The new nickel standard defended by the Quebec government comes into force this Thursday, and with very little support. The Port of Quebec has added its voice to the opposition concert by calling on the Environment Minister to “suspend the application” of a rule that quintuples the tolerated nickel limit in the air.
The Port’s CEO, Mario Girard, sent a letter to the Minister of the Environment on Wednesday evening inviting him to listen to the population and their concerns.
“In the face of these legitimate concerns, wouldn’t it be desirable to take a few more weeks to reassure these citizens? Where is the urgency? Mr. Girard asks in his letter.
Minister Benoit Charrette on Wednesday accused the Port of Quebec of being opaque in refusing to share data from its weather stations. “For some reason I don’t understand, they don’t want to give us access to data from these stations,” the minister said.
The CEO of the Port of Quebec made a point of correcting the situation. “We are very open to sharing […] the data from our stations in the community “, said Mario Girard, underlining that he welcomed the minister’s words” with surprise “and” a certain irritation “.
The Port of Quebec CEO’s letter adds to a large contingent of opponents of the measure. Several citizens of Limoilou expressed concern about seeing more nickel in the already polluted air they breathe. The mayor of Quebec and the entire city council of the national capital have called on the government to step back. Quebec’s 18 regional public health directorates have also expressed reservations about lowering the standard, as has the Quebec College of Physicians and the Order of Chemists.
The maximum standard per day increases from 14 to 70 nanograms of nickel per cubic meter (ng / m3). The new regulations also provide for the addition of an annual reference standard of 20 ng / m3. The national public health directorate and the mining company Glencore are among the few supporters of the new standard.
On Thursday morning, Mayor Bruno Marchand again called on the government “to stand by,” denouncing the lack of available data to properly assess air pollution in the port of Quebec.
“What I ask of the Ministry of the Environment […] is that we are developing the number of stations to measure, insisted the elected representative of Quebec. There is currently no information in Vieux-Beauport. »
Minister Guilbault in the hot seat
Nickel resurfaced on Thursday during the study of budget appropriations for the Capitale-Nationale region. Pressed by the opposition to justify the relay “that no one seems to want”, according to the supporter Sol Zanetti, Minister Geneviève Guilbault defended the new rule.
“It is a standard that is considered comparable to what is being done internationally,” the minister responsible for the Capitale-Nationale reiterated. With this rule, we are reasonably convinced […] that we preserve the health and safety of the population, as well as the environment. »
The Deputy Prime Minister repeatedly invoked a science-based decision, reiterating that the National Directorate of Public Health, under Dr. Horacio Arruda, had endorsed the new rule.
Asked to know at whose request the amount of nickel tolerated in Quebec air multiplied by five, the minister refused to answer.
“It simply came to our notice then that the Pontiac Liberal MP was outraged. It doesn’t make sense to embark on something without knowing why you’re doing it. I can go into my tank and say, I’m going to Gatineau. If I don’t know why I’m going, why would I? »
On Thursday morning, MP Zanetti accused Environment Minister Benoit Charrette of being “completely isolated” from the nickel record.
“Even the port no longer wants to move forward. He can’t continue like this: Benoit Charrette has to step back. There is no one behind him. »