Less than 1/100th of Quebec budget not enough 'to attack the no. 1 problem facing humanity': 5th grader

Treasury Board President Christian Dubé, preparing to table the CAQ's first budget next week, got a stark illustration of how little the province spends on its Environment Ministry from 11-year-old constituent Merlin Branchaud.

Treasury Board president gets stark illustration of Environment Ministry spending from 11-year-old constituent

Grade 5 student Merlin Branchaud hand-delivered his letter to Treasury Board President Christian Dubé, his MNA, when his class paid a visit to Quebec's National Assembly in late February.

Merlin Branchaud did the math, and his calculations are bang on: the Environment Ministry's annual budget represents just 0.21 per cent of provincial government spending.

That's too little, surmised the Grade 5 student, who summed up his views in a letter that he hand-delivered to his MNA, Treasury Board President Christian Dubé.

"In my class, we learn fractions, percentages and decimals. So, I decided to apply my knowledge of mathematics to politics," Merlin wrote.

His letter was accompanied by a graph that represents the government spending on the Environment Ministry as a fraction of total expenditures.

Merlin Branchaud included this graph in his letter to the Treasury Board president. The colour green represents the fraction of government spending dedicated to Quebec's Environment Ministry. (Submitted by Merlin Branchaud)

"The ministry responsible for the protection of the environment doesn't even get one one-hundredth of what's in the treasury," he wrote.

"That's really not much to attack the number one problem facing humanity."

"If we are serious about the fight against climate change and the protection of biodiversity, we must at all costs add more green to this graph. You have the key to the treasury, so you are the best person to correct the situation."

The 11-year-old student from Petite-Gare school in La Prairie, on Montreal's South Shore, presented his letter to Dubé in person when his class visited the National Assembly at the end of February.

Dubé promised Merlin he would follow up on his request and share the letter with Environment Minister Benoit Charette.

With the Coalition Avenir Québec government's first budget coming down on March 21, Charette has hinted that his ministry is in for an increase.

"I think that we will have new means at our disposal to tackle specific issues," Charette said in an interview on Radio-Canada's Gravel le Matin Friday. On Thursday, Québec Solidaire called for a doubling of spending on the environment, from $175 million to $350 million.

In response, Charette pointed out that that $175 million "is essentially related to running the department," while many environmental initiatives fall under the spending of other ministries, including Natural Resources, Transport and Municipal Affairs.

He also said the CAQ convention in May will focus on the environment.

Merlin, whose parents are biologists — his father runs SNAP Québec, the provincial branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society — is to meet Dubé for a follow-up session at his La Prairie constituency office on March 22, the day after the budget.

By then he'll know whether the envelope for Environment Ministry spending will have grown. There's no word on whether he'll have a new graph ready for his MNA to parse.


Thomas Gerbet


Thomas Gerbet is a journalist with CBC's French-language network, Radio-Canada, in Montreal.

Translated and edited by Loreen Pindera