Plan Nord, an ambitious 25-year development of the area north of the 49th parallel and we are open for business.
In both public and private meetings, the Premier outlined the project as covering a territory twice the size of Texas, ten times the size of New York State and involving a mix of public and private investments. The plan is meant to be built on the principle of sustainable development with 50% of the land protected from industrial activity and includes partnerships with First Nations communities (Inuit, Innu, Cree, Naskapi) in the territory. Economic activities will deal with energy, mining (including rare earth minerals), transportation, infrastructures, biodiversity, forestry, wildlife tourism and social housing. Plan Nord is also committed to keeping 12% of the land protected in accordance with international standards. The overall direction of the project will be handled by a state-run corporation, La Société du Plan Nord du Québec.
The response and media coverage were most encouraging. As one environmentalist said, this is the last large development project in North America and we must get it right. The Premier said it will be a model for sustainable development to the rest of the world and invited environmentalists to be part of the process.
My first meeting with Jean Charest occurred when he was the federal minister of the environment and I was chief of staff to Premier Bourassa. It was clear then that environment was a central part of his political thinking and commitment. Over his political career, Jean Charest has had a fascination for northern Canada. No premier has travelled as much in Quebec’s north and enjoyed visiting it. Plan Nord is a culmination of his vision to develop the north based on principles of sustainable development. He has since enlarged his approach to include the need to build sustainable communities for the local population.
His first international foray to promote Plan Nord was appropriately in New York City. This office has been at Rockefeller Center for over 70 years, the oldest international presence for Quebec. It was clear when he left that Plan Nord will become a major focus for developing Quebec for the next generation, and the international community is most welcome.