What is Act 122?
This year, more than ever, it is of utmost importance to vote at the municipal elections, and to do it in a careful and informed way, because a new law was passed at the National Assembly, Act 122 which increases municipal powers considerably and reduces as much the power that the citizens have, in particular with regards to land use and governance. Indeed, since June 15, 2017, municipal democracy is not what it used to be when we had the last municipal elections in 2013.
According to its designation, this law is an Act “mainly to recognize that municipalities are local governments and to increase their autonomy and powers”
But it seems that it is also aimed at neutralizing citizens’ opposition. When explaining the necessity of this new act, Martin Coiteux, minister of municipal affairs, said that the previous system was based on the possibility to oppose projects and called for opposition, instead of inviting citizens to look into what would be the best project for the community.
Among other things, Act 122:
- increases municipal powers with regards to urbanism and zoning;
- says that municipalities are not obligated to hold a referendum to get public approval on decisions related to urban planning if they have a policy for citizen participation that meets the requirements of ministerial regulation (regulation which has not yet been established);
- increases to $100,000 the authorized cap for the direct award of public contracts (without going through a tender process);
- removes the obligation to publish public notices in local newspapers;
- allows the government to authorize by by-law the use of farm lands for other purposes than agriculture, without going through the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec (CPTAQ) (clause 185);
- amends the Loi sur la protection du territoire et des activités agricoles in order to relax the rules to allow residential construction in agricultural zones. These modifications are aimed at accelerating the treatment of certain requests and change the analysis criteria that the CPTAQ has to take into consideration.
One consequence of the last item listed is that small municipalities will be able to authorize construction of residences or the installation of industries in green zones. Indeed, the municipalities are exempted of paragraph 61.1 of the Loi sur la protection du territoire et des activités agricoles which allows the CPTAQ to reject any request to use a land for other purposes than agriculture, based on the fact that other more appropriate spaces – so called white zones – exist elsewhere in the municipality. (http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/490091/agriculture-quebec-veut-se-passer-de-l-avis-de-la-cptaq)
The various measures encompassed in Act 122 increase the risk of connivance and corruption. Moreover, municipalities are not obligated to have a public consultation policy, and the mechanisms they will chose to incorporate to their policy will not necessarily be legally restrictive.
This summary was based on the Act itself: