Get off the train at the “Baie-James” station

Get off the train at the “Baie-James” station

At the time, the James Bay hydroelectric complex was one of Quebec’s finest engineering gems. Even politically, it was successful with the signing of the first modern-era treaty with an aboriginal nation.


All of Quebec was proud of it, and rightly so. And we cannot minimize the effect of this success on Robert Bourassa’s return to power in 1985.

More of the development of the Baie-James proceeds from a well-precise economic development model: 1) use this low-priced electricity to attract energy industries and believe in good employment and 2) export the surplus of this proper energy In the U.S.

It was the fashion model in the 1970s. But 1970 was half a century ago.

Today, the resignation of Sophie Brochu as President and CEO of Hydro-Québec serves as an indicator for us to understand that the Legault government’s vision of economic development remains that of the 1970s and that of James Bay.

The problem is that in this half century, the world has changed a lot. In the 1970s, unemployment was the number one problem. It was hard to imagine that Quebec would be practically at full employment and that the main problem would rather be labor shortages. Nor could one imagine that the United States would reject our clean energy many times due to a “not in my backyard” syndrome that affects pylons and transmission lines.

But above all, we are no longer developing at all costs. Instead, we talk about sustainable development, which is incompatible with the diversion of rivers and the creation of huge reservoirs. In short, James Bay, we’re happy to have it, but if we were to do it again today, it’s far from certain that we would do the same.

In Quebec business circles, fundamental differences are rarely exposed in public. Quebec is small and the future lasts a long time, so it is better to be careful. But since the government is also the only shareholder in Hydro, we know who will impose their vision in the end.

This explains why, both in the government and on the side of Mto me Brochu, it was stated that there were “differences in orientation” between the government and the CEO of Hydro.

But by making, in the process, the portrait of who could succeed Mto me Brochu, Mr. Legault found himself confirming these orientation differences.

It will take someone who is in “development mode as we need to increase Hydro-Québec’s capacity by 50%.” All coming from a prime minister who, in the middle of the electoral campaign, had almost already ordered the construction of new dams.

The 50% increase by 2050 to achieve carbon neutrality is part of Hydro-Québec’s strategic plan released last spring. But nowhere does it indicate that it is necessary to think about building new dams right now.

What the strategic plan affirms, however, is that we must better consume electrical energy, increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, for example. The most profitable megawatt is the one we don’t consume.

But, this week, you will never have heard Mr. Legault talk about saving energy, or what is in his power, that is, modifying the Building Code to make saving possible. He doesn’t talk about developing wind power either. Not even to make existing plants more productive. Everything that is in Hydro’s strategic plan.

Very clearly, Prime Minister Legault, like his energy minister, Pierre Fitzgibbon, and the CEO of Hydro are not on the same page.

As recently as Thursday, Mr. Fitzgibbon said he was “in favor of giving megawatts to any company that creates wealth for Quebec.” As we can see, the minister has never been far from the “energy Dollarama” that Ms.to me Brochure last fall.

In fact, we are at exactly what she feared, which is attracting energy-intensive companies like aluminum smelters, only to then be forced to build dams to supply them. Which is the exact opposite of what M wanted.to me User information. In fact, it is also the opposite of sustainable development.

It has been since he came to power that it has been said that the blind spot of the Legault government is the environmental issue. Now we can say that his vision of his economic development does not take this into account either.

Mr. Legault often repeats that he is obsessed with creating wealth. But the means to create this wealth are no longer the same as 50 years ago.

Except, when the CAQ government jumped on the economic development bandwagon, MM. Legault and Fitzgibbon got off at the “Baie-James” station. And they’re still there…


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