Plan Nord: Public feels left out of Public Consultation

Photo Credit: Gilles Morissette

As this old campaign poster suggests, maybe our environment minister Pierre Arcand  is more concerned with economics than he should be.

On May 9th 2011 the Charest government announced their 25 year, 80 Billion dollar plan to “develop” the isolated regions of Northern Quebec through the installation of numerous mines and hydroelectric dams. What has been dubbed the Plan Nord concerns the territory that lies above the 49th parallel and makes up a total of 72% of the province.

The Plan is presented as one of transparency; something all Quebecers will work on together. Yet,  when the public consultation was held in Montreal last Thursday the plan was already well underway. More than that, it was scheduled no more than one week ahead of time (if that) and at the exact date and time of the Habs opening season no less. Forgive my paranoia but that seems like a very strategic date, time and location to hold a meeting in a province where hockey is followed religiously.

In any event,  the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks held it’s public consultation so that they may  hear the public’s opinions and questions about the controversial Plan Nord, and more specifically their promise to reserve 50% of the land included in the territory to non-industrial activities, a promise that has been met with severe skepticism.

Heading the consultation were Patrick Beauchesne and Leopold Gaudreau of the MDDEP, president of the assembly, Joseph Zayed and Quebec environment minister Pierre Arcand. Present also were many concerned, environmentally conscious citizens as well as representatives of environmental groups such as Nature Quebec and Greenpeace.

Beauchesne presented a general overview of the Plan Nord which was followed by a question period. Anyone who wished to speak was promised the opportunity to be heard and have their questions answered by the ministry representatives who did so quite reluctantly. Arcand himself seemed utterly uninterested; if he wasn’t leaning his head on his hand, he was looking up at the ceiling, checking his phone, and even sending a text on two occasions.

Speakers were asked to stop if the ministers judged they had taken up too much time, although no time limit was set. They answered questions in a style famous among politicians, by using their talking points to make people believe an appropriate answer had been given when in fact it had not. Many speakers left the consultation feeling their concerns were ignored or belittled. Around ten o’clock the ministers called for another ten minute break so Arcand could go home although many speakers were still politely waiting for their turn; I suppose texting can be an arduous activity.

While on the surface the purpose of this consultation was to hear the public’s interests, it was immediately apparent that it was simply an opportunity for them to appear as if they had done so.


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Categories: Politics, Quebec Environment



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