Urban expansion | Quebec must change its “misleading” speech, according to Bruno Marchand

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

Posted at 12:49 PM

Charles Lecavalier

Charles Lecavalier
The press

“When we’re told it’s a fad, when we’re told ‘who are we, we, to tell people where to live?’, and especially if we confuse land occupation and densification… this populist discourse, that is really dangerous,” Mr Marchand denounced Wednesday during the press conference for the presentation of the Assises 2022 of the Union of Quebec Municipalities, which will take place in Quebec City on Thursday and Friday.

Mr Marchand, like many mayors newly elected last November, has made the fight against climate change one of his government’s priorities. And for cities, this requires spatial planning and urban densification, he recalls. He opposes a development model where people settle tens of kilometers from work to commute by car 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 go in a 12-storey tower? “. He repeated that claim Monday.

Municipal Affairs Minister Andrée Laforest also said on Tuesday that we must avoid “urban sprawl” and “regional development”, and Prime Minister François Legault accused Quebec Solidaire, which advocates urban densification, of wanting a “moratorium” on regional development.

“The densification does not conflict with the occupation of the area. When I hear that the government is using this argument against us, I think it’s deceptive,” he said.

Housing crisis

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

“How do we densify if we can’t get social and affordable housing in city centers? How do you tell people “come live in the city centers” if you can’t restore the balance? All municipalities generally experience problems with social and affordable housing,” he says.

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

It’s rare to see such a head-on clash between the Quebec government and the mayor of a major city. Will Mr Marchand or other mayors take the place of the opposition parties?

“Depending on the outcome of the elections, the mayors may have to tap their feet a bit more. […] If necessary, we will be. We are not responding to an individual interest, we are responding to an interest of citizens and the problems they experience on a daily basis, for which the municipal world, without the support of the Quebec government, cannot move so quickly and as far as the citizens ask for it,” he said.

Election Obligations

For his part, the Mayor of Gaspé and President of the UMQ, Daniel Côté, confirms that the densification must be done everywhere in the territory, although this densification is not done in the same way in “Gaspé, Quebec or Montreal”. “It’s a tough, global trend,” he said.

Prime Minister François Legault will deliver a speech to mayors on Thursday, and opposition leaders will do the same on Friday. Mr Côté expects pledges for the election campaign. In the case of the Prime Minister, he confirms that the UMQ has sensitized its political staff so that they understand that the UMQ has agreements on combating and adapting to climate change and the housing crisis, the two main themes of the UMQ 2022 conference.

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