Parti Québécois candidate seeks a fourth mandate in Ungava
“We won’t do anything for, but rather with the people of Nunavik"
Luc Ferland, the Parti Québécois MNA for Ungava, says he’s in it for the long haul.
Nunavik’s representative in Quebec’s national assembly since 2007 is looking for another mandate April 7, when Quebeckers return to the polls to elect a new provincial government.
And Ferland says he’s confident that his party’s approach to the North will earn him his seat for a fourth time.
The previous Liberal government’s Plan Nord, launched in 2011, “had a lot to do with exploration and mining projects in the region,” Ferland said. “There wasn’t much more than that — construction of roads to access those projects.
“When we created Le Nord Pour Tous, it was more than just a name change, it was a change in approach to engage the communities,” he said.
And when Ferland spoke to the leaders of Aboriginal communities in the riding — both Inuit and Cree — he said he understood that most communities felt they lacked access to tools like training and other tools to prepare them to receive the economic benefits of resource development on their territory.
That’s why the PQ government created a secretariat of northern development, including a seat for Nunavik, so Inuit could have a voice on what happens on their territory.
“And that’s what we’ll continue to do,” Ferland told Nunatsiaq News. “We won’t do anything for, but rather with the people of Nunavik.”
Plan Nunavik, a home-grown blueprint for development in the region, which will be expanded on with recent Parnasimautik consultations, will remain a reference guide for a PQ government as it maps it future.
But Ferland admits he hasn’t had time to accomplish much during his last mandate: the PQ government was in power for less than 19 months before Premier Pauline Marois called the April 7 election.
On Sept. 4, 2012, Ferland won 4,854 votes of the 10,882 cast, or 44 per cent of the vote. He joined 53 other PQ MNAs who formed Quebec’s PQ minority government.
Since then, Ferland said his government pushed hard to have the federal government fulfill it housing obligations to the region, calling on Ottawa to pay for a catch-up program to build enough housing in Nunavik to end its housing crisis.
Ferland said the PQ government has also made a real effort to cut back on the high cost of living in the region by more than doubling Nunavik’s subsidies for the next three years.
But some of the PQ’s moves have raised issues considered controversial by many Quebeckers, including its proposed “Charter of values,” which calls for religious neutrality among public employees.
Ferland is clear that the bill “does not touch First Nations or Inuit” in Quebec.
“This is project ot integrate newcomers to Quebec,” he said. “Aboriginal peoples were the first to arrive here.”
When asked about the PQ government’s plans for sovereignty should it win a majority government April 7, Ferland said the current election campaign is not to determine whether or not the government will hold a third referendum.
“The question of sovereignty took a lot of place in the beginning of the campaign,” he said. “But it’s not on the table right now.”
Ferland acknowledged that sovereignty is not popular with many Aboriginal communities.
“But if we win a majority… that would require a Quebec-wide discussion about how [a referendum] would happen,” he said. “And we would consult with all Quebeckers, including Inuit.”