In recent months, politicians on both sides of the border have been discussing deficits and debt, and arguing that the current state of affairs is a legacy we cannot leave to the coming generations .The nature of this debate is often conditioned by ideology and the political mood of the day. Rarely these days do we hear politicians thought about dreams for the future.
Discovering new riches, exploring new frontiers, harnessing talent, promoting innovation and building a sustainable development for the future – you would think that these were dreams of days gone by. Well, think again as the Quebec Premier, Jean Charest, has just announced Quebec’s most ambitious project since the development of the James Bay Hydroelectric project back 40 years ago. The project, called the Plan Nord –Building Northern Quebec Together - was announced with great pomp in Levis, Quebec, before representatives from business, the investment community, environmentalists and affected aboriginal communities.
Much will be written in the days ahead and each with a viewpoint. The goal of the Quebec government was to put together what it calls a generational project built on the principle of sustainable development and providing opportunities for growth for the local and aboriginal communities, and beyond. To be specific, it is a project to be carried out over 25 years, expecting to create or consolidate 20,000 jobs, involving over $80 billion in investment, and that will produce $14 billion in revenue for the Quebec Treasury.
The plan covers the territory north of the 49th parallel and it covers a land mass twice the size of Texas, and France. A partnership table involving aboriginal communities has been highly involved in the planning and execution of the project and has been working on the plan since January 2010.
The project will involve mining, energy, forestry, wildlife tourism, infrastructure building including roads, bio-food, airports, ports, with 50% of the land mass meant to be protected from industrial development While this is an ambitious economic development enterprise built on sustainable development concepts, it is also a community project aimed at providing measures in the areas of education, healthy, manpower retraining, housing and culture for both aboriginal and non aboriginal populations.
A notable supporter at the conference launch was the Grand Chief of the Cree, Mathew Coon Come, who lent his whole hearted support to the Plan Nord project. His presence was noticed as his endorsement contrasted sharply to his early opposition to another project, Great Whale, over two decades ago. Coon Come signalled his appreciation at being involved and being a partner in developing this project for both the current and next generation. All in all, not a bad start.