MONTREAL -- More than 80 environmentalists will soon be elected to municipal councils in at least 60 municipalities in 13 regions of Quebec.

That's the number of candidates who joined the "Municipal Green Wave" (Vague Ecologiste au Municipal) movement and won in the Nov. 7 elections for mayors or councillors. All of them put the environment at the heart of their platforms.

The network was created by a group of volunteers and citizens wishing to encourage the emergence of green candidates and accelerate the ecological transition.

More than a hundred candidates joined the movement. Of the 82 elected, there are eight mayors, a majority of women and a good proportion of young people, the network said. The now-municipal leaders are now in power in small, medium and large cities."

"It exceeded our expectations because we really saw an impact," said movement co-coordinator Marie-Eve Belanger-Southey. "It pushed people to run who might not have done so and who might have felt a little lonely."

Many of the candidates were new to municipal politics and were able to receive training and exchange with experienced elected officials.

Mélanie Villeneuve, the new mayor of Otterburn Park, was involved in the environmental advisory committee of her municipality, located in the Montérégie region, before making the jump to active politics this year.

"I have always seen the municipal level as a government of proximity where we could act in a very concrete way to improve our living environment," says Villeneuve who was elected with the rest of her team.

One of her concerns is the development of a housing project that she says has missed certain opportunities on the environmental front, particularly in relation to density and public transit.

Villeneuve criticized a lack of communication and involvement of the population in this file, which she hopes to avoid during her mandate by aiming for better citizen participation.

"On the environment, we sometimes talk about making changes in our habits. So, it is certain that we must seek the support of the population so that these changes are crowned with success in the end," she said.

In Sutton in the Eastern Townships, Carole Lebel was elected by acclamation as a councillor in the Action Sutton team that now makes up the entire municipal council.

"It's a strong message," said Lebel, who is also a first-time active politician.

The team has made a commitment to review zoning bylaws for eco-responsible development, protecting natural environments and biodiversity.

Lebel hopes that the various council decisions will be guided by sustainable development. As an example, she said the environment should be included in the conditions of calls for tenders. However, this will not be easy to implement, she admits.

"It takes a very strong will on the part of a municipal council to maintain and anchor in the administration all these administrative conditions that ensure that decisions are made that favour the environment," said Lebel.


Without being a political party, the Municipal Green Wave asked candidates to adhere to a declaration including different points.

"But each candidate proposed his or her own ideas, which largely concerned the protection of the natural environment," said Bélanger-Southey.

She said it is "undeniable" that the environment was the issue at the ballot box in many places on Nov. 7.

"It's night and day compared to what it was in 2017, for example," she said.

Even candidates who don't necessarily have an environmental vision had to take a stand on the environment, Bélanger-Southey believes, especially during the debates organized by the Go Green initiative in several Quebec cities.

"That's what we wanted. That people could know who had an ecological vision and who did not for the future of the community," said Bélanger-Southey.

"The next step will be discussions between volunteers, defeated candidates and elected officials to determine what will happen next with the Municipal Green Wave."

Lebel hopes that the movement will remain for support and to share tools.

"If there is an external organization that carries the environment, it can only move decisions in favour of the environment and the economy," she said.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 13, 2021.