Protect parking lots or partner to reduce emissions?

The City of Victoriaville is doing its part to adapt to climate change and bring more people downtown.

Published on May 21, 2024 by By Cheryl Gudz, Senior Communications Specialist (Bilingual), Evergreen

Lush green area in front of Victoriaville's City Hall
Victoriaville's City Hall. Credit: Ville de Victoriaville Facebook page

Let’s imagine a walkable city. This is a community where people can access all the typical places they need to go – grocery stores, health services, cafés and parks – all within a modest walking distance. As cities have grown and expanded, most areas outside downtown cores just aren’t walkable.


Considering our current climate challenges, it is understandable that cities like Victoriaville in southern Quebec want to encourage density and walkability downtown to reduce dependency on personal vehicles and to lower carbon emissions.


“People always react strongly as soon as we deal with parking,” says Jean-François Morissette, Director of Land Management and Sustainable Development Services at the City. “It comes with great efforts in terms of communication, awareness campaigns and collaboration to have people understand that it’s not a question of limiting freedom, but rather of intervening to improve our climate balance.”


This city of approximately 47,000 people, situated 160 kilometres north-east of Montreal, is ultimately responsible for the development of local infrastructure, roads and traffic decisions; but they depend on good relationships with external partners, particularly where they are light on resources. When it comes to curbing the impacts of climate change, cities like Victoriaville can benefit from expertise in the non-profit sector. Enter Vivre en Ville.


A good partner helps you get good data


Victoriaville participated in a program called Municipalités amies du climat  (Municipal friends of the climate) offered by Vivre en Ville, a non-profit organization based in Quebec City. In an interview on The Future Fix podcast, Valérie Ebacher explains what they do. Organizations like Vivre en Ville can help cities go a bit further,” says Ebacher, an urban planner there. “We offer training and support to municipalities so that they can make the most coherent, equitable and optimal land-use planning choices.”


Digital visualization of a downtown city showing green space and carbon footprint

Digital visualization showing one neighbourhood’s carbon footprint. Credit: Vivre en Ville


Collaboration is essential to successful urban climate projects. As part of the program, Victoriaville was among the first cohort of cities in Quebec to be supported by Vivre en Ville in implementing measures that will improve both climate resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Jean-François Morissette explains further, “With Vivre en Ville, we identified that we had to have the necessary space within the urban perimeter to accommodate the future population. And to do this, we had to identify atypical sites, because vacant land is no longer available. But there’s a lot of potential for densification within existing land, whether it’s in parking lots or in deeds that are completely vacant on large lots.”


Victoriaville didn’t have the resources to do this work alone, but by working with Vivre en Ville, they were able to identify 400 potential sites for re-development and future housing.


“We start with data that helps us make decisions, and then we can implement tools that are adapted to the realities of our territory, and that will be much more effective the first time around, rather than by trial and error” says Morissette.


“It’s data with multiple uses that serves us. In this case, it’s about helping managers and politicians to make decisions based on facts and not on impressions or perceptions.”

Jean-François Morissette



Morissette’s department is strategic in using the data they’ve collected for one project and applying the findings to another. Currently, they are evaluating the possibility of a municipal eco-tax to help change behaviours in residents and businesses. The purpose of the eco-tax will be to fund more tree canopies to reduce the number of urban heat islands in the city. An urban heat island occurs when a city experiences much warmer temperatures than rural areas nearby.


Using digital tools, they can identify existing urban heat islands and tree coverage to create their baseline. “It was impossible to do this street by street, so we opted to use a remote-sensing tool that could give us radar and satellite images,” says Morissette. “We needed the data to show people where the urban heat islands are and where we need more trees. Then we can do communications campaigns with the public, to change behaviors in a positive way.”


Getting buy-in from residents is a process


Whether it be implementing a new eco-tax, or developing existing parking lots into housing downtown, residents need time to understand the changes and get on board with climate resilience or adaptation planning.


“Adaptation to climate change isn’t just a physical adaptation of the territory, it’s also, and above all, a cultural and human adaptation. Because it comes with changes in behavior, it comes with physical changes in the environment and that, like any other change, can generate reactions, reactions that are also sometimes negative.”


In the pressing context of the climate crisis, and with a summer of wildfires on the horizon, it sounds like Morissette and his department colleagues will favour more trees and people downtown.


For more details on their collaboration, listen to the French podcast episode Face au Futur: Vivre en ville à Victoriaville.


For community practitioners seeking more information on incorporating climate resilience measures in your plans, visit Evergreen’s Resource Hub to access more community-based tools and guides.

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