The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.
TIMMINS – Former Quebec premier Jean Charest told a breakfast audience in Timmins Thursday that government needs to be more pro-active when it comes to resource development because Canada is getting a reputation as a place where such projects do not get done quickly enough.
Charest was in Timmins as part of a quick cross-country tour for the Partnership for Resource Trade (PRT), a pro-resources organization.
Charest was in Vancouver and Winnipeg earlier this week and after his appearance in Timmins he will be speaking in Moncton and Halifax next week. The tour is sponsored by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
“The PRT is a group put that was together so we can have a much better dialogue about the future of resources in Canada and what role it plays in our economy,” Charest explained, adding there is growing concern about how resources are being managed.
“There is a sense that we must, in Canada, have a much, much better debate, dialogue, conversation, call it what we want, about the future of resources and how we manage them,” Charest told the Timmins business audience at Cedar Meadows Resort.
As a private sector lawyer, Charest travels the world setting up and negotiating agreements for Canadian mining companies. He said this gives him insight into how others see our country.
“It allows me to get an outside view of how the world looks at Canada,” said Charest.
“As I speak now, the perception in the international financial community is that on resource projects, Canada is a country that cannot get its projects done. That we’re stuck.”
Charest admitted it sounded like he was oversimplifying the perception, but he said the Keystone XL pipeline story is a good example. He said the international media and the international finance community is watching the issue with interest.
“But what’s the story of Keystone? It’s the story of the project that Canada can’t get done,” said Charest.
He said this emphasizes that too many Canadian resources are isolated and locked into a single market, the United States. According to Charest, the world is undergoing significant change that will create new demands for resource products, from lumber to all sorts of metals and minerals. He said this was one of the reasons why, when he was premier of Quebec, his government launched the much touted Plan Nord in 2010, an ambitious effort to develop mineral resources in that province, north of the 49th parallel.
“It is the most integrated plan, I know, in the world to develop resources and communities and to do it in a holistic fashion so that we can have social development, that First Nations are involved, that keep a lid on the territory involved. It includes tourism, culture, everything. And it became and still is the most prominent calling card for Quebec, when they go abroad.”
Charest said the plan is known world-wide among resource financiers, and wherever Quebec trade delegations go, the people with money want to know more about Plan Nord.
“This part of the world represents one of the last virgin territories on the planet,” he said. “It has every imaginable resource you could hope for in terms of minerals. Eighty per cent of the territory has not been explored.”
Charest said the whole reason for developing the north in Quebec is that the leaders in that province saw that the world was changing dramatically, with a huge swing toward urbanization, especially in Asia.
“One of the phenomena our generation will experience is the rise of the middle class in Asia by billions of people,” said Charest.
He said this will create a huge demand on consumer products and in turn, on natural resources.
Charest said Canada’s standard of living is dependent on trade with other countries.
“If we can’t trade, we can’t prosper and we cannot maintain our standard of living,” he said, adding that Canada needs to diversify its trade portfolio and not rely so much on trade with the United States. He said India and China are two huge markets waiting to be exploited.
“In India, they’re what … one point three billion people. They add 35-million people to their middle class every year. That is the equivalent of the total population of Canada.”
In general terms, Charest also said the federal and provincial governments need to do more to develop the North, help out First Nations and encourage more economic growth through resource projects.
“Government has a role,” he said. “Government can help develop the economic framework that will allow a project to be financial viable, and profitable, and yet have real benefits for the community in terms of housing.
“And so that is where the federal government can play an additional role, that they’re not playing now, especially on housing.”
Charest said the federal government has a duty to resolve the housing crisis in remote communities across Canada’s North and that by itself will contribute to economic growth.
For the original source of this article, click here: http://www.timminspress.com/2015/03/05/cda-gaining-poor-rep-starting-up-mining-projects–charest