The Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Plan Nord, Pierre Arcand, made public, on February 16, a Green Paper on social acceptability. The document, entitled Guidelines of the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles in the Area of Social Acceptability (the “Green Paper”), is part of the broad-based workshop on the social acceptability launched in November 2014 by the Minister Arcand focusing specifically on mineral resource development projects.

The Green Paper was prepared, in particular, from the observations pointed out in the report (only available in French) by Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton in collaboration with Transfert Environnement et Société, instructed by the Minister Arcand to conduct a review of current practices and tools at the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (“MENR”) and to hold discussion panels which were attended by local elected representatives, stakeholders and citizens. The report, we recall, noted that social acceptability, despite the absence of a consensus definition thereon, did not mean unanimous support, but required more than consultation.

The Green Paper outlines the five following guidelines proposed by the MENR:

  1. Make the MENR’s roles and responsibilities in the area of land use planning and land management better known.
  2. Make the mechanisms for land planning and land use harmonization contained in public land use plans (PATPs) more transparent, participatory and up-to-date.
  3. Establish predictable information and consultation processes at all project stages.
  4. Promote the sharing of benefits from energy and mining development projects with host communities.
  5. Enhance the MENR’s ability to analyze the impacts, economic benefits and repercussions of projects by taking social acceptability factors into account.

These five guidelines are each divided into specific objectives and actions. Among these, we note:

  • Creating a major project management team inside the MENR
  • Creating an independent office for the economic analysis of projects
  • Develop a good practice guide for partnerships, in particular between promoters and non-Aboriginal communities
  • Draft guidelines for use by promoters in developing projects that take their social acceptability factors into account
  • Establish a departmental policy for the consultation of local communities
  • Improve the legislative and regulatory framework governing guarantees and protection for unforeseen project impacts, and the rehabilitation of closed sites

These guidelines, according to the MENR, “propose some major changes and new approaches for the MENR”. It will be interesting to see how these changes will be implemented and what impact they will have on the various stakeholders.

The Green Paper was well received by the Quebec Mining Association (Association minière du Québec), the Quebec Business Council on the Environment (Conseil patronal de l’environnement du Québec) as well as the Quebec Employers Council (Conseil du patronat du Québec).

The government now plans to hold special consultations in parliamentary committee to validate these guidelines. These consultations should be held next spring.