Canada: Quebec Government Launches Maritime Strategy

On June 29, the Government of Quebec launched the province's first maritime strategy. The strategy covers the 15-year period from 2015 to 2030. The government is anticipating that, over that period, public and private investments totalling $9 billion will stimulate the creation of 30,000 direct jobs and significant growth in imports and exports.

The strategy includes three five-year action plans. The first, which covers the period from 2015 to 2020, was announced concurrently with the strategy. It is accompanied by a $1.5 billion financial framework and many of the measures it contains are already set out in the Quebec Budget 2015-2016.

The strategy is underpinned by two core principles: (i) a planned, integrated approach involving the various levels of government and civil society, and (ii) a sustainable development perspective. To define its priority initiatives, the government has adopted three strategic directions: (i) sustainably develop the maritime economy; (ii) protect the maritime territory and its ecosystems; and (iii) enhance Quebecers' quality of life. In the action plan, these directions are broken down into a series of strategic priorities, which are, in turn, broken down into priority actions and accompanied by a budget envelope.

The inevitable interrelationships between the economic, environmental and social spheres mean that some of these strategic priorities, summarized below according to strategic direction, overlap.

Sustainably develop the economy

The government wants to invest in infrastructure. Actions will include creating a new program, administered by the Ministry of Transportation, to support port and intermodal infrastructure projects in the freight transportation sector. Also, financial support will be provided for the construction of access roadways to port and intermodal sites. Infrastructure design will have to incorporate measures to adapt to climate change. Consequently, the government intends to review the areas of the St. Lawrence River that are prone to flooding.

The government plans to promote the establishment of logistical hubs, i.e. multimodal industrial parks that cluster together business and distribution centres. Vaudreuil-Soulanges and Contrecoeur are proposed as hub sites because they are well positioned and complementary.

The development of industrial port zones, which should promote better integration of manufacturing firms into global supply chains, is also an integral part of the strategic priorities. Planned actions include decontaminating land under the government's responsibility in order to make it available for investments in such zones.

The government also plans to support Quebec shipyards through actions including the introduction of tax measures (additional capital cost allowance of 50% for shipbuilding or renovation carried out by Quebec shipyards, a tax-free reserve for Quebec shipyards and maintaining the refundable tax credit for the construction or refitting of ships) and cooperation with the federal government in renewing the Canadian ship fleet.

The development of short sea shipping and the use of maritime transport to ship alternative energy sources, including liquefied natural gas, will also be encouraged.

In addition, the government plans to promote the development and modernization of maritime tourism by, among other things, creating a maritime tourism supply office (Bureau de l'offre touristique maritime), funding reception facilities in Quebec City and Montreal for international cruises and funding tourism projects on the shores of the St. Lawrence River.

The strategy also includes plans to modernize and ensure the long-term survival of the fishing and aquaculture industry by focusing on three development areas: marine biotechnology, aquaculture and sustainable fishing. The government plans to support the efforts of fishing fleets seeking environmental certification, extend and enhance the refundable tax credit for the Gaspésie and certain maritime regions of Quebec and maintain measures to encourage the next generation of workers, such as capital gains exemptions and the program for young fishermen and fisherwomen.

To meet workforce challenges, the government intends to set up an issue table to better match employers' needs and available training and support workforce skills development. New types of training will be introduced in promising sectors (marine biotechnology, logistics and applied research) and initial training will be adapted to include new health, safety and environmental protection requirements. Other planned actions include establishing a vocational study program in seamanship and enhancing the tax credit for an on-the-job training period. Lastly, an assessment will be made of various measures designed to promote the maritime trades.

To foster the development of knowledge in the maritime sector, the government intends to create the Réseau Québec Maritime (RQM), a network bringing together existing research and development structures and expertise for the purpose of addressing maritime issues. Moreover, international cooperation will be promoted through, among other things, the establishment of a France-Quebec institute on maritime matters.

