Bill 41 update

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Tashi Farmilo
Local Journalism Initiative

QUEBEC – The Union of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ) and the Quebec Federation of Municipalities (FQM) have shared their perspectives on the proposed Bill 41, aimed at enhancing the environmental performance of buildings. This legislation, presented by the Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, targets the building sector, which accounts for a significant portion of Quebec’s greenhouse gas emissions, and seeks to alleviate the demand on Hydro-Qu├ębec’s electrical grid.

The UMQ, recognizing the bill’s importance, took part in consultations and highlighted the need for amendments. They stress that while municipalities play a key role in regulating environmental aspects of buildings, Bill 41 should be modified to enable local governments to establish norms that exceed provincial minimum standards. Martin Damphousse, UMQ president, underscored the necessity of respecting municipal regulatory powers to continue their proactive role in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. The UMQ’s stance underscores the importance of municipal autonomy in environmental protection and land-use planning.

The FQM echoed similar sentiments, supporting the goals of Bill 41 but calling for adjustments to reflect municipal realities more accurately. Concerns were raised about the potential for government regulations to override municipal environmental policies. The FQM advocates for a balanced approach that allows municipalities the freedom to implement stricter standards tailored to their local contexts. Additionally, the FQM expressed apprehension regarding the proposed Quebec Sustainable Building Code, suggesting that integrating the bill’s provisions into the existing Quebec Building Code could prevent unnecessary complexity and ensure clarity for municipalities and citizens alike.

Both organizations emphasize the importance of government support and guidance to prevent the new requirements from adversely affecting local businesses and the development of new housing projects, especially during a period of housing shortage.

Vivre en Ville, joining the discussion, presented its memorandum “For a Decarbonized, Resilient, and Efficient Built Environment,” in support of Bill 41. Christian Savard, general director, highlighted the urgent need for the legislation to achieve Quebec’s GHG reduction targets. Vivre en Ville advocates for a rigorous implementation of the bill, emphasizing transparency and the incorporation of independent expertise in developing regulations. The organization stresses the importance of new buildings setting sustainability examples and calls for a comprehensive rating system that addresses not only environmental performance but also resilience and land-use planning challenges.

Savard’s enthusiasm for the bill’s objectives reflects a broad consensus on the need for robust environmental standards in the building sector. “The rapid implementation of a building environmental performance system is crucial for Quebec to meet its GHG reduction targets,” he noted, underscoring the sector’s role as a short-term priority.

The united front presented by the UMQ, FQM, and Vivre en Ville on Bill 41 highlights the collective advocacy for a sustainable, decarbonized future for Quebec’s built environment. These organizations, while supportive of the bill’s intentions, call for thoughtful amendments to ensure its successful implementation. Their recommendations advocate for a collaborative approach, balancing provincial objectives with the need for municipal autonomy and the practicalities of environmental regulation.