• James Armstrong

Federal support for climate change and Greenhouse Gas reduction in the MRC-VS


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

The spring thaw annually results in numerous flooded streets, like this one in Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot March 15, but municipalities are recognizing more needs to be done to address the effects of climate change on infrastructure.

The Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) recently announced they were the recipients of a $119,200 federal government grant that will subsidize a fulltime resource person responsible for finalizing a regional action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Canadian government provided the grant through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities within the framework of the Partenaires dans la protection du climat (PPC) program.

Hiring a resource person

“The resource person will be completing the stages of the program and presenting the objectives to the MRC-VS council,” said Agente du développement en environment Julie Labelle.

“The MRC completed the first stage in 2017 with an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions for the region,” she added. That work was done under the direction of a committee chaired by Mayor of Très-Saint-Rédempteur Julie Lemieux. In 2018, consultations were held to determine the objectives and actions that could be taken across the region to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the end of January 2019, the MRC-VS held its first forum on climate change and greenhouse gas reduction that included 35 elected officials, municipal director generals and professionals to finalize an action plan for the region. The forum dealt with a variety of questions, notably those pertaining to the role of municipalities facing climate change problems.

MRC approval in 2019

“This year, the council will vote on the proposals,” said Labelle, specifying that putting the plan in place would take until the end of 2020. As for the details of the plan, Labelle wasn’t able to elaborate. “There will be objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the 23 municipalities of region,” she said. How that will play out in terms of public transportation, rail links to Montreal, and reducing the number of vehicles on the regional roadways remains to be seen.

PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

The spring thaw left some residents of Saint-Lazare scrambling last weekend to stem the flow of the rapidly-mounting run-off from the melting snow. Councillor Geneviève Lachance, shown here near the intersection of Place Belmont and Rue Yearling, said the town has never seen it this bad before. The Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC recently received a federal grant to dedicate a regional action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Impact of climate change

Neighbourhoods in local towns such as Saint-Lazare have been experiencing flooded streets and basements as the annual spring thaw begins. “The action plan and its objectives are aimed at climate change through reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Labelle.

“We saw a lot of flooding on the weekend because of the rain and warmer weather,” Saint-Lazare Councillor Geneviève Lachance told The Journal. “It’s totally related to climate change. We’ve never seen it this bad before,” she said noting that weather events happen each winter that haven’t happened before.

“We’re not out of the woods, yet,” she said, referring to the recent cold weather that slowed the spring thaw. With the ground covered with a layer of ice and frozen snow, ditches and catchment basins clogged with ice and snow, it is impossible for any rainfall to be absorbed into the land. “Many of the streets in Saint-Lazare don’t have any drainage or ditches,” she said. “It’s a challenge. We have to keep an eye on the situation.”

Finding solutions

The problem and potential solutions were discussed at the council caucus meeting on Tuesday, March 26, according to Lachance.

“We know there will be more weather events throughout the year such as high winds, that will cause problems,” she said. Finding solutions to the problems is not an easy task and is frequently expensive. For example, better drainage could help solve the flooding problem.

“That comes with a very high cost and it’s the residents who end up paying,” she said. Requiring developers to include drainage in new neighbourhoods is another possible solution.

Part of the problem for municipalities like Saint-Lazare is that predicting weather events and planning for them is not a precise science. “We had a meeting with Hydro Quebec regarding their tree trimming along power lines. That program has significantly reduced power outages across the town,” Lachance said. Hydro Quebec shared a chart of weather events over several years that shows a significant increase in events causing power outages.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Improving public transportation is also on Saint-Lazare’s list of priorities.

“It’s so logical that we need a better public transit system for the area,” said Lachance. Recent attempts to improve the Saint-Lazare bus service appear to have stalled at the regional level.

“We met with EXO and they said they would help but are very busy with the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) on the South Shore.”

The town’s goal is to increase ridership on the local bus service. Currently, students are the predominant users. From the council’s point of view, with the amount of money budgeted for public transportation, close to $1 million, a more usable service needs to be provided.

“We need some type of system to get to the REM,” said Lachance. As for the MRC-VS project, Lachance said she was aware it was happening but wasn’t sure what the game plan is.

“We haven’t seen it, yet,” she said. “I have been a huge advocate of the REM. My frustration with all of this is that municipalities can’t do it all by themselves and the government isn’t helping. They have no plan to include the REM in the new (Île-aux-Tourtes) bridge or to bring it out here. We will be the ones who have to pay.”

From Lachance’s point of view, in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and being environmentally responsible means having direct access to the REM in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region.

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