Housing crisis must trump development: PQ critic

“People skeptical” about Plan Nord


The Quebec government should deal with Nunavik’s housing crisis before discussing development in the territory, says Luc Ferland, member for the province’s Ungava riding, which includes Nunavik.

Ferland plans to visit Kuujjuaq Nov. 7 and 8 with Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois. In Kuujjuaq, they will meet Makivik Corp. officials and other regional leaders and hear from Nunavimmiut about their needs, Ferland told Nunatsiaq News in an interview.

Ferland, who is the PQ critic for northern development and aboriginal affairs, says the current housing agreement — to build 340 new housing units over five years — can’t meet the needs of Nunavimmiut.

And the province’s Plan Nord, the soon-to-be released blueprint for northern development, might only aggravate social needs across the region, he said.

“People are skeptical about this plan, that it may be strictly economic,” Ferland said. “Quebec’s northern population can only benefit from development if they have sufficient infrastructure in place, the financial means and competent human resources.

“We need 1,000 homes in Nunavik right now, and that doesn’t even take into account the growing population.”

Quebec has fallen short on many of the agreements it has signed with its aboriginal populations over the past several decades, he said.

“There are huge demands all across the north,” Ferland said. “The role of the government should be to ensure that a plan to exploit natural resources in the North benefits the population who live there too.”

The Charest government’s Plan Nord is expected to invest billions into road ways, hydroelectric and mining projects above the 49th parallel.

On the other hand, Nunavimmiut hope some of that money will pay for more housing, infrastructure upgrades and regional subsidies.

Because the plan’s final negotiations take place behind closed doors, Ferland said he has been largely shut out of the process.

He, like many others, can only wait to see the plan when it is released at the end of November.

“There is lots of work to do,” he said. “But I’m like everyone else right now, waiting for the plan to be released.”

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