The Montreal area is ex­pected to be the principal beneficiary of Quebec’s Plan Nord development plan to the tune of $52 billion over the next 25 years, according to a study commissioned by Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.
Announced in May 2011, Plan Nord is Premier Jean Charest’s ambitious $80 billion project to open Quebec’s North to mining, renewable energy, forestry products and tourism by 2036.
The Board will have to ensure the right strategies are put in place to maximize the spin-offs from Plan Nord, Board President and CEO Michel Leblanc said while presenting the study to the media on April 18, two days before Charest addressed a luncheon during a two-day Salon Plan Nord strategic forum. The forum and job fair involved over 800 participants at Montreal’s Palais des congrès convention centre.
“It’s up to us to ensure that Plan Nord is also a Plan Sud,” said Leblanc. The study calculates the exploitation of Quebec’s natural resources will create or maintain around 14,335 jobs in the Montreal area per year for 25 years.
In addition to Charest and Leblanc, guest speakers included Jean Simard, President, Aluminium Association of Canada, Jacynthe Côté, CEO, Rio Tinto Alcan, Yves Laflamme, Senior Vice-President, Resolute Forest Products, Thierry Vadal, President and CEO, Hydro-Quebec, and Alain Cauchon, Vice-President, ArcelorMittal.
It’s major projects like Plan Nord that drive infrastructure and not the other way around, according to Laflamme. “If there are no new projects, there’s no new infrastructure. And the (existing) roads are not big enough to accommodate all potential new projects. We also don’t know if new infrastructure will be paid for by the public or private sector.”
The four biggest challenges facing Plan Nord are related to manpower, logistics, financing and milieu (environmental issues), Laflamme added.
In terms of infrastructure, Charest noted the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (the province’s pension fund manager) said it was interested in financing infrastructure development as part of the Plan Nord. It is currently working with Canadian National Railway Co. on an estimated $5-billion project to build a new 800-kilometre railway stretching from Sept-Îles past Shefferville and into the Labrador Mining Trough. The partners need firm transport commitments from mining companies before they can proceed.