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It's Time For Premier Couillard To Call A Spade A Spade

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PHILIPPE COUILLARD
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On numerous occasions, Premier Couillard has made magnificent declarations on the international scene on the subject of greenhouse gas emissions. Once more, this was the case at COP 22 in Marrakesh. To hear him, one would think we live in the greenest of green lands. Alas! That is without taking into account the extreme pressure that the oil lobby is putting on his government to hasten the adoption of Bill106.

It is clear that impatience has seized the Quebec Oil and Gas Association(QOGA) : this is their second public intervention in less than a month. The contradictions between the beautiful speeches of the Premier overseas and the reality of Bill 106 favouring hydrocarbons are exposing the double standard of Mr Couillard's policies.

In the corridors of the National Assembly, the hyper-green speeches of Mr. Couillard seem to come from another planet. Bill 106 will have major impacts. According to the National Assembly website, it will modify 20 current laws as well as the Civil Code. All these modifications will profoundly alter our legal functioning and our relationship with the land underneath our feet.

No wonder this bill did not make the headlines; it was tabled two days before the parliamentary holidays. In addition, the parliamentary commission began on the 16th of August while the population enjoyed their corn-on-the-cob under the summer sun. If Mr. Couillard believes that Quebec is not a "banana republic" where decisions are made by a clique behind closed doors, he must engage with the public in an in-depth debate on this subject; a debate which was earlier aborted by the decision to proceed with a phony consultation exercise during the summer holidays.

The geological reality of Quebec necessitates the use of non-conventional techniques to extract hydrocarbons. In order to disguise the real nature of its legislation, Bill 106 avoids using the words "hydraulic fracturing" because of its negative connotations. So instead, the legislative text uses a panoply of euphemisms, such as "completion," "physical stimulation," "chemical cleansing," of the bedrock. Why hide the reality of the adverse effects that this controversial technique can have on the environment? Mr. Couillard must shoulder his responsibilities and have the decency to call a spade a spade.

Concerning the effects on water, the Regulation for the Protection of Drinking Water (RPEP) is so minimalist in its requirements of a protective distance between a well and a drilling site that some experts, including geological engineer Marc Durand, believe that the RPEP was tailor-made to the needs of the extraction industry while neglecting the protection of the population's drinking water.

To help Mr. Couillard understand the importance of water for us, a grandmother from Saint-Hilaire, Ingrid Style, sent him the DVD of the Frédéric Back film The Mighty River. Let's hope that this work of art will help the good doctor understand that the health of our river and the quality of its water are more important to us than the short term interests of the fossil fuel industry.

As for the Minister of Natural Resources, Mr Arcand, he confirmed to Quebec's Oil and Gas Association that Bill 106 will be adopted before the end of the year. He believes that the debate is over; the only modifications he envisions are cosmetic, like changing the word "connection"  to "pipeline." Nothing to cope with the misgivings of the Federation of Quebec Municipalities or the Chamber of Notaries.

Despite six years of citizen activism, the Minister of Natural Resources is determined to satisfy the gas producers. To hasten things, Mr. Arcand does not exclude invoking closure on the National Assembly. After all, when the lobby boss gives an "order" to the minister, he must hastily respond.

Mr. Couillard should have the courage to answer a fundamental question: Is this bill for the well-being of the whole population? Or is it for the sole benefit of the extraction industry? If he does not have the honesty to answer this question, it will be obvious that "Mr. Green's" lovely green costume is merely camouflage for a fossil fuel hustler.

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