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Islande, le 1er novembre 2014 Allocution du premier ministre du Québec, Philippe Couillard, à l’occasion de la séance plénière de l’assemblée de l’Arctic Circle, sous le thème « Le Plan Nord du Québec : investir dans un projet exemplaire de développement durable »

The spoken version takes precedence.

His Excellency Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of the Republic of Iceland,

Pierre Arcand, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Northern Plan,

I am truly pleased to be here with you at this second Arctic Circle assembly.

First, I would like to thank the organizers of this high level international event.

I would also like to extend my special thanks to Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of the Republic of Iceland.

Last June, following a visit to Québec, President Grímsson invited me to attend this assembly in order to present Québec’s Northern Plan, known under the French name “Plan Nord,” and to say a few words about Québec’s role in the Arctic.

I was delighted to accept his invitation.

***

Québec, that I have the honour of leading, is an amazing place.

With a landmass of over 1.5 million square kilometres, a population of 8.18 million and a gross domestic product of 354 billion Canadian dollars, it builds on the talent of the men and women who live within its borders and on its rich and diverse natural resources.

Geography has been generous to Québec — including in terms of size.

An immense territory with countless lakes and rivers, Québec is blessed with impressive and varied human and natural resources.

My government has set itself the mission of tapping into Québec’s full potential and using the province’s assets to generate prosperity for all Quebecers, including the First Nations.

In terms of external economic relations, we can do better. We need to enhance our presence on increasingly global markets and attract a greater share of direct foreign investments.

***

I am convinced that two major initiatives will reassert Québec’s openness to the world and contribute to our prosperity.I’m speaking about deployment of our Maritime Strategy and, above all for those of you here today, the revival of our Plan Nord in all of its dimensions — economic, social and environmental.

In 2011, Québec’s previous Liberal government launched the Plan Nord initiative. As of 2014, the Liberal government that I have led since our most recent general election has breathed new life into the initiative.

Over the coming months, my government intends to present a tangible vision for northern development.

The location, climate and geographical, physical and social characteristics of the Plan Nord territory are what make Québec a Nordic and Arctic state. In passing, the term “nordicity,” meaning “degree of northernness,” was coined in the early 1960s by a renowned Québec academic, geographer and linguist, Louis-Edmond Hamelin.

Plan Nord will be deployed between now and 2035. Close to $50 billion will be invested over this period. Plan Nord will mean planned and integrated development of economic, mining, energy, social, cultural and tourism potential in the part of Québec located north of the 49th parallel and above the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Plan Nord is a project of unprecedented scope — unprecedented not only in Québec, but worldwide.

It covers a land area of 1.2 million square kilometres.

There aren’t many places in the world with this kind of potential for development.

What we’re talking about is a tailor-made development initiative for 72% of Québec’s total landmass — an area more than 11 times bigger than Iceland and 28 times the size of Denmark (to compare the Plan Nord territory with two Nordic countries).

Through Plan Nord, we want to tap into the incredible potential of this geographical region by deploying an exemplary sustainable development project.

Plan Nord reconfigures Québec’s economic development map, for the greater good of current and future generations.

Let me explain how.

***

Northern Québec is in a class of its own when it comes to the size of its forests and scope of its forestry industry.

Indeed, from east to west, the territory boasts 200,000 square kilometres of commercial forests — more than 53% of Québec’s harvestable forest area.

Northern Québec is home to a large number of wildlife species appreciated by hunters and fishers, including caribou, moose and artic char, to name but three.

In terms of mineral resources, it plays a pivotal role. The mining industry has been present in the northern part of our province for decades, and it is dynamic and diversified.

The north is responsible for Québec’s production of nickel, cobalt, platinum group elements, zinc, iron ore and ilmenite, as well as a large share of the province’s gold and diamond production. It is also blessed with lithium, vanadium and rare earth elements.

A number of rare earth minerals are used in the information technology, robotics, medical instrumentation and aerospace industries, as well as to make solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles.

As for energy, northern Québec is the envy of the world. Via government-owned Hydro-Québec, the province is the world’s fourth-largest producer of hydroelectricity, a green, renewable energy that, among other things, has enabled the development of our world-class aluminum industry.

Through its hydroelectric installations, Hydro-Québec contributes significantly to northern development.

More than three-quarters of the power generated by large dams comes from the Plan Nord territory.

Northern Québec also has great ecotourism potential, thanks to its rivers and lakes, geophysical features and untamed nature, protected areas, opportunities for wildlife watching, possibilities for cruises and tours of major hydroelectric facilities.

***

We are committed to developing this territory for the benefit of local populations and all Quebecers, by ensuring that all projects are socially acceptable.

Optimizing the economic impact of major northern projects is an important lever for ensuring that development of northern communities is coherent and sustainable.

Efforts are under way to make sure that northern development benefits communities in a tangible way.

Québec’s Plan Nord is based on values of respect, openness and listening, dialogue and solidarity.

It has been designed and will be deployed in close, ongoing partnership with local communities, especially populations who have occupied the territory for thousands of years.

Throughout the Plan Nord process, the First Nations and Inuit communities concerned by the initiative have expressed their desire for full participation as partners in planning and implementation, in a framework respectful of their aspirations and real-life contexts.

The government intends to pursue this dialogue as part of its Plan Nord.

We want to maintain our privileged relations with local communities and the positive dynamics that flow from these relations.

It is important to point out that just over 120,000 people live in the Plan Nord territory, including 33,000 Aboriginal people belonging to four nations, namely the Inuit, Cree, Innu and Naskapi.

