Opinion - Montérégie UPA
The Montérégie L’Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) wants to understand the about-face of the Minister of Health Danielle McCann who endorsed the unilateral political choice of the former Liberal government by maintaining the location of the new hospital in Vaudreuil-Soulanges agricultural area.
"In this case, external expertise seems to have been totally ignored, notably the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec (CPTAQ) and the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM)," denounced the president of the Montérégie UPA, Christian St-Jacques.
In a notice published last fall, the CPTAQ identified six sites outside the agricultural zone that could accommodate the hospital. These have the same characteristics, especially in regard to the available area and accessibility.
In addition, in its Plan métropolitain d’aménagement et de développement (PMAD), the CMM establishes, in agriculture, a target of six per cent growth in the total area of land under cultivation at the metropolitan scale between now and 2031 to curb urban sprawl and fight climate change.
"Why stubbornly destroy and weaken Quebec's most fertile agricultural lands when six other equivalent options are possible?” asked St-Jacques. “I would like the minister and the elected officials of this MRC to explain.”
The minister said she wanted to make up for the loss of agricultural land by upgrading other lands. For the UPA of Montérégie, this approach is not a solution since land of equivalent quality is already cultivated.
In addition, the President of the Montérégie UPA warns, "The Montérégie agricultural territory is vulnerable because its market value per hectare is lower than that of the industrial zone. The government must protect the agricultural area from the lust of land speculators. These acquire agricultural land for purposes other than agriculture. When they succeed in changing their use, as is the case for the site of the new hospital chosen by the minister, they pocket huge profits and set an unfortunate precedent.”
The UPA is reminding elected officials of the Montérégie that they have a responsibility since their territory contains the vast majority of soil that displays productivity and agronomic yield to feed the population. The region generates 35 per cent of Quebec's total agricultural production. In addition, the scarcity of agricultural land (less than two per cent of Quebec soil) and their non-renewable nature make them strategically important.
"Agriculture is much more than just a reserve of inexpensive land available for development activities,” said St-Jacques. “By rejecting the opinion of the CPTAQ and deliberately choosing to destroy the agricultural heritage of Quebec, the government of François Legault not only gives in to undue pressure, but he gives the following signal: agriculture, on the outskirts of Montreal, has no value.... It's deplorable.”