Like oil and water: Quebec’s conflicting green politics

monpq_5324b5d6194e4-1024x982The current provincial election campaign in Quebec has no shortage of hot-button topics – from the usual questions about sovereignty, nationalism and the economy to the apparently burning issue of who in the province is allowed to wear a hijab – but the environment has thus far not been one of them.

Provincial premier and Parti Québecois leader Pauline Marois, however, recently reintroduced environmental questions to the campaign by reminding voters of her party’s commitment to protecting Quebec’s water resources. “We will hold a major dialogue on water issues, in order to reinforce our national water policy,” she said at a recent campaign event in the Lanaudiere region. “We will work with stakeholders to protect the irreplaceable richness of our waters.”

She then drew a distinction between this approach and that of some of her opponents.”The Liberals did absolutely nothing to protect our most valuable resource,” Marois said. “They shelved our water policy.”

The PQ first developed a National Water Policy – which among other things included strict environmental protection measures for the Saint Lawrence river and other bodies of water – as part of its political platform in 2002, but has never had the majority government needed to implement it. Now, the PQ has made a “National Rendezvous On Water” part of its campaign.

Whether that will help the party appear to have greener credentials than its opponents, however, is not clear. The PQ government has come under fire for its plans to drill for oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence region, in the hopes of tapping into a new stream of resource wealth.

The party may struggle to retain its identity as the most environmentally friendly of the major provincial parties as a result. One staffer for the PQ’s Minister of the Environment, for example, posted a link to the water announcement on Twitter, only to receive accusations of hypocrisy stemming from the PQ’s push for a renewed oil economy:

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