Lastly, the government plans to promote Quebec's maritime industries internationally through Export Québec's Programme Exportation and by developing a strategy to attract direct foreign investment to Quebec.

Protect the maritime territory and its ecosystems

To protect the biodiversity of freshwater and seawater ecosystems, the government wants to create a representative network of marine protected areas by increasing the protected marine area from 1.3% today to 10% in 2020 in order to meet international commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity. This action is to be carried out in conjunction with the federal government under the Canada-Quebec deliberations of the Bilateral Group on Marine Protected Areas. Places where marine protected areas could be created include the Îles-de-la-Madeleine and the American Bank in the Gaspésie. Factors considered in creating marine protected areas will include the habitats of plant and animal species at risk such as the beluga. Actions to restore and ensure the sustainability of fishing in Lac Saint-Pierre will also be supported. Lastly, adequate response capabilities will have to be structured to counter threats posed by invasive aquatic species, which will require the cooperation of several stakeholders, a knowledge acquisition effort and prevention, early detection and eradication measures.

The second strategic priority is to improve the management of risks associated with maritime shipping. The government intends to work closely with the federal government to upgrade the prevention, preparation and response program for maritime shipping in Quebec's territory. Also, the government will provide financial support for research and knowledge acquisition aimed at increasing local, regional and provincial emergency response expertise in the area of marine hydrocarbon spills. Municipalities will be provided with support in upgrading their emergency plans and the Quebec civil response system will be relied upon to implement an integrated approach to managing the risks associated with potential maritime incidents. Moreover, a centre of expertise specialized in preventing, preparing for and providing an environmental-emergency response to hazardous substance spills in the St. Lawrence River will be set up in the Îes-de-la-Madeleine.

The government also intends to leverage its maritime strategy to help fight climate change. Focus will be placed on two programs in the 2013-2020 Action Plan on Climate Change: the Programme visant la réduction ou l'évitement des émissions de gaz à effet de serre par le développement du transport intermodal (a program to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions through the development of intermodal transportation) and the Programme d'aide gouvernementale à l'amélioration de l'efficacité du transport maritime, aérien et ferroviaire (a government assistance program to improve maritime, air and rail transport efficiency). The use of alternative energy sources in maritime shipping, including liquefied natural gas, the modernization of ships and handling equipment, and projects involving the use of electric power sources, such as the Montreal and Quebec City dockside connection projects, will be promoted and encouraged.

Enhance Quebecers' quality of life

To reach this objective, the government wants to foster local economic spinoffs by banking on SME and regional growth. The measures announced include reducing the tax burden on SMEs, financing SME investment projects and establishing a one-stop shop, Entreprises Québec, to facilitate access to government programs and services.

To enhance the ferry-service offering and open up the communities involved, the government plans to support the Société des traversiers du Québec (the government-run corporation responsible for ferry service in Quebec) in improving its service offering and increasing ridership. It also plans to work with the federal government and the Nunavik and James Bay communities to resolve issues related to northern marine infrastructure and to any marine infrastructure rehabilitation work that may be needed.

Social acceptability and community involvement are key to the success of the maritime strategy. The government therefore intends to put in place means by which information may be shared, community members consulted and cooperation fostered, such as regional issue tables or the St. Lawrence Forum. The government also intends to revitalize certain territories connected with marine facilities and to promote maritime culture and heritage.

Another priority action consists in attracting young people to the regions and providing them with incentive to stay. Young people wishing to settle in the regions would be supported in doing so through such things as job creation in the different sectors of the maritime economy and tax credits.

Lastly, efforts are planned to combat coastal erosion and support the many communities affected by this phenomenon. Those efforts will focus on securing infrastructure and buildings and preventing social and economic impacts. They will include setting up a coastal erosion emergency fund and supporting the affected municipalities in analyzing priority actions and implementing adaptation and prevention measures against a backdrop of climate change. The government will support research on coastal erosion and ensure that the revision of the St. Lawrence water-level regulation plans reflects Quebec's interests.

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