Opinion

Strategic Environmental Hydrocarbon Assessments: Heurtel in a Hell of a Hurt!


Strategic Environmental Hydrocarbon Assessments: Heurtel in a Hell of a Hurt!

By Mathieu Lemay, member for Masson and Coalition Avenir Québec critic for the environment, sustainable development, wildlife and parks.

Public consultations on strategic environmental assessments (SEA) on the hydrocarbon sector and its potential exploitation in the Anticosti Island took place this week, in a very disappointing manner.

The sloppy development and the poor and scripted presentation were frustrating to all participants, and may well cast a shadow over the government’s intentions and methods.

To be realistic, the entities that presented to public audience had but two weeks to prepare and thoroughly examine some forty scientific studies. The height of cynicism, however, is that a third of the studies ordered by the government for the government were not even available. On these studies, there will be no consultation and Quebecers will not have the opportunity to question experts on their conclusions.

The entire procedure is so tangled that some may think David Heurtel acted intentionally solely to upset the opposition and to harm a potentially promising project for Quebec, one that the Liberals have never believed in. See article for reference.

A Poor Track Record.

Evidently, every issue handled by David Heurtel is a source of great controversy. I recall that he uncritically approved for his colleague, Energy Minister Pierre Arcand, to implement the Chamouchouane-Bout de l’Île power line. This was in contradiction to the BAPE’s recommendation to review the layout. Need I remind that he deemed suitable a legislation to bypass the BAPE and avoid an assessment of environmental impact for the McInnis cement project of Port-Daniels?

Heurtel’s scientific and environmental convictions are of varying magnitude: He scientifically justifies dumping 5 billion litres of used water in the Saint-Lawrence River, but refuses for the BAPE to conduct a study on the most polluting project in the history of Quebec!

In this manner, he attacks the relevance of the BAPE and then the credibility of the SEA.

A ridiculously short delay and the absence of 18 major studies are conveying Minister Heurtel’s contempt for the SEA. Does he fail to understand that Quebec will suffer losses? By staining the consultation procedure, he is putting the very implementation of Quebec’s hydrocarbon projects in peril.

Environnment and Economic Development Go Hand in Hand.

If Quebec’s government wishes to move forward, it needs to satisfy a fundamental obligation: Social acceptability. This is the reason my political party longs for the SEA public consultations to be successful. We have an exceptional opportunity in Quebec:  to make headway in oil exploitation.

Evidently, we need to ensure that all harnessing is done while respecting the highest environmental standards. Doing so, the resulting profits may certainly contribute to reduce our debt.

Considering the facts, oil consumption in Quebec will not cease momentarily. Currently, we are importing 100% of our consumption. Why not produce a portion internally? This will benefit Quebec’s economy.

In this perspective, the SEAs are essential: They can assess the feasibility of projects, the economic benefit, the environmental impact, etc.

If Minister David Heurtel wanted to create a diversion, to exclude citizens from the consultation and to quiet their thoughts, it seems like he has succeeded.

However, if his intention was to contribute to the development of Quebec’s hydrocarbon sector, Heurtel is in a hell of a hurt.

It is by establishing a rigorous public consultation, broad and deep, that the Environment Minister can persuade the population of the advantages tied to developing the hydrocarbon sector at home.

This debate may be of most delicate nature but it is also of utmost importance. It concerns all of us. Thus, transparency and science need to be concerns of priority to a minister of the environment.

To make an informed decision in matters of such prevalence to Quebec’s future, we must be able to rely on complete information and address every concern voiced by our citizens. This ought to be the purpose of public consultations and SEA protocols. Instead of rising to the pinnacle of his duties, the minister stumbles, yet once again.

His havoc echoes through his ministry and onwards. As the days go by, Environment Minister Heurtel continues to shatter the confidence entrusted to him by Quebecers. The road to mend will be a hard one for his successor, who we may soon know;

I hope…