Quebec announces plans for northern development, assigns $868m – by Henry Lazenby ( – May 7, 2013)

TORONTO ( – Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and provincial Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellet, on Tuesday outlined the province’s incumbent political party, Parti Québécois’ economic vision for developing the vast north, committing $868-million over the next five years to develop the region.

Marois, during a visit to the mining town of Chibougamau, said the bulk of the money would be spent on infrastructure, through creating the Nordic Development Fund.

“We want to develop the north responsibly to maximise the benefits for local communities and for all Quebecers,” Marois said.

Marois added government was proposing developing a new framework for funding related to infrastructure projects in the north, which would put forward practical and innovative solutions to ensure the wellbeing and the beneficial development of communities in the area, while simultaneously ensuring the harmonious and respectful development of the environment.

Investors were mostly in the dark about the government’s plans for Quebec’s north since Marois’s party defeated Jean Charest’s Liberals toward the end of last year. Marois had indicated she wanted to replace Charest’s Plan Nord project with her own vision for the territory but detail had been scarce until today.

The Nordic Development Fund would finance investments including the construction of roads, social housing, national parks and multipurpose centres for vocational training.

The Quebec government had also pledged to build 226 affordable housing units in Nunavik by 2016, worth $61-million, which was expected to help bridge a housing shortage.

Ouellet added that the secretariat to the Nordic Development Fund had indeed already played a significant role in renegotiating an agreement with diamond-mine developer Stornoway Diamonds and in its construction of Route 167, completed last November, which had demonstrated the government’s commitment to equitable financial obligations, saving Quebecers $125-million.

Two significant infrastructure projects for Quebec’s north had recently been shelved as a result of the continued weakness in global iron-ore markets.

Natural gas distributor Gaz Métro in March deferred plans to extend gas pipelines to the north, saying that a minimum level of volume demand from industrial customers for a 450 km natural gas pipeline extension to Baie-Comeau, Port-Cartier and Sept-Iles, did not exist.

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