the particular interest of neighbors winning over the common interest,” he believes.
In the National Assembly, the Legault government has been described as backward-looking by the opposition parties. “Densification does not mean raising a family in a downtown condo,” said Liberal House Leader André Fortin, who denounced Minister François Bonnardel’s “ideas straight out of the 1950s”. According to the parliamentary leader of Québec solidaire, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, two visions clash. “There is the vision of the past: more urban sprawl, more air pollution and therefore more traffic. And there is the vision for the future: more density, more environmental protection and therefore more quality of life,” he said. “The mayor of Laval agrees that we must limit urban sprawl, the mayor of Saint-Lin too. So it is not a battle between cities and regions. This is not a battle between cities and suburbs. It’s a battle that we all have to fight together in Quebec,” he added.
What is called urban sprawl can also be regional development, argues the Legault government, which emphasizes that to “serve the regions, it takes roads”. ” You should be careful. When we talk about urban sprawl, we have to ask ourselves the question: are we doing regional development? The important thing is to create good living environments,” Municipal Affairs Minister Andrée Laforest told the National Assembly on Tuesday. Premier François Legault said he agreed with the idea that big cities “must become denser”, but added that “the regions have the right to develop” and that Québec solidaire “wants to do a moratorium on regional development”. “We think we need to develop the regions. And to serve the regions, well yes, it takes roads, ”he added.