To ensure that this enormous territory is developed in a way that is respectful of local and Aboriginal communities and in collaboration with them, my government is about to create a non-corporation called the “Société du Plan Nord”.

It will be responsible for coordinating development of the Plan Nord territory, based on consultations with all partners.

It will also play a major role in implementing the government’s strategy for responsible, sustainable development of northern Québec’s natural resources.

In the meantime, these roles have been assigned to the Secrétariat au Plan Nord, a cabinet committee and the senior public service.

The “Société du Plan Nord” will work with all local, Native and private partners and coordinate efforts devoted by government departments concerned by Plan Nord.

Among other things, this autonomous body will coordinate projects aimed at building strategic infrastructure in order to open up the Plan Nord territory.

Developing this huge potential will require massive investments. I

In this perspective, Plan Nord offers incomparable investment opportunities for companies based in Québec, elsewhere in Canada and around the world that want to be part of an exciting project.

Québec welcomes players who want to contribute to its economy, with open arms.

It offers investors a solid and vibrant business environment, a stable and secure political context, commercial innovations and achievements, educated and diversified manpower, clean, renewable and reliable energy, modern transportation infrastructure, a competitive tax system and highly competitive operating costs. In short, Québec provides investors with a clear, predictable framework.

***

To create the conditions required for investments, my government plans to invest strategically in the necessary infrastructure for access to the immense Plan Nord territory.

We will cooperate closely with companies involved in Plan Nord projects, in terms of building the infrastructure they require.

More specifically, we have announced tangible measures to ensure the availability of and access to infrastructure needed for development of the natural wealth found in the Plan Nord territory, namely:

  • Access to the territory by road, air, water and rail;
  • Expansion of world-calibre port infrastructure such as the Port of Sept-Îles and eventually along the North West passage;
  • Better access to the Labrador Trough and increased rail capacity for ore and freight shipments;
  • A major project aimed at supplying our Nord-du-Québec and Côte-Nord regions with natural gas and liquefied natural gas — alternatives to fuel oil, with positive economic and environmental spin-offs.

***

We are determined to develop the Plan Nord territory in a sustainable and responsible way.

It goes without saying that this also applies to the environment.

My government is committed to protecting the environment and preserving northern Québec’s distinctive biodiversity, by ensuring conservation of 50% of the Plan Nord territory.

This portion of the territory will be earmarked for environmental protection, biodiversity conservation, acquisition of scientific knowledge, environmentally responsible tourism and forest ecosystem development.

We will do everything possible to encourage best practices when it comes to new uses for the Plan Nord territory, from development to deployment and operation.

***

Sustainable development of a territory this big has to be based on reliable, constantly updated scientific knowledge.

That is one of the reasons why 40-odd Québec researchers, entrepreneurs, Native representatives and government officials are taking part in this second Arctic Circle assembly. We want to be part of the dialogue on Arctic and Nordic issues.

Beyond this dialogue, I want to stress that three prestigious Québec institutions have recently confirmed their interest in participating in the creation of a Nordic institute, to be called the “Institut nordique du Québec” — a new centre for interdisciplinary and interinstitutional research and innovation in the field of northern development.

Québec’s regional universities will also be contributing in their own area of expertise.

The Institut nordique will be based in Québec City. It will be a hub of expertise in the natural and social sciences, health and engineering.

It will help provide governmental and private-sector decision-makers with the scientific knowledge and technical know-how required for sustainable development of northern Québec.

This is even more important seeing that development of the Plan Nord territory will take place in a context of climate change, which affects us all — an area in which federated states and regional governments, like countries, have a role to play and responsibilities to fulfil.

Québec is working on this challenge with a view to the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, known for short as “COP 21,” to be held in 2015 in Paris.

Québec has attached a price to carbon since 2007 and is currently operating a cap and trade system, jointly with California.

Proceeds of this carbon market will be earmarked for related initiatives, such as the development of our clean tech industry and switching to a transport system powered by electricity.

By consolidating Québec’s expertise in northern development research under a single roof, the Institut nordique will be a magnet for top scientific and technological talent and an incubator for social innovation.

The Institut nordique will serve as a sort of clearinghouse for research projects conducted by scientists from the founding universities.

Other Québec partners, both international players and private-sector representatives, may also sign on to the project.

Sophie D’Amours, vice-rector for research and creation at Université Laval, will be describing the Institut nordique in greater detail during the breakout session scheduled for 4:30 this afternoon.

***

It is important for us to promote this major sustainable development project abroad.

Allow me to take advantage of today’s prestigious forum to extend a special invitation to attend an International Symposium on Northern Development, to be held in our magnificent capital, Québec City.

I am truly proud to announce that Québec will be rolling out the red carpet for visitors from around the world during this major international event, organized by the Québec government together with Université Laval.

Co-chaired by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the symposium will take place from February 25 to 27, 2015.

It will be an opportunity for participants to share ideas and knowledge and discuss their respective experience in and vision of northern development. It will bring together representatives of Nordic countries, businesspeople, companies, researchers, academics and members of local communities, including Aboriginal nations.

A variety of talks, workshops and dynamic dialogue activities will focus on four distinct themes, namely:

  • The North as a place to live;
  • The North as a physical territory;
  • The North as a place for economic development; and
  • The North as a field of knowledge, training and research.

I look forward to seeing you in Québec City from February 25 to 27, 2015, for the International Symposium on Northern Development.

I hope that I can count on your valuable expertise and cooperation for the ambitious sustainable development project called Plan Nord.

Thank you all for your attention. I wish you a day brimming with new ideas.


Online as of: November 1er, 2014


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