If Quebec delivers, Plan Nord’s good news, say MNA, MP
“We have to act on this quickly”
QUEBEC CITY – The success of Quebec’s Plan Nord depends on how well the province makes good on its promises, says Luc Ferland, member of the National Assembly for Ungava, the provincial riding that includes Nunavik.
Plan Nord’s pledge to build 500 new housing units in Nunavik is good news, as long Quebec can deliver, and fast, Ferland said.
The province’s Plan Nord, announced May 9 near Quebec City, promised Nunavik 300 new social housing units and 200 more housing units, built under a new housing ownership program, by 2016.
“It’s not in five, seven or 10 years – [Nunavik] needs 1,000 housing units now,” said Ferland. “We have to act on this quickly.”
Quebec’s Plan Nord will dole out a total of $2.1 billion to launch social and infrastructure programs to open its northern lands to mining, energy production and tourism over the next 25 years.
But Ferland, the Parti Québécois’ official opposition critic for northern development, said most of the projects named in the plan have already been announced.
He said he also would have liked to see more concrete measures spelled out for those projects.
If elected to run the government in the next provincial election, Ferland said the PQ would support a plan similar to Plan Nord — and that the PQ had drafted a plan for northern development in 2001.
Under their own plan, Ferland said the PQ would ensure social programs are implemented faster in the communities hit by development.
“I’m in favour of development across the North,” he said, “as long as it’s done respecting the population who lives here and the agreements they’ve signed.”
At Plan Nord’s launch, Quebec officials stressed the development projects won’t override any of the agreements currently in place with Quebec’s aboriginal communities, namely the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the Sanarrutik agreement, and the Crees’ Paix des Braves deal.
For Romeo Saganash, the newly-elected MP for Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou, that means Quebec will respect the environmental permitting processes.
“That commitment is an important part of this,” Saganash said. “They have to realize that this Plan Nord will be applied where there are already legal regimes that must be respected.”
Saganash expects the federal government to be involved in different projects related to the plan’s implementation, particularly in terms of transport.
For his part, Saganash plans to meet separately with Ferland and provincial cabinet ministers to discuss how to foster the provincial-federal relationship.
“The work has already begun,” he said. “But the recognition of the importance of northern Quebec is already good news to me.The future of Quebec depends on this region.”