On May 24, 2001, the Quebec government authorized a program to build 36 small privately owned dams on twenty-four rivers in the province. Due to pressure from the people of Quebec, this number was reduced to 14 dams on twelve rivers on March 14, 2002. Then on November 26, 2002, Prime Minister Landry announced that all of the small dam projects were being dropped, except for three. The change in policy is attributable to the actions of such groups as Coalition Eau Secours and opération Adopt a River, local and regional river protection committees and a group of Quebec’s artists, including Roy Dupuis, who actively oppose the government program.
The change was a political pronouncement, but it did not have, and still does not have, the force of law. The current government, the Parti Québécois, continues to publicly support the planned reduction in the number of small dams, however, leadership of Parti Libéral has recently announced that they will reinstate the small dams project, the same position taken by Action démocratique du Québec, Quebec’s third political party.
The Prime Minister’s November statement, although enthusiastically received by those who oppose the small dam program, should not be interpreted as a victory so long as the program does not have the force of law in the current government and both of the opposing political parties intend to reinstate the program if they win the next election.