Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic November 03, 2014 - 11:35 am

Quebec premier promotes Plan Nord in China, Iceland

"An exemplary sustainable development project"

JANE GEORGE
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard speaks Nov. 1 at the Arctic Circle forum in Reykjavik, Iceland. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ARCTIC CIRCLE)
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard speaks Nov. 1 at the Arctic Circle forum in Reykjavik, Iceland. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ARCTIC CIRCLE)

From China to Iceland, Quebec’s premier Philippe Couillard promoted Plan Nord last week, touting the massive development scheme for northern Quebec to potential investors.

In Iceland, Couillard described Plan Nord as a sustainable project of unprecedented scope, a great project for the future, and one that is also “tailor-made” for investors.

After signing scores of economic and cultural deals in China from Oct. 26 to Oct. 31, Couillard wrapped up his round-the-world junket with a Nov. 1 pitch to an international audience of academics, government officials, indigenous representatives and business interests at the Arctic Circle forum in Reykjavik, a rival to the federal government’s Arctic Economic Council, which met in September behind closed doors in Iqaluit.

“Through the Plan Nord, we hope to develop northern Quebec’s vast potential in order to make of it an exemplary sustainable development project,” Couillard said. “It has been designed and will be carried out in a close, ongoing partnership with local communities to ensure that northern development concretely benefits the communities and protects the territory’s environment and distinctive biodiversity.”

Plan Nord will require a “massive investment” of money— but it’s a safe project for investors, Couillard said — because there’s a “clear, predictable framework” for Plan Nord which will be developed with local communities, he said.

In his plenary address to the Arctic Circle forum, Couillard said Quebec will sink billions into new infrastructure in northern Quebec — such as roads, railways and ports — and towards developing new sources of renewable energy.

Quebec’s commitment to the North was another focus of Couillard, who mentioned the creation of a new Quebec-based research institution, the Institut Nordique du Québec.

And Couillard also chose his Arctic Circle address to announced that Quebec, in collaboration with Laval university and the Nordic Council of Ministers, will hold a large meeting on northern development in Quebec City, the International Symposium on Northern Development, from Feb. 25 to Feb. 27.

“The symposium will provide an opportunity to engage in discussions and share knowledge, experience and perspectives of northern development. It will assemble representatives of the northern countries, businesses, the universities and local communities, including the Aboriginal nations,” Couillard said, adding that Quebec plans to participate in future meetings of the Arctic Circle forum.

Following Couillard’s speech in Reykjavik, some Quebec journalists criticized Coulliard for speaking only in English — although Couillard later defended his choice of language to reporters.

“If we are at the point where we have to tell people that Quebec is French-speaking, there’s a problem. What’s important to us, is that the audience understands the message,” Couillard said.

“I’m here to speak about Plan Nord,” he said, adding that the presidents of Iceland and Finland, who “are very proud of their culture,” also spoke in English.

While in Reykjavik, Couillard also met with Robert Papp, the United States special representative for the Arctic.

A release said the two discussed Plan Nord and Quebec’s efforts to fight climate change ahead of the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015.

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