Le Plan Nord was an economic development strategy launched by the Jean Charest government in May 2011. Proving to be the perfect time for this plan, as the economic cycle and demand from China had brought mineral prices especially iron ore to an all-time high of $153 a ton. Gold and silver were also selling at an all-time high, $1800 an ounce for gold and $49.00 an ounce for silver.
On April 21 2012 at the Palais des Congrès, Charest was scheduled to deliver a speech on the Plan Nord when he was interrupted by striking students demanding lower tuition fees in p[articular; the premier joked that these jobless protestors could get a job in northern Quebec to help develop its mineral riches . He was later slammed by the press and the opposition for his humor and ridiculed for his Plan Nord.
Soon after, on September 4th, 2012, Pauline Marois was elected premier of a minority government and the Plan Nord as envisioned by the Liberal government was shelved. On April 7th of 2014, Philippe Couillard led the Liberals back in power with a majority government. His government is attempting now, to revive the Plan Nord by having Investissement Quebec invest tax payers money in a gold mine and a phosphate mine now struggling due to a lack of funding.; fortunately at Stornoway in northern Quebec, a new diamond mine is entering production and the price of diamonds have held up since 2011.
Meanwhile let us look at mineral prices:
MetalNovember 2015May 2011Amount
Iron ORE$57$153A ton
The Plan Nord is in agony and unfortunately the Quebec government will have a temptation to become a stakeholder in some projects because of a lack of international interest.
Meanwhile students are still protesting the so called “austerity” policies of the Couillard government; some university students are still asking for lower tuition, forgetting that Quebec universities have fees as little as one third of Ontario universities. For example, an engineering course in Montreal is $3750 a year, compared to more than $8,000 at Ryerson University in Toronto. It is $21,000 for an MBA at Queens University in Kingston compared to $7500 at HEC in Montreal.
Quebec is still facing protests and strikes by professors and students demanding the end of austerity and therefore the end of a balanced budget; it is now burdened with three investments in different mining projects in addition to the one billion dollars investment in the Bombardier C jetliner, it also has to build the roads and infrastructures which is necessary for potential investors in the Plan Nord.
Thanks to the Parti Quebecois and “les Carrés Rouge” (red squares) Quebec missed a tremendous opportunity in 2011-2012 to launch successfully the Plan Nord, this opportunity is not likely to come back in the near future.
Written by: Pierre Arbour