It may benefit this province in some ways, but Quebec’s plan to develop its northern region has some people wondering if an ongoing dispute over the border between Labrador and Quebec is about to reignite.
Last week, the Quebec government released its Plan Nord, calling it “one of the biggest economic, social and environmental projects of our time.”
The plan aims to attract $80 billion in investment over 25 years and create 20,000 jobs per year in such sectors as construction, mining and forestry.
Part of Plan Nord includes improving two highways that end at the Labrador border. It proposes to rebuild Route 389 between Baie-Comeau and Fermont, Que.; the latter is not far from Labrador City.
The plan also proposes to extend Route 138 by building a link between Kegaska and Blanc-Sablon, Que. Blanc-Sablon is on the border of Labrador and Quebec, and it is where the ferry from St. Barbe on the Northern Peninsula docks.
The logo for Plan Nord contains all of the map of Labrador, albeit in a slightly lighter colour of green that fades towards the coast. Maps on the website for the plan show the border established in 1927 by the judicial committee of the Privy Council in England — the highest court of appeal in the British Empire — as “non définitif,” suggesting that Quebec still lays claim to part of southern Labrador.
But though some local bloggers have bemoaned that Quebec is once again laying claim to parts of Labrador, provincial Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dave Denine says he isn’t too worried.
“They have every right to develop their northern plan, the same as we do." - Dave Denine
He told The Telegram the province was aware of Quebec’s plan to open up its north, which he said has been in the works since Quebec’s last provincial election.
“They have every right to develop their northern plan, the same as we do,” said Denine.
He acknowledged that Plan Nord could have spinoffs for this province.
“I think we can look at this as being beneficial,” he said.
“These two roads that they are talking about, 138 and 389, I mean these roads will only complement what we’ve done with the Trans-Labrador Highway, throughout Labrador itself.”
Denine added the Labrador boundary established in 1927 was incorporated into the terms of union when this province entered Confederation in 1949.
“We go by that. There’s no change in our boundary,” he said. “Even Quebec’s own Dorion Commission in 1971 confirmed that.”
Therefore, Denine said, the province has no concerns about a renewed boundary dispute.
“If there’s any (proposed) development inside that boundary, then we’re concerned about it. But right now that’s Newfoundland and Labrador. As far as we’re concerned, Quebec can develop outside, unless it doesn’t affect our lands, but within that boundary, that’s ours.”
The Telegram attempted to get comment from the Quebec government but was unsuccessful by deadline.