Ungava’s Liberal candidate vows to work on housing, lowering cost of living in Nunavik
“If there’s a priority in Plan Nord, it’s that everyone needs to be on the same footing"
The Liberal party of Quebec wants to take the Ungava riding, which includes Nunavik, in the Sept. 4 provincial election.
To do that, the Liberals will have to find about 1,000 more votes.
And they hope that Gérald Lemoyne, the longtime mayor of Lebel-sur-Quévillion, who was also the chairman of the James Bay regional council until the Aug. 1 election call, can do just that.
Lemoyne, who turned 63 this past weekend, comes with numerous contacts from his seats on the boards of the Nord-du-Quebec regional council, James Bay development council and Hydro Quebec.
Many of Lemoyne’s contacts are among Nunavik leaders too, Lemoyne told Nunatsiaq News in an Aug. 13 interview, because over the years he’s sat alongside several leaders of Makivvik Corp,. and the Kativik Regional Government.
Lemoyne said his encounters with Nunavimmiut have left him with a respect for how they work hard to achieve consensus on diffcult issues.
Lemoyne also visits Nunavik by snowmobile every the winter, and this past summer he also visited the site of the future Tursujuq provincial park near Umiujaq, which he called a ”magnificent place”
That first-hand contact has given him a good handle on Nunavik’s two major challenges: the lack of housing and the high cost of living, both of which he said he pledged to work on if elected.
Whenever Lemoyne accompanies officials from the South who are visiting Nunavik. he encourages them to visit local grocery stores to see the disparity in the prices between southern and northern Quebec.
Even before Lemoyne became part of Premier Jean Charest’s so-called electoral “Team Plan Nord,” he was involved in discussions around the 25-year scheme to develop northern Quebec.
“If there’s a priority in Plan Nord, it’s that everyone needs to be on the same footing,” Lemoyne said. That means Cree, Inuit and Jamesians, the non-native residents of the James Bay region.
Inuit must be involved in the development slated for Plan Nord, he said.
But as it stands now Lemoyne said people in Nunavik have inadequate housing, pay more to live and also lack the same access to the South because there are no road connections out of Nunavik.
In Lemoyne’s hometown, which is connected to Quebec’s road network, the cost of food and lodging isn’t much higher than in southern Quebec, but he said that’s not the case in Nunavik and “we have to find the solution.”
This could be achieve by getting rid of the Quebec sales tax, Lemoyne suggested.
As for Plan Nord, Lemoyne said he wants Inuit in Nunavik receive more information about the plan..
“My job is to explain that to people,” he said.
That’s something people in Kuujjuaq will have a chance to ask Lemoyne about directly: Lemoyne, who speaks English, said that by the end of the campaign he plans to visit Nunavik’s largest community.
In the last provincial election in 2008, the Liberals placed second in Ungava, with 34.62 per cent of the vote. The Parti Québécois picked up the riding, with Luc Ferland, also running in this election, receiving 47.30 per cent of the vote, with 1,104 more votes than the Liberal candidate.
A CROP poll taken last week showed the Liberals lagging behind the PQ, which had 32 per cent support among Quebec voters. Another poll also put Charest in difficult in his own riding of Sherbrooke, with only 31 per cent support, against 46 per cent for the PQ candidate.