The Legault government is staying the course on raising the standard for nickel in the air, despite increasingly broad opposition to this approach.
Posted yesterday at 2:54 p.m.
The announcement was made Tuesday, by means of a press release, which led to an outcry from the opposition parties, but in vain.
The solidarity deputy for Rouyn-Noranda–Témiscamingue, Émilise Lessard-Therrien, presented a motion to the National Assembly on Wednesday calling for the cancellation of the increase which is to come into effect on April 28. This regulatory amendment provides that the maximum permitted airborne nickel emissions will increase from 14 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) at 70 nanograms, five times more than the current standard. The motion of M.me Lessard-Therrien was rejected by the CAQ government’s parliamentary leader, Simon Jolin-Barrette.
Unanimous opposition from regional public health
This motion highlighted the fact that this increase has been decried by all 18 regional public health departments in Quebec, by the city council of Quebec, by the Ordre des chimistes as well as by a host of Quebec citizen groups. and Rouyn-Noranda, two municipalities where nickel discharges are closely monitored, several environmental groups and so on.
In a press briefing before the opening of the debates in the chamber, Québec solidaire and the Parti québécois had denounced this increase in the standard, highlighting the fact that the Legault government requires demonstrated social acceptability for the Québec tramway.
“For a government that has just discovered the virtues of social acceptability, it is rather surprising or even contradictory to note that it has authorized an increase in nickel particles in the air, on the sly, for the Quebec City region. , in particular for the Lower Town, the Limoilou sector, when, obviously, there is no social acceptability for that, declared PQ member Sylvain Gaudreault. In the case of nickel, it is obvious that there is no social acceptability. »
For his part, the parliamentary leader of Québec solidaire, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, accused the Legault government of “allowing multinational companies to pollute the air that Quebeckers breathe to please the multinationals”.
His colleague Sol Zanetti added, claiming to be the bearer of the “fury” of the citizens of Limoilou, Beauport and Quebec. The MNA recalled that the consultations on this subject had clearly demonstrated the opposition of many groups and citizens, and especially of the 18 regional public health services in the province. “Their social acceptability is a slogan. They don’t care, ”he railed.
Tough debates in the chamber
Then, in the chamber, the question was raised by Liberal leader Dominique Anglade and by MPs Nadeau-Dubois, Zanetti and Lessard-Therrien from Québec solidaire. The latter was particularly scathing.
“Thanks to the Minister of the Environment, the people of the lower town of Quebec, Rouyn-Noranda, Sorel-Tracy and so on will breathe five times more nickel. I hope the minister is embarrassed this morning. I hope that we will never again hear the CAQ boast of being the government of the regions. Because in my region, in Rouyn-Noranda, people end up with more lung cancer than elsewhere because we have the worst air quality in Quebec. And the minister decides that his job, well, is to add to it, ”said Mme Lessard-Therrien.
The Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charrette, refuted these assertions, accusing the MP of ignoring the question of the annual average. “No, we are not multiplying this standard by five indefinitely and all the time because it must not exceed 20 nanograms per cubic meter on an annual basis. And this element has been confirmed to us as valid by National Public Health, ”he said.
Mr. Charrette invoked the opinion issued by an independent committee of experts and National Public Health, according to which “it does not compromise the public health of citizens”.
“The CAQ says that it takes social acceptability for the tramway. Well, what’s good for pup is good for kitty. And for nickel, there is none, social acceptability, ”retorted Mme Lessard-Therrien, again citing the unanimous unfavorable opinion of the 18 regional public health departments.
Charrette prefers national public health
Minister Charrette replied that despite his “greatest respect for the various regional public health authorities, it must also be said that they were not the ones who were involved at the time of the process” and that this process “was endorsed at each of these steps by national public health, and again recently, in the last few weeks, the Dr (Luc) Boileau (national director of public health) was able to confirm that the studies were valid, that the decision to change this standard was valid and that it was scientifically justified”.
Benoit Charrette also invoked the decision to install a new air sampling station in Quebec City in collaboration with municipal authorities. “Again this morning, I contacted the mayor of Quebec City. Our teams are working together to establish the best place to install a new sampling station to see where the emissions are coming from, and above all to correct problems when they arise. But, in the sector in question, the first problem, and public health is very clear on this subject, it is not nickel, the main source of contamination. »
The City of Quebec is particularly concerned since the request to increase the standard comes from mining companies, including Glencore, which has facilities in the port of Quebec. In the case of Rouyn-Noranda, Émilise Lessard-Therrien believes that the relaxation of nickel emission standards will only add to the severe problems that the city is already experiencing with cadmium and arsenic emissions from the Horne Foundry.