major coup at National Assembly
In their current form, Bills 22 and 39 paralyze conservation efforts
Montreal, November 24, 2023
A major coup took place yesterday during consultations on Bill 39, an Act to amend the Act respecting municipal taxation and other legislative provisions. Several municipal bodies (Union des municipalités du Québec, Fédération des municipalités du Québec, La communauté métropolitaine de Montréal and Ville de Montréal) and the organization Vivre en Ville submitted briefs calling for a framework for proceedings for disguised expropriation to be included in this bill.
Reminder: In May 2022, Mr. Legault promised municipalities to reform the Expropriation Act to enable cities, among other things, to protect and restore natural environments. One year later, Minister Geneviève Guilbault introduced Bill 22 to reform this outdated law. However, on November 9, during the detailed study of Bill 22, Minister Guilbault withdrew sections 170 and 171 aimed at regulating disguised expropriation and declared that she was handing this file over to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest.
So a few days after Minister Guilbault denied their requests to be granted immunity from disguised expropriation, municipal authorities came to the consultations on Bill 39 with the same recommendations they had made for Bill 22, taking Minister Laforest by surprise. She reacted lukewarmly, saying she would have to discuss the matter with her colleagues.
At over $600 million, the amount of disguised expropriation lawsuits brought by wealthy landowners against municipal authorities that have issued bylaws to protect natural environments or green spaces exceeds the annual budgets of the municipalities being sued ¹. What’s more, this amount is roughly equivalent to the $650 million investment allocated by the Quebec government to the Nature 2030 Plan to protect biodiversity throughout all of Quebec ². At a time when health and education personnel are crying foul about the chronic underfunding of their institutions, there is a profound inconsistency here that demands a swift correction from the CAQ government to prevent the drift of public funds to private interests.
Within our organizations and coalitions, thousands of citizens have been campaigning hard for years to save their local nature and threatened ecosystems in the south of Quebec, and they are extremely disappointed and concerned that nothing has yet been put in place legislatively to protect municipalities from these lawsuits, despite the Premier’s promise. In their current form, Bills 22 and 39 paralyze conservation efforts and seriously hinder the achievement of the targets adopted last December at the 15th Conference of the Parties on Biological Diversity (COP-15).
We are well aware of the complexity of this issue, which requires a cohesive effort by various ministries. We respectfully ask the government to keep its promise and meet this challenge in the collective interest.
Organisations supporting this déclaration:
- Poursuites contre la CMM | Québec pourrait devoir sortir le chéquier | La Presse
- Protection de la biodiversité – Québec annonce 650 M$ en vue d’un ambitieux Plan Nature pour 2030 Gouvernement du Québec | quebec.ca
Feature image: courtesy of Louise Legault