(Quebec) Quebec does not have a global strategy to guard against the risks associated with coastal erosion and flooding. Without adaptation measures, the damage caused could reach 1.5 billion by 2065, and yet it is still possible to build roads and buildings in risk areas, deplores the Commissioner for Sustainable Development.

Commissioner Janique Lambert tabled a caustic report on the Legault government’s strategy to prepare for coastal erosion and the storms that will hit the eastern Quebec coastline more and more often.

Since 2020, the Ministry of the Environment has been entrusted with the responsibility of advising the government on the fight against climate change and ensuring its integrated governance. However, it will not have an “integrated management plan” for risk adaptation before 2027.

Meanwhile, the Ministries of Transport (MTMD) and Public Security (MSP) navigate on sight. In Transportation, we care more about repairing storm damage than preparing for it. “Nearly 80% of the Department’s expenditures related to coastal erosion and flooding for the road network under its responsibility were incurred as a result of damages incurred.”

However, repairing is expensive, and the storms will be more and more numerous. The Commissioner estimates that “the damage caused to the MTMD road network during the December 2010 and September 2019 storms that hit the maritime region east of Quebec will ultimately cost more than $110 million”.

It is better to move a risky road than to wait for it to be eaten away by the waves to do emergency work, for example. But “its coastal investment planning is not based on a full picture of the risks posed,” she says.

For its part, the Ministry of Public Security “has no long-term planning for adaptation projects”, and scientific knowledge is sparse. “To date, there is no assessment allowing the pooling of knowledge acquired relating to coastal environments and hazards, nor a knowledge acquisition plan that integrates the priority needs in order to manage the risks for people, infrastructure, ecosystems and the economy,” she notes.

However, the MSP has a crucial mission: to inform local elected officials of the risks they face. He is responsible, for example, for producing maps of “constraint zones relating to coastal erosion” for the MRCs which must integrate it into their development plan.

And he’s not doing his job.

The Ministère de la Sécurité publique replied that it plans to produce maps of stress zones relating to coastal erosion and submersion for Sept-Îles by 2024 and for Chandler, Maria and the Îles-de-la- Madeleine by 2026. However, he already considered it appropriate to do so in 2013, following major claims in 2007 and 2010.

The absence of these cards has real consequences, says the commissioner. “The absence of stress zone maps for coastal erosion and flooding is likely to increase the exposure of buildings and infrastructure to these hazards for years to come, as the development of buildings and infrastructure may continue in at-risk areas,” she laments.

She recalls that “if no adaptation measures are put in place, damage caused by erosion by 2065 could represent potential costs of 1.5 billion dollars according to the Plan for a green economy 2030”.

She also notes that:


It can be caused by waves, ocean currents, precipitation, wind, ice, rising water levels and decreasing ice cover. Coasts are less well protected by ice and are more vulnerable to the onslaught of waves that occur in winter. Human factors, such as the destruction of natural vegetation and the artificialization of shorelines (embankments, low walls, etc.), can also be the cause of coastal erosion.

It can happen gradually or suddenly, like after a storm surge. It should increase on the lower coasts, in the lower estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the coming years due to the rise in water levels, following the increase in frequency, intensity and duration of events caused by climate change.

In the coastal zone, the Ministère des Transports is responsible for nearly:

Protecting these roads against the risks associated with coastal erosion and submersion is essential, in particular to guarantee accessibility to the communities located east of Québec and their service in an emergency.

Coastal ecosystems adjust to rising water levels by migrating landward. Natural constraints, such as cliffs, or artificial ones, such as roads or low walls, can however slow down this natural dynamic. The Commissioner reports that 57% of coastal ecosystems in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence have “low migration potential”, or “less than 30 meters”. A “reflection on management and conservation measures” is needed, she says.

The Commissioner also examined the conservation strategy for wetlands and bodies of water from the Ministère de l’Environnement. Despite legislation passed in 2017, several shortcomings put the “no net loss” goal at risk. La Presse had revealed in February that to date, only 3% of an envelope of 113 million dollars has been spent to restore wetlands. Minister Benoit Charette announced a review of the program. But the Commissioner clarified that her department: