The effects of the climate crisis call for major changes in land use planning. Among the inevitable transformations, some will be more difficult than others to achieve. Our travel habits, our accommodation aspirations, our way of life are in the crosshairs of the priority actions for change to be undertaken.
In this context, the Government of Quebec published, last June, a policy on architecture and land use planning. This major document on the importance of our territory, its wealth and its fragility is interested in development, takes a new look at our built heritage and to be built, proposes to update our urban and rural models, aspires to reduce the sprawl and car use, etc. In short, a major project to transform the layout of our spaces is now beginning.
The document identifies many targets. To achieve them, it will be necessary to release means and resources. It starts with an Implementation Plan announced for this spring. The challenges are multiple: the financing of public transport, the increased supply of housing in conjunction with the creation of local neighborhoods, taxation adapted to the objectives to be achieved, the quality of constructions, land requalification, conservation and requalification of the built heritage, upgrading and extension of infrastructure in urban areas, etc.
Essentially, the implementation of this policy will have significant effects on our deeply rooted habits and aspirations.
We must aim for collective membership. In this sense, government guidance cannot be punitive. A pedagogical, incentive and collaborative approach should be favored.
An obligation to set an example should inhabit our decision-makers. This could involve ensuring that decisions are consistent with government planning guidelines. When the ministries decide to set up a school or a hospital, they should take all of these guidelines into account, in particular so as to consolidate the existing urban perimeters, limit the need for travel by car, ensure the deployment of coherent and safe active transport networks, to offer sustainable mobility options and to highlight the architectural and landscape heritage.
This consistency should materialize at the regional and local levels of government. Urban sprawl can only be reduced if this objective is fully integrated by all decision-making orders; from the national to the arrondissements.
Considering the limited human resources in a context of labor shortage, it would not be realistic to initiate these changes without developing a new political and administrative approach. It is important to adopt a new way of managing with less “preserves” and more collaboration. We suggest establishing various forms of pooling expertise in government, regionally and locally.
In addition, to succeed in mobilizing all stakeholders, the objectives pursued should be clear and supported by science, and continuous monitoring of the achievement of targets should be carried out and communicated to the population.
Citizens are at the forefront of change; a voice must be offered to them so that they can question the decision-makers.
As we can see, there are many challenges here: exemplarity, consistency, competence, collaboration, science, citizen voice. The political and administrative authorities will have to equip themselves with the tools to meet them. In our opinion, given the multitude of challenges and the number of players involved, a cross-cutting body is essential.
This Council should have the following functions:
It should also be granted powers allowing it to intervene quickly with the various administrations concerned. As with the Advisory Committee on Climate Change, there would be a place of science to preside over the identification of objectives, targets and means.
It goes without saying that the ministries and the various services at the regional and local levels will have to adopt new tools, new ways of doing things: we think of land use planning guidelines, preferred zoning and density models, funding from public transit, inclusive housing, land requalification, heritage conservation and urban and landscaping, to the management of “not in my backyard”, etc. These new means, specific to each instance, will be in line with the work of the Council, which aims to be as much a guide as a supervisor, and above all a great teacher.
The Architecture and Spatial Planning Policy outlines the route to be taken to respond to the climate crisis. It is of the first importance to recognize from the outset that the only way to respond to the ambition to transform our ways of life is through a major change in the mode of public management of development.