​Quebec 2022 Elections | Taxing pollution could lead to a crisis of « yellow vests », believes Benoit Charette


Taxing the purchase of « ultra-polluting » vehicles as proposed by Québec solidaire could create division within the population, like the movement of « yellow vests » which shook France, argued the outgoing minister of the ‘Environment, Benoit Charette, during an election debate on the green economy held on Monday evening.

Of the five main parties, only the Conservative Party of Quebec did not attend the event hosted by Josée Boileau, columnist at News.

The four participants — Benoit Charette (CAQ), Virginie Dufour (PLQ), Alejandra Zaga Mendez (QS) and Jeanne Robin (PQ) — united on the need to do more for the environment, but not on the way to go about it.

The risk or not of taxing

The solidarity candidate and the CAQ candidate notably raised the tone on the question of taxing the purchase of polluting vehicles.

« We have the courage to talk about a bonus-malus for vehicles that are ultrapolluting, » said Mme Zaga Mendez, in reference to QS’s proposal to tax the purchase of gas-guzzling vehicles by 15%.

“I salute the frankness of your approach, just as I salute the frankness of ours. We don’t hide it: we don’t want to charge the consumer even more, given that in Quebec we are among the most taxed,” retorted Mr. Charette. “The great danger is to create an aversion to mobilization. We must mobilize the population and not turn it against us”, he added, referring in particular to the French movement of “yellow vests”.

The solidarity candidate, however, noted that the situation is not comparable, insofar as her party’s proposal applies only to buyers of polluting vehicles and not to the entire population (as is the case during the introduction of a carbon tax at the pump) and that several exceptions would apply, in particular for certain workers and for large families.

“Projects of the future” and “projects of the past”

Among the other topics covered, the candidates discussed the management of residual materials, the development of renewable energies, soil decontamination and, more generally, the fight against climate change.

“So that we can really tackle [aux changements climatiques], it really has to start from the top. The Prime Minister must believe in it,” said Liberal Virginie Dufour. « That way, we wouldn’t have a tunnel that would push when it goes completely against science, » she said, referring to the third Quebec-Lévis road link project put forward by the CAQ.

“Right now, the CAQ government is prioritizing projects from the past,” added his supportive opponent. “We, what we want is to take these resources [en main-d’oeuvre] for projects of the future, in particular public transport, « said Mr.me Zaga Mendez.

Parti Québécois Jeanne Robin criticized the CAQ for having put forward road projects rather than projects « coherent with the climate emergency » during the pandemic, in particular through its Act respecting the acceleration of certain infrastructure projects (PL66), on which she had spoken as principal director of Vivre en ville.

“Instead of putting our energy into putting in place infrastructures that would get us out of both crises at the same time, the pandemic crisis […] and the climate crisis, we continued to do as we have always done, road projects, because it’s simpler, ”she said.

The outgoing Minister of the Environment, however, denied having put forward projects such as the reconfiguration of Highway 50, stressing that it is « one of the most accident-prone roads » in Quebec. and that public safety is at stake.

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