Quebec hopes $175M land decontamination fund spurs investments in economy, environment

Quebec is setting aside $175 million over the next five years to decontaminate valuable land that has been sitting vacant for years.

Environment Minister David Heurtel said the money will help protect the environment and stimulate local economies at a news conference in Montreal on Sunday.

According to Heurtel, $120 million will be dedicated to decontaminating land that is owned by the province. The remaining $55 million will go into a fund that will be used to subsidize the cost of decontamination for municipalities and private property owners.

"This will allow promoters to create economic activity, to further develop our cities or towns inner core, and it will have a significant impact on investing in new technologies to clean up these soils," said Heurtel.

He estimates the value of land that goes unused in the province because of contamination is approximately $2 billion.

The province ran a similar program between 2007 and 2015, which had $60 million in funding. That program helped decontaminate 295 football fields of land. The province estimates it generated $1.6 billion in investments.

Support from municipalities, businesses

The Union of Quebec Municipalities has voiced its support for the funding. Bernard Sévigny, president of the union, said many municipalities are stuck with contaminated land. 

"They will now have a greater financial leeway to transform these lands into opportunities for economic development, while contributing to the fight against climate change," he wrote in a news release. 

Christine Fréchette, the president of the chamber of commerce representing the area east of Montreal, said the funding will help to create jobs in that part of the island because of its historical tie to heavy industrial activities. 

"The east of the metropolis has immense potential, but the contamination of its soil has stopped its economic development," she said.