By Keith Norbury
Despite the recent change of government in Quebec, Frank Vannelli remains optimistic that the $80-billion “Plan Nord” initiative to develop the province’s North will go ahead.
“The government was fully supportive because it creates a lot of jobs,” said Mr. Vannelli, Senior Vice-President of Commercial and Business Development at Montreal-based Logistec Stevedoring Inc. “I doubt very much that the new leadership will take this in a different direction. I’m not a politician, but I think the whole idea behind Plan Nord is that it’s going to create jobs for Quebecers for many years to come.”
Plan Nord is the legacy of former Premier Jean Charest, whose Liberal Party lost the September 4 provincial election to the Parti Québecois. New Premier Pauline Marois, who leads a minority government, has voiced support for Northern development, but has also stated that a PQ government would impose higher mining royalties. Whether or how the new government might alter the Plan remains unknown at this point.
Mr. Vannelli doubts that the new government will tinker too much with Plan Nord, especially since many mining companies have already announced plans. While most of the anticipated jobs will be in the North, many jobs will be created in the Southern urban areas to fabricate parts and components to supply the mines, infrastructure and housing projects, he pointed out. “It could last certainly 25 to 35 years into the future with replenishment, resupply, and all the materials that will be needed not only to build the location but also to house the people up there,” he said in an earlier interview.
Much of the activity will be in the mining sector and all the equipment that entails. In anticipation of that, Logistec is undertaking activities in the Baie-Comeau and Sept-Îles regions on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
At Port of Montreal, Communications Manager Yves Gilson said this spring that the port, which currently handles very little project cargo, is anticipating a boost from Plan Nord. However, he expects that most of that cargo will be bound for places like Sept-Îles, which is 800 kilometres by road Northeast of Montreal.
Logistec had a booth at a trade show and job fair in Montreal in late April to promote Plan Nord. “It was very, very well attended,” Mr. Vannelli said of the Salon Plan Nord event. Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who was the keynote speaker, said the project would create some 15,000 jobs annually in the North alone. “We collected a lot of CVs for Baie-Comeau and Sept-Îles from people looking for work on this project,” Mr. Vannelli said.