CAQ overhauls Green Fund, promises to move on electrification
Critics skeptical of abolition of oversight committee for $1.3B-envelope
Quebec's environment minister wants to have complete control over the projects that are financed through the government's Green Fund, announcing a complete overhaul of how the fund is managed on Tuesday.
The fund is estimated at about $1.3 billion and is also getting a new name — the Electrification and Climate Change Fund.
Minister Benoit Charette said the Coalition Avenir Québec has wanted to see the program reformed for years, following the publication of several reports indicating the fund was inefficient and did not meet its stated goals.
"There were several measures that had little or no impact on the reduction of greenhouse gases," Charette said at a news conference Tuesday.
This led the Liberals to form a management committee within the fund in 2017, the Conseil de gestion du fonds vert.
Last fall, the committee recommended the government pull out from 45 of the 185 programs financed by the Green Fund, either because they weren't effective, or because they were already being funded through other government programs.
The CAQ will indeed reduce the number of projects managed through the fund. Waste reduction and water preservation, for example, will now be under the responsibility of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.
But Charette said the committee itself will also be abolished. By centralizing the fund within his ministry, Charette said he hopes to get rid of some of the red tape.
"We don't want to reduce our efforts, we just need these funds to go through a single channel," he said.
'Waste of time'
Created in 2006, the Green Fund is mainly financed through Quebec's participation in the North American carbon market, and the four per cent tax motorists pay at the pump.
Premier François Legault said his main course of action in the fight against climate change will come from the development of hydroelectricity projects.
Charette said, so far, the province has been focusing on the electrification of transportation and now needs to push for the electrification of industries and infrastructure.
"So we will have less measures, but more money for each of these measures [to get] better results," he said.
But the Liberal critic for the environment and the fight against climate change calls the move "a waste of time."
"We're not going in the good direction," said Marie Montpetit.
The CAQ said it will have to wait until the fall to table a bill establishing the new structure of the Electrification and Climate Change Fund.
Meanwhile, Montpetit said Quebec's window to hit its greenhouse gas emission reduction target — 37.5 per cent lower than 1990 levels by 2030 — is just around the corner.
"We have to go faster, not slower," said Montpetit.
She is also concerned that centralizing decision-making at the government level will open the door to more political intervention.
Charette said that wouldn't be an issue because the CAQ will put in place a permanent committee charged with overseeing the projects, and said its recommendations will be made public.
Université de Montréal physics professor Normand Mousseau said that by abolishing the management committee the Liberals had introduced, the CAQ was pushing the government back into the same corner it found itself in 2017, "when nothing was working."
"We were starting to get better indicators and results from the people the government was giving money to," Mousseau told the CBC Montreal's Homerun.
He is also critical of the CAQ's decision to abolish Transition Energétique Québec, another government bureau put in place by the Liberals to serve citizens and businesses — for example by providing information on government grants and innovation.
Mousseau said what the CAQ should have done at this point is have a coherent plan to ensure all ministries are working toward the same goal.
"We can reduce emissions in one field — and then another ministry decides to invite an industry that produces 2 million tonnes of CO2 — and then you erase all the effort you've put in."
With files from Cathy Senay and CBC Montreal's Homerun