PQ hopes to retain Ungava in Quebec’s Sept. 4 election
Luc Ferland says he'll fight to make Plan Nord more than a "marketing plan"
Luc Ferland, the Parti Québecois MNA for Ungava, the huge Quebec riding that includes Nunavik, wants to get re-elected.
And if the PQ wins the Sept. 4 provincial election, and if he regains his seat in Quebec’ national Assembly, Ferland, who was first elected in 2007 and then again in 2008, says he’ll make sure that the Liberal’s Plan Nord development scheme becomes more than a “marketing plan” for Quebec.
“Before going to sell Plan Nord, there’s the question of training and higher education for people in Nunavik,” Ferland said. “How can you expect the people to get jobs without some sort of technical college?”
Ferland said he’d fight to see a CEGEP or “even a university” for Nunavik.
Otherwise, people in Nunavik won’t get their share of economic development from Plan Nord, so “we need to push education.”
The PQ has also said that Liberals are promising to give away electricity and other public money to mining companies eager to set up shop in northern Quebec.
But that’s not the only Nunavik issue Ferland, who has served as the official opposition critic for northern development, wants to tackle. There’s also the lack of housing in Nunavik and the “exorbitant cost of living.”
“People in Nunavik have the right to the same standard of living as people in Montreal,” he said.
While Ferland, who is based in Chibougamou and Quebec City, has visited Nunavik many times over his past term, Nunavik voters are unlikely to see him during the current election campaign.
That’s because his entire annual travel budget as an MNA is $16,000, although the Ungava riding is Quebec’s largest — and almost as large as the rest of Quebec, Ferland said.
When Ferland has come to Nunavik, it’s mainly been as an invited guest on charters organized by the Liberal government, which is unlikely to ask him to tag along during the current campaign.
In any event, the battle will be fought mainly in the southern portion of the riding, where residents have traditionally supported the PQ.
Voter turnout in Nunavik — which has about 4,000 eligible voters, has been poor: between 30 and 50 per cent, while in the southern communities of the Ungava riding, it’s been as high as 67 per cent.
Ferland, who won the last provincial election in 2008 with 47 per cent of ballots cast, said he lobbied hard to see Nunavik and the James Bay area obtain their own riding. But, despite promises from Prime Minister Jean Charest, that didn’t happen in the latest revision of Quebec’s electoral ridings, and now won’t be possible for another eight years, Ferland said.
If the PQ wins the says his party will put in an constituency office in Kuujjuaq, visited by party leader Pauline Marois in November 2010.
Meanwhile, polls suggest the PQ, although its support is falling, remains in the lead in Quebec.
The most recent Quebec election poll, conducted for theNational Post on Aug. 6, shows PQ’s popularity at 34 per cent, down from 39 per cent when the election was called on Aug. 1.
The Liberals are second at 32 per cent, down from 38 per cent.
The Coalition Avenir Québec jumped to 24 per cent from 14 per cent, and Québec Solidaire gained two points to raise their standing to six per cent, while the Greens remained at three per cent.
Charest spent Aug. 8 fighting off accusations that he interefered with a Sûreté du Québec provincial police force surveillance operation after a Radio-Canada investigation found that surveillance of Quebec’s largest construction union was stopped when Charest met with its former treasurer.
The CBC French network’s investigative program Enquête says that occurred after Charest ran into Eddy Brandone at March 6, 2009 meeting at a Dorval hotel, dubbed the “Katimajiit Round Table,” intended as a follow-up to the August 2007 Katimajiit meeting in Kuujjuaq.
Brandone, who apparently wanted to hawk construction trailers in Nunavik, is alleged to have attended that meeting, where Radio-Canada reports that Brandone spoke with Charest very briefly.
Between now and Sept. 4, read more interviews with Ungava riding candidates in Quebec election on Nunatsiaqonline.ca.