Plan Nord: A Model for Sustainable Development – by Will Becker (World Policy Blog – June 26, 2015)

On Tuesday June 23, World Policy Institute and the Government of Québec held a private breakfast and discussion featuring the Premier of Québec, Philippe Couillard. The event was part of the Arctic Deeply Roundtables initiative, which seeks to engage leading experts and investors on the most pressing issues of our time, including sustainable development in the region.

Couillard began the discussion by outlining Québec’s capacity for Arctic development. The province holds 3 percent of the world’s renewable freshwater, which has already been put to sustainable use through its hydroelectric industry. Ninety-eight percent of energy in the region now comes from this hydroelectricity, and many Québecois companies boast of their wind power capabilities as well.

Currently, Québec is home to several specialized centers like the TechnoCentre Éolien, which focuses on wind power, as well as the Canada Research Chair on Nordic Environment Aerodynamics of Wind Turbines (ÉTS), the Anti-Icing Materials International Laboratory (UQAC) and the Wind Energy Research Laboratory (UQAR). And there is tremendous room for growth across this sector.

After laying out the province’s capabilities, the Premier’s presentation focused on Plan Nord, the Québec government’s proposal to develop the Québécois region north of the 49th parallel. The plan encourages sustainable development, particularly in the more remote areas of the province that are rich in resources but currently lacking infrastructure and investment.

Plan Nord is extensive in scope. Under the plan, the Government of Québec will develop 745, 645 square miles of territory, the equivalent of two Texases. It will center on building digital (telecom and Internet access) and physical (roads and mining/energy industry) infrastructure. Couillard confirmed the newly created Société du Plan Nord would coordinate the development of the plan and that Investissement Québec would work with private investors to finance it.

The government-run financing corporation – which describes itself as a type of bank that undertakes higher risk investments than others – assures that investment in the Québécois region does not rely solely on subsidies. Instead, the government will become a ‘partner’ in investment, and carefully advise development in the region.

As of 2015, 17 public and private mining projects are already in the appraising/development phase in Plan Nord, and are valued at $22 million in investment. By 2035, that amount of investment is projected to reach $50 billion.

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