Quebec energy minister calls for drastic decrease in number of cars, Premier hesitates

Click to play video: 'Quebec’s energy minister and premier don’t see eye to eye on the future of motor vehicles in Quebec'
Quebec’s energy minister and premier don’t see eye to eye on the future of motor vehicles in Quebec
WATCH: After a summer of forest fires and torrential rain, climate change is on the minds of Quebec ministers. Earlier this week, the province's energy minister suggested the number of cars on the road should eventually be cut down by half, But as Global’s Franca Mignacca reports, the premier took steps to soften that position. – Aug 16, 2023

Quebec Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon says the number of cars on Quebec roads will need to decrease drastically if the province hopes to reach its carbon-neutral target by 2050.

The minister was questioned by reporters outside the National Assembly Wednesday after he suggested earlier this week that the number of cars would need to be reduced by half — regardless of fuel type.

On Wednesday, the minister clarified he would not be setting specific targets for the number of cars in the province, but instead is calling on individuals to use their “common sense.”

“It’s going to come naturally. Quebecers are intelligent people,” Fitzgibbon said.  “Who am I to say you shouldn’t drive a Ford Explorer with a lot of fuel? That’s your decision. Maybe it’s going to cost more money to do it, but it’s not the government’s job to tell you what to drive. ”

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The minister also invited the population to change their overall energy consumption habits.

“If you want to be carbon-neutral in 2050, you’re going to eat differently, probably travel differently. You’re not going to go to Florida every month using kerosene across the ocean if you want to be carbon-neutral.”

But Premier François Legault didn’t go quite as far with his comments Wednesday morning.

“We want to work with incentives, not obligations. … I think that the priority right now is to move from gas cars to electric cars.”

Legault said he also feels Quebecers will naturally leave their cars behind, especially as public transit continues to expand with projects like the REM light rail network in Montreal. He said it’s also important to be “realistic,” when it comes to travelling in more remote regions.

“Pierre read a lot about environmentalist reports this summer and I think he offered an image, an example,” Legault said. “And we agree. If we want to offer more collective transportation in large cities, it will reduce the number of cars, that is what we wish.”

Meanwhile, opposition parties argue the CAQ government shouldn’t be asking Quebecers to change their habits, when it hasn’t done enough to improve public transit .

Liberal Transport Critic André Albert Morin says many continue to rely on their cars because the CAQ government hasn’t put nearly enough focus on developing public transit systems.

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“You have to give the means to the population in order to achieve that goal, and as I said previously, right now we have no plans, no ideas,” Liberal Transport Critic André Albert Morin said in an interview. “We have a statement from a minister one morning and that’s it.”

The sale of new gas-powered vehicles is set to be banned in 2035.

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