#ICYMI: Green policy, abortion protest, Quebec City mosque altercation – Montreal Gazette

#ICYMI: Green policy, abortion protest, Quebec City mosque altercation - Montreal Gazette
Legault announces plan to electrify Quebecs economy, reduce oil consumption
Premier Francois Legault wraps up two day meeting of the CAQ general council with a speech to the party rank and file at Hotel Plaza in Montreal on Sunday May 26, 2019. Dave Sidaway / Montreal Gazette ORG XMIT: 62578 Dave Sidaway / jpg

Premier François Legault outlined a sweeping vision for Quebecs future where oil is not part of the equation. In his closing speech to the Coalition Avenir Québec’s general council, which spent the weekend outlining a greener agenda, the Legault said he wants the province to cut its oil consumption by 40 per cent by 2030. That energy would be replaced by clean electricity. Currently 36 per cent of the energy consumed in Quebec is electric. “Instead of pumping our money into the coffers of oil companies, we will keep it here to create wealth for people here,” Legault said in his speech to 1,300 delegates at a downtown hotel Sunday. “The path I invite all of us to follow is to electrify our economy. That’s the way for more prosperity and a greener economy.” Addressing the province’s growing environmental lobby, which has accused him of not doing enough to save the planet, Legault said: “I want to be perfectly clear — we got the message from our youth. We are going to do more. The skeptics will be proven wrong.”

Several hundred women gathered in front of the U.S. consulate in Montreal to denounce restrictive abortion laws recently introduced in that country. Amid posters featuring illustrations of coat hangers and women’s uteruses, one could read “Politicians make sh–ty doctors” and “My body is not a political playground.” Alabama and Georgia recently passed stringent laws that would, once they take effect, outlaw virtually all abortions, and Missouri and Louisiana plan similar bills. “I have trouble understanding why we are still here, re-examining the right to abortion,” said 15-year-old Zeneb Blanchet. For her, she said, it’s strictly a matter of women’s health. “The American situation drives me crazy,” said 18-year-old Romane Dumesnil. “I fear for my rights as a woman, and as someone with a uterus. We have to demonstrate to make it clear that not just anyone should be elected.” Tanya Hage, 29, warned against complacency. “The minute we close our eyes to what is happening elsewhere, it could easily happen here, too,” she said.

While he wants to encourage Quebecers to use transit, to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, Legault admitted transit is not a practical solution for Quebecs remote regions. For those areas his government will maintain subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles.

Quebec premier Legault aims to boost use of hydroelectric power

Quebec politicians insisted an altercation outside the Quebec City mosque was in no way fuelled by the ongoing debate around Bill 21. Police said a dispute erupted in the mosque’s parking lot on Saturday, ending with a punch being thrown and a man arrested for assault. Mosque director Mohammed Labidi told Le Journal de Québec the man in question arrived at the mosque and started insulting people near the entrance. He asked to see worshippers’ passports and told them they’re not at home in Quebec, Labidi told the publication. While condemning “all forms of violence,” Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette also denied there was any connection between the incident and Bill 21. “It is clearly unacceptable,” François Legault said after a meeting of the CAQ’s general council, “but we should not link it to Bill 21.” The premier repeated that in his view Bill 21 is balanced and reasonable and in fact will fight racism, because it will create clear guidelines indicating minorities can wear religious symbols on the street even if the bill will ban symbols on the job for figures of authority.

Legault sees Quebec as North Americas green battery and said if there is a takeup of Hydro-Québecs present surplus, the publicly owned utility could build new dams and wind energy in co-operation with indigenous communities.

Premier François Legault closed the Coalition Avenir Québec's weekend-long, environment-themed general meeting on Sunday with a speech that outlined ambitious goals to reduce the province's dependence on oil and make clean energy a priority.

We pump money from our pockets and send it to the pockets of the oil companies, Legault said at a convention of his Coalition Avenir Québec party. The theme of the weekend meeting was the greening of Quebec.

Among a number of policies, Legault announced the party's goal of reducing Quebec's petroleum consumption by 40 per cent by 2030 — with hydroelectricity as its main replacement.

His goal is to cut Quebecs greenhouse gas emissions by 37.5% by 2030, and to reduce the provinces C$10 billion a year bill for imported oil, 80% of which comes from the United States.

Dominic Champagne, one of a number of prominent environmentalists the CAQ showcased over the weekend, said he could hear "a very strong echo" of the green movement in Legault's speech.

The plan will call for expanding existing or planned subway and light-rail lines plus new tramways in the Montreal and Quebec City areas, as well as the electrification of bus lines.

"We all know where la CAQ was on October 1st," Champagne said, referring to the party's lack of focus on climate change during the election campaign.

Legault met last week with New York City officials to discuss exporting surplus power from Hydro-Québec, the government-owned utility.

"Listen to the commitment this morning — I think there is an evolution in the political philosophy of la CAQ and François Legault."

Quebec now relies on hydro power for 36% of its energy consumption, with oil accounting for 40% of energy consumed in the province.

But Champagne, who became a party member as a way to draw attention to the climate crisis, said the party now needed to follow through on these policies to enact laws.

"You cannot go clean and go dirty at the same," he said. "If you do, your water will remain dirty. So, if we want to go clean, let's go clean."

He said the party appealed to him because it would make the economy stronger, but that Legault also needed to take the environment seriously.

Legault got a rock star's welcome as he walked through the crowd to give his speech,  and when the cheers subsided, supporters sang him "Gens du pays" — often considered Quebec's unofficial anthem — as the day coincided with the premier's 62nd birthday.

The meeting in Montreal was the party's first since the CAQ won a majority last October, realigning Quebec's politics with his populist message. With its focus on the environment, the weekend was the party's opportunity to show itself as pragmatic.

After saluting his cabinet ministers, Legault spoke of how reducing carbon emissions in Quebec and abroad would both enrich Quebec and "save the planet for our children."

He said all new transit projects funded by the government must use clean energy, all new public buildings must have electric heating, that his government would look at new incentives for Quebecers and the private sector would have to follow suit.

While pursuing new deals to export Quebec's hydroelectric power to the United States and the rest of Canada, he said Quebec must also reduce its reliance on oil.

Transportation remains the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec as other sectors have made reductions.

Legault said that when Quebecers fill up their vehicles at the pump, they must realize that they're putting money in the pockets of petroleum producers.

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