Liberal candidate in Ungava touts re-launch of Plan Nord
“You cannot carry out a project without the people"
Jean Boucher says he knows first-hand how hard Nunavik’s housing crisis has been felt by Nunavimmiut.
As director of client services for the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, Boucher’s department fields tenant complaints and liaises with local housing committees across the region.
And Boucher, who is running for Quebec’s Liberal party in the Ungava riding, has made better access to housing one of the planks of his platform.
“We’ve been seeing rent increases of eight per cent every year since July 2010 and it’s been tough in Nunavik,” said Boucher, who is based in Kuujjuaq. “This will be the fifth year in a row and people are struggling to feed their families.”
Boucher said he is working towards a “fair and equitable” rent scale for all social housing tenants in the region.
A newly-elected Liberal party would have a renewed focus on Quebec’s North, Boucher said.
While the party’s Plan Nord was only in place a little more than a year before a Parti Québécois government was elected in 2012 and replaced it with its “Le Nord pour tous” plan, the Liberals have pledged to re-launch the plan to maximize benefits for those who live in the North.
“Many people in the North are reluctant, afraid and even worried about Plan Nord, and I think they’re right,” Boucher said. “I want them to know that their concerns will be heard.”
Boucher said the party plans to create a new planning committee, the Societé du Plan Nord, to watch over development projects, and he intends to ensure Nunavik has a seat at that table.
That body would oversee a supply office to better inform businesses throughout the province of the supply and equipment needs of northern development projects.
The Liberal’s renewed Plan Nord also commits to putting royalties from resource development into its Fonds des générations, a fund created to pay off Quebec’s debt.
But Boucher said a Liberal government will also use the document that will come out of last year’s Parnasimautik consultations to guide its planning in the Nunavik region.
“This new plan will be heard and analyzed so that Inuit can have their voice heard,” he said. “You cannot carry out a project without the people.”
Boucher also touched on the urgent need for education and training opportunities in the region — a need that has seen little innovation from the provincial or federal governments in recent years.
“We know there’s a huge rate of people who don’t get their CEGEP diplomas in the region, for many reasons,” Boucher said. “I want to help these young adults get their diplomas, whether it is on line or through work/study programs. We cannot waste that talent.”
Boucher, a lawyer by profession, started his career with Habitat Métis du Nord, a not-for-profit organization in the Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean region that provides public housing to Aboriginal people living off-reserve.
Boucher has called Kuujjuaq home since 2007, when he moved to Nunavik to work for the Kativik Regional Government’s legal department.
Shortly afterwards, he made the move to the KMHB, where he’s worked as director of client services ever since, overseeing a staff of about 40.
This is Boucher’s first run for political office.