Charest refuses to learn from mistakes on environment

Government's support of gas plant will rank up there with Orford fiasco


It has been said a fool must learn from his own mistakes, while a wise man learns from those of others.
So what does that make the Charest government, which apparently doesn't even learn from its own?
One reason Jean Charest is the first Quebec premier in nearly 40 years not to win a second consecutive legislative majority for his party is the Mont Orford proposal.

In its first term, the government did a poor job of first explaining and then defending its proposal to sell part of Mont Orford provincial park for a private condo development.
This allowed the proposal to became a cause that united French-speaking nationalists, English-speaking environmentalists, even some Liberals and, eventually, public opinion against the government. The minister responsible for the environment and parks, Thomas Mulcair, resigned over it.
Even so, the government refused to back down, but failed to defend the project any more effectively. So it received additional criticism for arrogantly ignoring public opinion, and was kept on the defensive for much of the year preceding the last general election.
It was only after the Liberals nearly lost the election that they finally gave in and cancelled the proposed sale - just as another controversial project was attracting increasing attention.
That project is the proposed construction of an $840-million liquefied-natural-gas terminal at Lévis, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence opposite Quebec City.
The terminal would receive tankers carrying natural gas from Algeria, chilled to liquefy it for shipment. The liquefied gas would be unloaded and regasified for transport by pipeline to markets in Quebec and elsewhere. The terminal would be built by a private consortium formed by Montreal-based Gaz Métro, Enbridge Ltd. and Gaz de France, and named Rabaska.
That name promises to become as familiar this year as Orford last year, or Suroît before that. The last was a gas-fired, thermal-energy plant southwest of Montreal that Hydro-Québec proposed to build until environmentalists pressured the government into abandoning it three years ago.
Mulcair, for one, who is now a New Democratic member of Parliament, has compared Rabaska to Orford and Suroît.
Natural Resources Minister Claude Béchard has said the terminal would diversify Quebec's sources of energy. But Mulcair says it's really intended to supply the northeastern United States, where similar projects have been killed by public opposition.
Opponents of the Rabaska project say it would present a shipping hazard and a target for terrorist attack, increase greenhouse-gas emissions and lower property values for local residents. They also say it's not necessary, since another such terminal is to be built by rival entrepreneurs at a safer location downriver at Gros-Cacouna, east of Rivière du Loup.
A joint assessment by the Quebec and federal environmental review boards concluded the risks associated with the Rabaska project were "acceptable." But that doesn't seem to have reassured the environmentalists and citizens' groups that remain opposed to it.
And now the government appears to be trying to bulldoze Rabaska through, just as it was accused of doing with Orford.
This week, we learned the province's farmland protection commission had rejected the proposed site for the project. In a ruling dated Sept. 19, the commission said the site includes land that has some of "the best soil for agriculture on Canada." And it gave the city of Lévis until Oct. 19 to convince it that the proposed site is the only viable one or to propose an alternative.
News of the ruling seemed to catch the government by surprise, and Béchard said the government had "a lot of things to take into consideration before we will make a decision" about the project.

It took the government only three days, however, to exercise its power to overrule the commission. Béchard said on Thursday the government would decide in "10 to 15 days" whether to approve the project, but there seemed little doubt what that decision would be.

Laissez un commentaire

Aucun commentaire trouvé