The poor protection of the heritage highlighted by the Auditor general

La mauvaise protection du patrimoine soulignée par le Vérificateur général

Photo: Pierre Rochette
The moulin du gouffre, in Baie-Saint-Paul, classified in 1965 and were left to crumble in the late 2000s.

The State is far from an exemplary in preservation of the common heritage of Quebecers, as the law committed, however, to do so, it documents an audit devastating achieved as a result of the many setbacks that have accumulated in recent years on the side of the ministry of Culture and Communications (MCC).

After months of analysis, the Auditor’s report be laid before the national Assembly falls like a mass : the ministry of Culture (MCC), says the report of the Auditor general of Quebec tabled in the national Assembly on Wednesday, ” has not developed a vision of real estate and is not positioned with respect to the results to be achieved in terms of knowledge, protection, enhancement and transmission of this heritage to future generations.” This ministry, the report says, does not watch to update and adapt its interventions. It has not ” undertaken the necessary steps to promote heritage as an important asset of our society and to raise the awareness of citizens and all actors in the middle of its priceless and irreplaceable “. It follows that, in quebec society, a laissez-faire, because even the partners of the ministry ” do not feel sufficiently challenged “.

Yet, it is the responsibility of the State to ensure the preservation of assets ” priceless and irreplaceable “, to the extent that ” the real property of a community and a people is an integral part of its cultural identity and constitute a legacy to future generations.”

Property however classified and officially protected are not maintained in a good state. The office of the Auditor general cites several cases that are already known to readers of the Duty. As in the case of the moulin du gouffre, in Baie-Saint-Paul, classified in 1965 and were left to crumble in the late 2000s. It also gives the example of the building of the power plant of the Cedars, inspired by the castles europeans, classified as a heritage building in 1984, but since abandoned.

The audit of the Auditor-general indicates that the department does not even have ” information on the state of several buildings of heritage classified or located on a heritage site classified “. Nearly 40% of the goods are not even inspected once every four years. Over the past five years, no inspection was performed in 2 of the 17 administrative regions.

Out of the 41 buildings and heritage sites in need of major maintenance, given the partial data available, 20 however, have not been inspected within the framework of a regional tour, while 15 have been inspected there are more than three years.

Despite the many alerts

The MCC does not even have complete information on the value of the real estate that falls within its authority. It does not count on a ci process structured to see to the monitoring and processing of information on the safeguarding and valorisation of the heritage. It does not monitor either in a structured way what is happening elsewhere in terms of preservation.

When it comes time to classify public goods, the framework of the department’s evaluation appears incomplete. The analyses themselves are of variable quality and poorly documented. In addition, the long delays are detrimental to the preservation of : 40 % of treatments of application for the designation of heritage assets take more than 5 years, and 20 % over 10 years. Not to mention that the department appears to be ” rarely at the origin of initiatives, exchanges and partnerships between the citizens and the actors in the middle “. During this time, the department has not provided mechanisms to inspect the goods or to ensure a better follow-up. The auditor-general proposes that the department aligns with the practices observed on the side of UNESCO.

While the development of traditional crafts is more than ever necessary for the restoration and maintenance of buildings, such as the have already found two reports expensive, funded by the government in 1994 and 2011, no financial resources is still expected to make the necessary corrections. “As of the date of February 2020, the MCC has not yet identified the trades and know-how that it wishes to transmit in the framework of the training program. ”

In other words, the auditor general notes that the ministry of Culture ” does not assume adequately its responsibilities in the areas of real estate and does not exercise the expected direction in the resolution of issues of safeguarding.” Is this due to the fact that, as noted by the report, “MCC is little awareness on the priceless and irreplaceable heritage to the different actors of the middle” ?

What is the national interest ?

The question of the protection of the buildings through a classification ” is not the subject of a fair and diligent “, also observes this report, where the overwhelming findings accumulate page after page.

What is the MCC to protect buildings in the public interest ? The auditor-general regrets that ” the only position taken by the department is to classify only the buildings to which he attributes a “national interest'”, leaving the way entirely to cities and municipalities with the support of the heritage estate, which, according to him, has an interest in regional or local. Gold, says the Auditor general, ” the concept of national interest is not defined “, not to mention that ” the position of the MCC has not been communicated or explained properly “. It is particularly prone to improvisations and interpretations. The analysis process is lack of rigour, observes the report. In more than 80 % of the cases, there was no mention of the criteria of analysis chosen.

Neither the criteria nor the list of goods in the study according to them will not be made public, ” which limits the transparency of the process and the understanding of citizens and municipalities with regard to the selection of the MCC, and possibly their membership to the safeguarding of the cultural heritage “.

In addition, the MCC does not offer to building owners the economic ” tools and the appropriate support to enable them to orient their interventions and ensure the conservation of these buildings “. The management information is missing. The processing time is always very long. It should be, the report suggests, take inspiration from the approach of France to develop an effective backup strategy.

The municipalities poorly equipped

Municipalities find themselves in front of the case heritage which charges them with the responsibility, but without that they are able to react according to a framework that is completely ignored by the majority of them. “In fact, when it comes to the protection and enhancement of real estate assets, more than 65 % of the municipalities indicate not to make any distinction depending on the interest of local, regional or national heritage,” the report notes follow-up analysis on the ground.

The MCC has never agreed with the municipalities of what needs to be put in place to support its legal responsibilities for the safeguarding of the built heritage. Moreover, the municipalities are not aware of their obligations and duties in this field. The ministry is pointing the finger because he has not ” taken any initiatives to assist them “, intervening only upon request of the past “, providing little support.

The municipalities indicate to 80 % that they have not received ” any communications of the ACM in connection with a vision of real estate “. The vast majority of municipalities under 100 000 inhabitants is estimated, however do not have the necessary expertise in these folders.

Can we also rely on the municipalities to preserve the heritage, to the extent that the main income of the municipalities comes from property tax ? The municipalities, the report says, may be ” inclined to allow the demolition of a building to replace a building with a potential of taxation to be higher, in spite of its heritage interest, and without evaluating the benefits of the save “.

The department has never agreed that what needs to be put in place to support the preservation of the built heritage quebec from the municipalities. In addition, it has not taken initiative to support municipalities in their actions in this sense.

Moreover, no follow-up mechanism of the interventions of the municipalities has not been established, despite the need for co-operation that he has to get the municipalities in the field of heritage, notes the report.

The MCC has not defined a no more his vision of real estate from municipalities. “No statement of this nature does not figure in the documents circulated by the MCC. ”

Citizens left to fend for themselves

The owners are not helped to prepare properly for the ” interventions that respect the heritage value of their property and its character-defining elements “. What are the “70 % of the conservation plans required under the law,” which have still not been published. However, without these plans, it is difficult to ” coordinate the operations of the MCC and those of the owners “. For buildings classified as of 2012, 91 % of the plans remain to this day unpublished. In other words, the work permitted lack of supervision, and the results of the work are to the rider. In this regard, once again, the auditor general recommends that you draw inspiration from foreign experience, in particular of the example of Belgium and of the United States.

Of ecological patterns

The sustainable development commissioner has also attached his opinion to the report published by the office of the Auditor general. It underlines the importance of preserving the old buildings in the extent to which this preservation contributes to the protection of the environment.

“The maintenance and renovation of existing buildings can, in some cases, have fewer environmental impacts than demolition and the construction of buildings for new,” notes the commissioner. He added that the preservation of heritage can contribute to the development of a sense of belonging, individual and collective, “and, as such, of” enriching the social capital and help to support the social and territorial cohesion “.

Other details will follow.

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