(Quebec) The Legault government must change its “misleading”, “populist” and “dangerous” discourse on the issue of the fight against urban sprawl and densification, asks the mayor of Quebec Bruno Marchand, who will not hesitate, if necessary, to take the role of opposition.

“When we are told that it is a fad, when we are told ‘who are we, to tell people where to live?’, and especially when we confuse land occupation and densification… The government cannot go and play in this populist discourse, which is really dangerous, ”denounced Mr. Marchand on Wednesday during the press conference presenting the Assises 2022 of the Union of Quebec Municipalities, which will take place Thursday and Friday in Quebec City.

Mr. Marchand, like many other mayors newly elected last November, has made the fight against climate change one of the priorities of his administration. And for cities, this requires land use planning and urban densification, he recalled. He opposes a development model where people settle several dozen kilometers from their place of work, to commute by auto-solo.

He replies to “certain ministers”, including the Minister of Transport François Bonnardel, who said last month: “I am who, me, to say to a young family: since the fashion is for densification, you are going to live in a 12 story tower? “. He reiterated that claim on Monday.

On Tuesday, Municipal Affairs Minister Andrée Laforest also said that we should avoid confusing “urban sprawl” and “regional development”, and Premier François Legault accused Québec solidaire, in favor of urban densification, 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.

During its meeting, the Union of Municipalities will explore two major themes: the housing crisis and the fight against climate change. She estimates that there is a lack of between 40,000 and 60,000 housing units in Quebec to find a balance point. The mayor of Quebec sees a direct link between the two subjects.

“How do we densify if we are not able to have social and affordable housing in the city centers? How do you tell people, “come live downtown” if you can’t strike a balance? All municipalities are experiencing problems with social and affordable housing overall,” he says.

He expects the Legault government to “seize the urgency” and that his speech will be consistent with this urgency. Its actions must be “vigorous”, so that cities can act now, and not in “four years, eight years, or twelve years”.

It is rare to see such a frontal clash between the Government of Quebec and the mayor of a large city. Is Mr. Marchand or other mayors taking the place of opposition parties?

“Depending on the outcome of the election, maybe the mayors will have to stomp more. […] If necessary, we will be. We are not responding to an individual interest, we are responding to an interest of citizens and the issues they experience on a daily basis, and for which the municipal world, without the support of the Government of Quebec, is not able to go as fast and as far as citizens demand,” he said.

The mayor of Gaspé and president of the UMQ, Daniel Côté, affirms for his part that the densification must be done everywhere on the territory, although this densification is not done in the same way in “Gaspé, Quebec or Montreal”. “It’s a big, global trend,” he said.

Prime Minister François Legault will deliver a speech to mayors on Thursday, and opposition party leaders will do the same on Friday. Mr. Côté expects commitments in view of the electoral campaign. In the case of the Prime Minister, he affirms that the UMQ has sensitized its political staff so that they understand that the UMQ has agreements concerning the fight and adaptation to climate change and the housing crisis, the two main themes of the UMQ 2022 Conference.



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