Canada: Quebec Unveils Its Vision Of "A North For All"

Last Updated: October 21 2013
Article by Yvan Houle

Most Read Contributor in Canada, September 2016

On May 7 in Chibougamau, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois unveiled the Parti Québécois' revised vision of the Plan Nord of the former Liberal Government, now called "A North for All". In general, this new northern vision is not radically different from that of the previous government, although it lays slightly more emphasis on the social development of Nunavik. In this regard, the Province intends to spend close to $868 million over the next five years on road construction, low-cost housing, parks and multi-purpose centres for vocational training. The building of some 226 moderately-priced dwellings is planned for Nunavik between now and 2016, at a cost of $61 million. The municipalities of the region will benefit from some $200 million to pay for projects necessitated by the development envisaged. A new agency, to be called the Secrétariat au développement nordique, will coordinate these various projects and the work of the various provincial departments and agencies involved in turning the vision into a reality. The new agency will be under the direction of the Minister of Natural Resources, Hon. Martine Ouellet, assisted by the Minster responsible for the Northern Quebec Region, Hon. Alexandre Cloutier, and three other Members of the National Assembly representing northern ridings. It will replace the Société du Plan Nord proposed in the original Plan Nord.

The new plan has scaled down the Liberals' projection of $80 billion over twenty-five years. And instead of setting aside 20% of the territory concerned as protected areas (where no mining or other development activities would be permitted), the new target for 2020 is reduced to 12%. The projected new rail line from Sept-Iles to the Labrador Trench with its rich resource potential, which was to have been built by CN and financed by the Caisse de dépôt et de placement, has been shelved. Minister Ouellet has promised a review of any new rail line. More of the cost of the new road to access the Renard Mine of Stornoway Diamond Corporation has been shifted to the company, saving taxpayers $125 million. Uncertainty surrounds the planned addition of 3,000 megawatts of hydroelectric capacity, with 300 megawatts of wind energy and 200 megawatts of other renewable energy, as Hydro-Québec has a surplus of generating capacity at present.

The announcement of "A North for All" came one day after the Quebec Finance Minister, Hon. Nicolas Marceau, announced proposals for new mining royalties under an amended Mining Act. The proposal is to tax either production at 1% on the first $80 million of ore extracted, rising to 4% beyond that level, or, if greater, mining profits at 16% on profit margins up to 35%, and then at progressively higher rates of up to 28%. The new rules, if implemented, are expected to raise $370 million, about 15% more than under Quebec's current mining royalty regime. Industry spokesmen have criticized these proposals, especially at a time of falling prices and declining demands for many minerals on world markets. Nor are the First Nations affected too pleased, insisting that the new grand design does not treat them as nations with rights to manage their traditional lands and resources, but only as local communities.

The amended plan for northern development in Quebec seems destined to face obstacles of various kinds on the road to realization.

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