In the midst of the unveiling of the Northern Plan in May 2011, the Government of Québec announced its intention to establish the Société du Plan Nord, a public entity that will be responsible for coordinating development activities resulting from the Northern Plan, north of the 49th parallel. On June 8, 2011, the Government introduced Bill 27, An Act respecting the Société du Plan Nord, which provides the operating rules of the Company and states the mission, powers and financial arrangements for this body that will play a key role in the development of the North.
Mission and powers of the Société du Plan Nord
The Société du Plan Nord, whose headquarters will be located in Northern Québec, "will establish direct links with companies, local and Native communities, to assist them in their projects while helping to maximize the benefits for these communities and for Québec as a whole," (translation) according to Nathalie Normandeau, Minister responsible for the Plan Nord.
The Société du Plan Nord must ensure that the territory is developed in an integrated and coherent manner, in accordance with the content of the five‐year plans set out by the Government of Québec. The first five‐year plan, from 2011 to 2016, includes measures amounting to $2.1 billion, including $1.2 billion in infrastructure development, $382 million for social measures and $500 million for equity in projects in the territory.
According to section 5 under the Bill, in pursuing its mission, the Société du Plan Nord may:
- contribute, financially or otherwise, to the initiatives set out in the five‐year plans and ensure their coordination;
- engage in infrastructure development and operation, including as a rail carrier;
- assist and support local and Native communities in their community, social and economic development projects;
- advise the Government on any matter which the latter submits to it.
The Company must also submit a strategic plan for approval by the Government consistent with the Government’s five‐year plan. The plan will be used to coordinate public investments in transportation, energy and telecommunications infrastructure as well as social investments on the territory. The Government has announced its intention to prioritize projects that will satisfy many purposes at once, for example an energy transmission line that would supply a mine, outfitters and other tourism projects.
Financing of the Société du Plan Nord
The Société du Plan Nord will be financed partly by contributions from the Government. For the moment, the 2011‐2012 budget has allocated $52 million to the Northern Plan. Those funds will be used for the coordination and implementation of the Northern Plan. In addition, the Government will allow the Company to share the costs of implantation and maintenance of the infrastructure with companies, local communities, the Government or any other user. The Société du Plan Nord may therefore, by regulation, set the fees payable for the use of an infrastructure under its responsibility. It may also, in connection with such an infrastructure, determine the contribution to be paid by beneficiaries it specifies. These measures, however, must be submitted to the Government for approval.
Further actions related to the legislative landscape of the Plan Nord
Since the Northern Plan was unveiled in May 2011, the Act respecting the Société du Plan Nord is the second bill introduced by the Government of Quebec in the context of the Northern Plan’s implementation. In May 2011, the Government introduced An Act respecting the development of mineral resources in keeping with the principles of sustainable development, a bill aimed at intensifying mining companies’ social and environmental obligations. In addition, other legislative initiatives are expected in the fall. The Government plans on implementing measures allowing 50% of the Northern Plan territory to be devoted to purposes other than industrial uses, such as the protection of the environment and the preservation of biodiversity.