(Québec) In his book Cap sur un Québec Gagnant, François Legault deplored the disadvantages of urban sprawl, favored the rehabilitation of contaminated land in the city rather than dezoning agricultural land and pleaded for the conversion of highways into urban boulevards.

In this book published in October 2013, Mr. Legault draws up the “sketch” of an “ambitious vision of the Quebec of tomorrow” likely to interest mayors in favor of densification and which clashes with the discourse held by his government and himself in the past few days. He describes, in several chapters, his conception of land use planning.

The Prime Minister, for example, defends the disadvantages of urban sprawl. “The phenomenon is well known: in recent decades, the development of cities in Quebec has taken place further and further away from downtown areas. But today, the many disadvantages of what is called urban sprawl are obvious: an incredible time of transport by car, a loss of productivity related to these displacements, an increase in the costs of construction and maintenance of ever-expanding public services,” he explains.

Mr. Legault instead proposes in his book the decontamination of abandoned industrial land and highlights several examples of densification, such as the Technopôle Angus or the Swedish eco-district Hammarby Sjöstad, in the suburbs of Stockholm. “The city wanted to achieve its own development, rather than expand into the agricultural lands that surround the city,” Mr. Legault wrote in this book.

This vision could surprise the mayors and mayoress gathered in Quebec, Thursday and Friday, for the foundations of the Union of municipalities of Quebec. The Prime Minister must also deliver a speech there in the morning. Municipal elected officials expect him to speak to them about the fight and adaptation to climate change and the housing crisis, the two main themes of the Assises 2022.

Many of them, like the mayor of Quebec Bruno Marchand, make the fight against climate change one of the priorities of their administration. They ask the Legault government to help them fight against urban sprawl and densify their cities, and are concerned about the words of the Minister of Transport, François Bonnardel, who considers that densification is a “fad”.

In addition to Minister François Bonnardel, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest, affirmed that it was necessary to avoid confusing “urban sprawl” and “regional development”, and Premier François Legault accused Québec solidaire, favorable to densification urban, of wanting a “moratorium” on regional development.

“Densification is not in opposition to the occupation of the territory. When I hear the government give us that argument, I think it’s fallacious,” he said.

Mr. Legault could reassure them by simply quoting passages from his book, where he indicates in particular that “the restoration and redevelopment of contaminated sites reduce urban sprawl, which again leads to significant savings in the construction of infrastructure”.

While his minister Éric Caire accused Mayor Bruno Marchand of “polluting” the lives of motorists with a shared street – only to then recuse himself – François Legault instead salutes in his book the courage of the former mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë who, in 2013, inaugurated “a daring project, to close traffic for 2.3 kilometers along the Seine”.

The French politician stood up to those who claimed “that the project was going to be a source of traffic jams and pollution”, noted Mr. Legault at the time.

To restore access to the river, Mr. Legault imagines, for example, the transformation of highways into boulevards, accompanied by projects to revitalize abandoned wastelands. In Quebec, he proposes to transform the Dufferin-Montmorency highway into an urban boulevard. “It seems desirable to me, because, it must be said, the trip from Quebec to Montmorency Falls, and even to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, is rather disappointing from a planning point of view. »

“We should always aim for what is right, what is beautiful, what is thoughtful. We will then gain in quality of life and prosperity,” added the Prime Minister. Aspects of Mr. Legault’s vision set in motion. His government has invested 100 million to decontaminate land in eastern Montreal, for example. A national architecture and land-use planning policy must also be tabled in the coming weeks.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois will promise cities to reform the Expropriation Act and give them the right of pre-emption, which would allow them to buy certain buildings or land as a priority to carry out community projects. Mr. Nadeau-Dubois will make the announcement during a speech he will deliver on Friday at the annual meeting of the Union des municipalités du Québec. “There is a new generation of elected municipal officials in power, who want to densify, who want to go green, who want to solve the housing crisis, but who are blocked by the CAQ. The message I have for this new generation is that we at QS are here to be your allies in the next election campaign, and if we form the next government,” said QS parliamentary leader in interview with La Presse.



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