The Sabia blueprint will see Hydro-Québec spend as much as $185-billion to transform the province’s energy landscape from now until 2035
The village of La Romaine sits on the northern flank of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in a wind-swept place that the Innu people call Unamen Shipu, or “ocher earth” – a reference to the red colour seen on the banks of the nearby Oloman river snaking upland. Some 400 kilometres north-east of Sept-Îles, it’s reachable only by air and water except during the coldest months, when the government carves out a snow road to nearby communities. Locals like to say it’s their winter freedom.
It’s here, in this reserve of 1,200 Innu inhabitants, that Hydro-Québec chief executive Michael Sabia landed on a Wednesday in late November. Greeted at the community’s political offices, Mr. Sabia shared a lunch of caribou and traditional bread with local leaders and later spoke of his desire to rectify the past and make the Unamen Shipu Innu partners in the nearby Lac-Robertson power station, built on their territory in the early 1990s without any compensation. He handed a letter to the community’s former chief that apologized for the affront.
Making amends won’t be easy. “You can just feel it in the room, this sort of méfiance, of mistrust,” Mr. Sabia said in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail. “It’s understandable because you know these folks were told, ‘We’ll do A and B.’ And then we didn’t … We just completely rolled over this community.”
There’s a reason one of Canada’s most prominent business leaders is speaking so plainly. Plucked for the Hydro job this past summer from his role as federal deputy minister of finance, Mr. Sabia recently unveiled a master plan for Quebec’s energy future that’s unlike anything we’ve seen in scope and substance from a provincial power utility in Canada.
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