MONTREAL -- Forgive the infomercial-like headline, but we need to make it well known that there is a simple solution to a growing, persistent problem in Quebec: our dependence on large, fuel-inefficient vehicles.

A delicate issue for Quebecers, I’ll admit.

Because when deciding on our next vehicle, there are many excellent and practical reasons that come into play. But there’s no denying that Quebecers’ preference for large vehicles cannot continue indefinitely.

In last week’s Green Economy Plan announcement, the Legault government put forward transportation electrification as a central element, relying on people’s goodwill to make the right choices. But considering that we consistently miss our climate targets, relying on goodwill is not sufficient. As a society, we need to deploy binding measures to make the necessary 180. And we need to do it quickly.


Needless to say, from an environmental standpoint, SUVs are far from the best option, with a carbon footprint that is five to six times that of a standard electric vehicle. And it’s not just their poor environmental record that is troubling – their size causes significant safety and logistical issues as well. Pedestrians are twice as likely to die in a collision with an SUV than with a small car. SUVs also exact a heavy toll on our roads, putting pressure on road infrastructure and congestion, not to mention the parking spaces they require. Beyond that, with a sticker price on average 40 per cent higher than that of conventional cars, SUVs can also put families in debt.

Despite all these issues, SUVs represented nearly two-thirds of new vehicle sales in Quebec in 2018, up 263 per cent from 1990!


So how can we incentivize consumers to adopt a more responsible approach when choosing their next vehicle? It’s a simple yet incredibly effective solution, and best of all, it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a cent! It’s called a feebate system…and it’s simply amazing.


Basically, purchases of low greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles are subsidized by charging a fee on the purchase of polluting vehicles. The fee is put towards a subsidy to reward the greener choice: a concrete application of the polluter-pays principle. Équiterre’s recent report on the feebate system demonstrates the system’s many benefits for different levels of government.


As much as we may want to bury our heads in the sand, all of our efforts to fight climate change will likely be for naught if the SUV trend on our roads continues.

In Quebec, the transportation sector accounts for 43 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we have a ton of work to do in this sector and we need to take responsibility, for the sake of our children.

There are of course exceptions to every rule. As outlined in Équiterre’s report, special measures could be put in place for people who truly need larger vehicles, whether for certain types of work, because of reduced-mobility issues, or for those who live in secluded areas without paved roads.

But back to the big picture. Despite the recent transportation electrification announcements, our politicians are not moving fast enough on this issue. It’s time to lean on the horn to get them to speed up (without “stepping on the gas” of course).

By Andréanne Brazeau, Mobility Analyst, Équiterre