Environment Minister Benoit Charette is maintaining his increase in the nickel standard, despite the contrary opinion expressed by all the regional public health departments. The concentration of particles can “likely” be quintupled daily by the mining industry.
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According to the Minister, it is the national management that really has the expertise.
“Seeing the reaction of the regional directorates, we validated and the national public health confirms that the decision is completely justified and is based on scientific data”, pleaded the minister during a scrum on Thursday morning. “It’s a way of seeing that is not ours (…) These are not the directions that had the mandate.”
The Minister of the Environment confirms the information reported by Radio-Canada that the 18 regional directorates of public health in Quebec (DRSP) are asking the government to stick to the daily nickel standard of 14 ng/m3.
On December 16, the Ministry of the Environment published its new draft regulations raising the standard to 70 ng/m3 per day and an annual standard of 20 ng/m3.
In this same press release, Quebec boasted that the Public Health Department of the Capitale-Nationale had accepted the revised values of this new standard in a notice. Since then, Minister Charette relied on it when he claimed to trust science.
However, this regional management is now doing an about-face and, like the mayor of Quebec, is opposed to this new standard. “It’s surprising,” said the minister. “Just a few days ago they were saying the complete opposite. Have all the regional directorates agreed to speak with one voice, it is possible (…) I cannot endorse the approach behind it.
With regard to the opposition of the City of Quebec, the minister considers that “it is his full right to be against”, but that “it is the government of Quebec which has the responsibility to establish air quality standards.
Benoît Charette reiterates the economic advantages of raising the standard. “We must electrify our transport and for that we need nickel,” he said, admitting however that “there is no advantage” for the population directly. The standard will also “probably” be changed, confirmed the minister.
“But there are no disadvantages in terms of public health,” he continues to insist despite the opposition of regional management.
The National Director of Public Health who endorsed the change to this standard is Horacio Arruda. According to Parti Québécois environmental spokesperson Sylvain Gaudreaut, Dr. Arruda is disconnected from his regional directors. “I have a hard time understanding that. How can we have a national directorate of public health who says X and then regional directors of public health who say Y on a file as sensitive as this, “said the deputy, reiterating the importance of applying the principle precaution in this case.
The parliamentary leader of Québec Solidaire, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, has asked Premier François Legault to call his Minister of the Environment to order. “It doesn’t make sense, in 2022, for a minister of the environment to put the profits of foreign companies ahead of the quality of the air that Quebecers breathe,” he said.