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Quebec Premier Francois Legault and Environment Minister Benoit Charette take part in a news conference in Montreal, on Nov. 16, 2020.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Quebec will ban the sale of new, gasoline-powered cars and SUVs by the year 2035 as part of a $6.7-billion plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Premier Francois Legault announced Monday.

Legault said the new policy will help the province meet its pledge to reduce emissions by 37.5 per cent over 1990 levels by 2030. “We have a duty to the next generations,” Legault told a news conference alongside Environment Minister Benoit Charette.

“As I said when I was getting sworn in as premier, I could not look my two sons in the eye if I didn’t make efforts to meet this enormous challenge that all of us on the planet have.”

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Legault’s $6.7-billion plan – to be spread over five years – depends heavily on the province’s hydroelectric resources to power large swaths of the economy.

More than half the funding – about $3.6-billion – will be invested in the transportation sector, for such things as subsidies to encourage individuals and businesses to purchase electric cars, trains and taxis.

Legault dismissed criticism that electric vehicles are costly, have a limited range and can be problematic for people who live in apartments and don’t have access to enough charging stations. He said the state will continue to offer subsidies and that he expected battery technology to improve over the next 15 years.

The government’s investment will also finance the creation of more electric charging stations, the conversion of buildings to electric heating and other measures to adapt to climate change.

Legault said Quebec’s previous target – reducing greenhouse gases by 20 per cent over 1990s levels by 2020 – has been missed. Data from 2015 to 2017 indicated emissions were increasing – a sign Quebec is “going in the wrong direction,” the premier said.

Legault blamed that failure on previous governments. “For the first time in Quebec,” he said, “we have a plan that is costed, both in terms of costs and impact in terms of greenhouse gas reduction.”

The premier said the funding announced Monday is enough to get Quebec 42 per cent of the way to its goal. He said he hopes technological advances and added investment from Ottawa will help close the gap.

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The opposition quickly seized on this aspect of the announcement to criticize the plan, which the Liberals' climate change critic described as “neither realistic nor ambitious.”

“Hard to agree when only 42 per cent of the path forward is known,” Carlos Leitao wrote on Twitter. He also denounced what he described as a lack of commitment to ensuring Quebec is carbon-neutral by 2050.

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