Photo: Darren Calabrese The Canadian Press In November, France-Élaine Duranceau inserted a measure into her bill allowing cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants to ignore their urban planning regulations to accelerate the completion of construction projects.
Isabelle Porter In Quebec
February 8, 2024
The Legault government does not believe that the deregulation to which it opens the door in cities with Bill 31 on housing risks opening the door to arbitrariness and abuses on the ethical plan.
“These powers are well defined,” argued the Minister responsible for Housing, France-Élaine Duranceau, Thursday, during a brief press scrum. “It is a special power for a period of three years renewable for two years. And all the control measures that currently exist remain. »
In November, the minister inserted into her bill a measure allowing cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants to ignore their urban planning regulations to accelerate the completion of construction projects.
This week, the president of the Order of Urban Planners of Quebec and other experts argued that this gave too much discretionary power to elected officials and could lead to risks of collusion worthy of the era of the Charbonneau commission.
Questioned on this, Minister Sonia LeBel, who was formerly a prosecutor for the Commission, came to the defense of her colleague. “The Quebec Municipal Commission has all the necessary powers to regulate this clause which, moreover, is done in a particular context with particular conditions. There’s accountability, there’s going to be public hearings on that,” she said.
Tightened amendment and persistent risks
Checked, the government has actually added certain guidelines to the amendment since its tabling in November. Initially permitted for five years, deregulation is now permitted for only three years.
To use it, a City must also hold a public meeting to consult citizens, but it is not obliged to follow their opinion.
Cities that use it will also have to report on all authorizations given once a year in a report. This report must be posted on the city's website in addition to being sent to the minister.
- The Duranceau bill awakens the specter of the Charbonneau commission
Finally, in cases where the decision conflicts with the MRC's development plan, citizens could file a complaint with the Quebec Municipal Commission (CMQ).
Liberal MP Virginie Dufour (Mille-Îles), who proposed numerous amendments to lighten the scope of amendment 37.2, welcomes the addition of the aforementioned tags. However, she believes that “this is not enough” to prevent “drifts”.
“Mayors will be able to grant unlimited exemptions from town planning regulations. There is no control, no possible dispute [unless it deviates from the development plan]. »
She gives the example of a duplex owner on land zoned for two floors. Applying the exemption to her land can potentially “increase” her profits tenfold, she explains. He can therefore “have an interest in really convincing elected officials to deviate from the regulations”.
“While there is the possibility of making great profits, there are risks. It's automatic. » From the outset, she points out, the time limit for making a complaint to the CMQ is very short, i.e. 15 days.
Québec solidaire shares these concerns. MP Andrés Fontecilla (Laurier-Dorion) argues that “the risk remains” on an ethical level despite the controls that have been added. “The fact that political bodies approve projects is likely to produce favoritism. Even if we put markers. »
This could give rise to “increased connections between real estate developers and politicians,” he says, and, “in the worst case,” to situations where the former could bribe the latter to take advantage of the exemption.