Canadian Mining Journal

Feature

A look at what Plan Nord is all about

On June 4, 2014, the Province of Québec, led by the Québec Liberal government, announced the revival of the Plan Nord, in what is meant to be an enhanced version.


On June 4, 2014, the Province of Québec, led by the Québec Liberal government, announced the revival of the Plan Nord, in what is meant to be an enhanced version.

The Plan Nord was originally introduced in 2011 as a long-term program for the economic and social development of the territory situated north of the 49th parallel.

With more than C$80 billion in public and private investments over a 25-year period, the Plan Nord was seen as one of the larger multi-generational projects the Province of Québec has ever seen.

After a complete halt and a subsequent rebrand by the Parti Québécois further to its election in September of 2012, the Plan Nord has been put back on track by the Liberals via their first new budget, despite a series of measures to address the Province’s deficit.

The new Plan Nord is articulated around the following key items, all part of the 2014-15 budget:

  • Creation of Comité ministériel du Plan Nord, a newly created committee, to oversee the implementation of the Plan Nord.  Such Comité will be supported by the Secrétariat au Plan Nord until the Société du Plan Nord is created as a government corporation responsible for coordinating the territory’s development in consultation with all partners, including local and Aboriginal communities to ensure their support. 

  • Clear commitment of the Government to have the Plan Nord deployed with the participation of local and Aboriginal communities and with sustainable development in mind.

  • Creation of the Northern Plan Fund with a C$63 million budget for 2014-2015 to finance major work on road infrastructure in the Plan Nord territory, including the extension of Highway 138 and the repair of Highway 389 in the Côte-Nord region and the James Bay Highway.  The fund is expected to be financed by tax spinoffs generated from mining, energy and public infrastructure projects of the Plan Nord. The Government plans to contribute approximately C$2 billion between 2014 and 2035.

  • Creation of Capital Mines Hydrocarbures, a C$1 billion fund managed by Ressources Québec (a subsidiary of Investissement Québec) which will acquire equity interests in companies extracting mineral substances in Québec.

  • Up to $20 million to be invested by the Government for the completion of a feasibility study, in collaboration with private partners, for a multi-user railway from Sept-Iles to the Labrador Trough to open up the iron-ore-rich region and provide the transportation infrastructure necessary to develop several iron ore projects in the area.

  • Establishment of an interministerial committee to ensure the fast supply of natural gas and liquefied natural gas to the Côte-Nord region, by sea and land rather than via the construction of a pipeline. The review process could be conducted through a fast-track review process by the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE).

  • $100 million to be invested in educational infrastructure upgrades and training programs for residents of the north, including C$10 million for the training of skilled workers.

  • The current tax regime remains mostly unchanged to restore industry and investor confidence by ensuring the rules are favourable, stable and foreseeable.

  • Revival of the Québec Tourism Strategy North of the 49th Parallel which will benefit from a C$3.2 million budget to develop northern Quebec as a word-class northern destination. 

  • $1.1 billion to be invested by Hyrdo-Québec between 2016 and 2018 in the transmission line between the Chamouchouane substation in the Saguenay region and the Bout-de-l’Île substation in the Montréal area

The 2014-15 budget clearly confirms both that the new Government sees the mining industry as a partner and a key player of its economic growth, and that it is cognisant of the capital investment challenges that will doubtless be of concern to potential investors looking to participate in developing the largely untapped potential of northern Québec. 

Even if the scope and depth of the new Plan Nord remain to be confirmed, it is already seen as a positive change by the mining industry which has suffered, over the last years, from rough market conditions and changing rules. 

As we can expect four years of political stability in Québec, there’s every hope the new Plan Nord can deploy itself to the fullest extent possible for the benefit of both the mining companies and the population of Québec.