The Government of Québec yesterday took a concrete step in its plan to develop the province's vast resources situated North of the 49th parallel by holding the first meeting of the Partners' Discussion Table. The sustainable resource development initiative known as the "Plan Nord" or "Northern Plan", is a broad-based joint action process to lay the foundation for a new partnership with communities in the North and covers an area of over one million square kilometres (1,000,000 km2). The Northern Plan had previously been announced by the Quebec Liberal Party as part of an ambitious 2008 electoral campaign platform, but has gained momentum of late following consensus-building at a gathering of Northern Plan stakeholders in early November 2009 (the "Northern Plan Stakeholders Summit").

The Partners' Discussion Table was attended by Québec's Deputy Premier, Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife and Minister responsible for the Northern Plan, Ms. Nathalie Normandeau. Joining her were Mr. Pierre Corbeil, Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr. Serge Simard, Delegate Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife and Ms. Line Beauchamp, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, as well as twenty-seven (27) representatives from Municipalities, Aboriginal Nations, Economic and Environmental Organizations, Educational and Research Organizations and Government Departments and Agencies concerned by the project.

The Partners' Discussion Table is to focus on obtaining community support for a shared vision for the Northern Plan, to define a work process and to determine priorities for the Plan's implementation in the economic and social spheres.

The Northern Plan Stakeholders Summit had also established a second, distinct, Aboriginal Partners' Discussion Table, which is to be subdivided into four separate tables, one for each of the Cree, Innu, Inuit and Naskapi Nations and whose task will be to deal with the Aboriginal issues raised by the Northern Plan, in a manner consistent with agreements that have been signed or are being negotiated.

Of the Partners' Discussion Table, Minister Normandeau was quoted as saying (translation): "We share a common vision, that is to make of the Northern Plan an exemplary sustainable development project which integrates the development of the energy, mining, forestry, agrifood, tourism and transportation industries, while protecting wildlife and the environment, as well as conserving biodiversity. The Northern Plan will encourage community development, while respecting community culture and identity."