Québec, May 9, 2011 – Québec Premier Jean Charest, Deputy Premier, Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife and Minister responsible for the Plan Nord Nathalie Normandeau, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Minister responsible for the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region and the Nord-du-Québec region Pierre Corbeil, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks Pierre Arcand, Minister responsible for Native Affairs Geoffrey Kelley, and Minister for Natural Resources and Wildlife and Minister responsible for the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region and the Côte-Nord region Serge Simard today launched the Plan Nord, one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in Québec and the project of a generation. The Plan Nord first offered a perspective of sustainable development in Québec and is now one of the biggest economic, social and environmental development projects in Québec’s history.
“The Plan Nord will be carried out over 25 years and engender investments of over $80 billion. It will create or consolidate 20 000 jobs a year, on average, and generate $14 billion in revenue for the government and Québec society. The economic spinoff and social development stemming from the Plan Nord will enhance the living conditions of northern populations. Through the needs for manpower, knowledge and expertise that it engenders, its benefits will be felt throughout Québec. The Plan Nord will be to the coming decades what the development of La Manicouagan and James Bay was to the 1960s and 1970s,” Premier Charest said.
A unique approach
The Plan Nord is one of the most ambitious projects that Québec has undertaken. The approach adopted is equally ambitious. Since January 2010, a number of Aboriginal and local communities have worked together. Over 60 meetings were held of sectorial and consensus-building working groups in which over 450 people participated. Through its representative, participatory approach, the Plan Nord will be a unique model of sustainable development that reconciles social and economic development and environmental protection.
“The Plan Nord is a sweeping, human adventure. It is unique both in its scope and its approach. It stems from the reflections of the gouvernement du Québec, regional elected representatives and Aboriginal representatives who, in collaboration with representatives of the economic, social and environmental sectors concerned, have defined the North of tomorrow. For over a year, all of them have sought to define conditions in Northern Québec and establish new methods of collaboration. The Plan Nord offers an inclusive approach that fully respects the communities, an innovative partnership between the government, the private sector and the communities that will generate benefits for all Quebecers,” Minister Normandeau added.
“The North’s key asset is its residents, who are noteworthy for their youth, craving for the future and desire to develop their environment. The Plan Nord must mean for all Aboriginal communities economic and social spinoff and the enhancement of their living conditions. I am referring here to education, training, job creation, culture and health. For future generations, the Plan Nord will be a source of inspiration, an innovative development model based on dialogue, mutual respect and partnership,” Minister Kelley said.
An outstanding territory
The territory that the Plan Nord covers encompasses all of Québec’s territory north of the 49th parallel. It covers nearly 1.2 million km2 and accounts for roughly 72% of Québec’s geographic area. It has one of the world’s biggest fresh water reserves, made up of nearly 500 000 lakes and thousands of rivers. The territory accounts for over three-quarters of Québec’s installed hydroelectric power generation capacity and the potential of untapped water, wind and photovoltaic (solar energy) power is just as considerable. The vast territory encompasses over 200 000 km2 of commercial forests that represent more than 53% of Québec’s operable forests. It offers outstanding wildlife resources and, among vast intact natural territories in the world, some of the last potential for preservation. All sorts of mineral ore abounds in Northern Québec: nickel, cobalt, platinum group metals, zinc, iron ore and ilmenite. The territory also accounts for a significant portion of gold production. Lithium, vanadium and rare-earth metals, for which international demand is growing since they are used increasingly in the energy, transportation and high-technology sectors, are also found there.
Community well-being and development
The enhancement of living conditions in Aboriginal and local communities is a key concern under the Plan Nord. Significant demographic changes occurred between 1991 and 2006 in the territory. The populations are young and make up a substantial labour pool. However, demographic changes are exerting strong pressure on several services. To promote community well-being and development, the Plan Nord makes provision for measures in the realms of education, manpower, housing, health and culture.
Northern Québec’s economic potential
The Plan Nord falls within the scope of the priority initiatives that the gouvernement du Québec has put forward to develop Québec’s economic potential and create wealth. It seeks to achieve sustainable development in the energy, mineral resources, forest, wildlife, tourism and bio-food production sectors. The Plan Nord, through its scope, the extent of its spinoff, the abundance of the knowledge required and the suppliers involved, will benefit all regions of Québec and all sectors of the economy. It also seeks to spur innovation and the manufacture of products with higher added value that will ensure Quebecers’ prosperity.
At all stages of the planning and realization of the projects put forward under the Plan Nord, the protection of the environment and northern ecosystems will be at the forefront of decision-making. To this end, the government undertakes to ensure that the projects are carried out in a spirit of respect for the principles of sustainable development and are subject to rigorous environmental analyses. The government is making two additional commitments to ensure environmental protection in the territory that the Plan Nord covers, i.e. to ultimately set aside 50% of the territory for purposes other than industrial ones, environmental protection and safeguarding biodiversity, and to establish by 2015 a network of protected areas equivalent to at least 12% of the area of the territory in question.
A government corporation and a financial framework
To pursue the consensus-building process that led to the elaboration of the Plan Nord, the government will establish the Société du Plan Nord, a coordinating body specifically dedicated to the concerted implementation of development projects under the Plan Nord. Through the corporation, the government is confirming its determination to make the development of the North a priority and adopt the means necessary to implement the priority in an orderly, practical and sustainable manner. The corporation will report to the Minister responsible for the Plan Nord. It will play a leading role by coordinating the implementation of projects under the first five-year plan, for which the Fonds du Plan Nord will provide funding. Innovative funding will establish a direct link between economic activity that the Plan Nord triggers and the resources invested to develop infrastructure and enhance social services intended for the inhabitants of the territory in question.
The vastness of the northern territory poses a daunting challenge from the standpoint of access and transportation and communications infrastructure. The Société du Plan Nord will have a mandate to implement the integrated development of different modes of transportation and means of telecommunication. Public investments will be emphasized to develop a transportation and communications network that will support the realization of economic development projects.