QUEBEC — Better known for its interest in the economy, job creation and secularism, the Coalition Avenir Québec party this weekend will try and get in touch with its green side.
And prominent environmentalists will be there to help guide it along the way.
It’s not quite an invasion but several of the province’s top environmental figures have recently bought memberships in the party — a move which gives them a say in CAQ affairs — and appear to be working hard to shift the focus of the organization François Legault founded in 2011.
That process will continue this coming weekend when they attend a meeting of the CAQ’s general council in a Montreal hotel. Expected to draw 1,000 people, such meetings hammer out policy ideas which can later emerge in the form of government legislation since the CAQ is the party in power.
It will be the first time the party membership has gathered since the October 2018 election which brought it to power and the first time in CAQ history that a council is devoted to the environment issue.
The theme is “For a green economy,” and the book of proposed resolutions up for debate is jammed full of ideas on everything from energy efficiency, ride-sharing and public transit to the evils of single-use plastic and planned obsolescence of appliances.
Ultimately, the CAQ wants to create its own politically viable environmental action plan before the next election in 2022.
Among the biggest names to sign on the dotted line for CAQ membership is Dominic Champagne, the media-savvy theatre director who launched a major environmental movement in November 2018 known as Le Pacte pour la transition (PACT).
Not only is he attending the meeting, he will be on a panel along with Karel Mayrand, the executive director of the David Suzuki Foundation for Quebec and the Atlantic region.
A spokesperson for the Pact confirmed Thursday that Champagne became a CAQ party member in early 2019.
“The CAQ is the party in power so it is natural to be interested in its activities, particularly when it comes to the urgent fight against climate change,” Rosemonde Gingras said in an interview.
Gingras noted, however, that Champagne’s interest in the CAQ is one of an “interested citizen,” and not as CAQ activist.
The Pact, which has gathered 277,843 signatures on its manifesto for climate change action, confirmed its presence at the council on Twitter. It said it will be looking for more than cosmetic change from the CAQ.
Champagne’s influence is not a minor affair. He was among the first persons Legault met after taking power. The private tête-a-tête took place in November.
Other environmentalists are following suit.
Le Devoir reported Thursday that Diego Creimer and Sylvain Perron, both employees of the David Suzuki Foundation, have also joined the CAQ.
Creimer confirmed his involvement in an email to the Montreal Gazette.
“I am a member of a number of political parties at the federal, provincial and municipal levels,” Creimer said. “My political implications are strictly personal and independent of my work at the foundation.
“I strongly believe in civic participation at the community and political level, and to improve the quality of our democracy.”
According to Le Devoir the three have tried to influence the party at the membership level by taking part in regional consultations on the environmental theme. The end result is the package of more than a dozen resolutions to be voted on by CAQ members on the weekend.
If adopted intact, the package will represent a significant shift for the CAQ, which has been in power eight months and only recently got interested in the issue that has drawn thousands into the streets all over the province.
In the election, Legault campaigned on three big themes: education, health and the economy. Once in office, he saw which way the wind was blowing and rapidly added the environment to his list of priorities and has been working to build up credibility on the green flank ever since.
While some of the resolutions on the table this weekend have the ring of apple pie, for the CAQ — a party saddled with an image of being pro automobile above all — this is new ground.
None of the resolutions call for anything as radical as a ban on fossil fuels or automobiles — measures which would not fly with the CAQ base in the regions — but there are others calling for significantly increasing the recycling of glass and the creation of a consignment system for plastic bottles.
Another calls for putting in place measures to encourage the use of eco-friendly packaging and an end to food waste and reductions in the use of pesticides.