At the time, the James Bay hydroelectric complex was one of the crowning jewels of Quebec engineering. Politically, too, it was a success, with the signing of the first treaty of the modern era with an aboriginal nation.
All of Quebec was proud of it, and rightly so. And we cannot discount the impact of this victory on Robert Bourassa’s rise to power in 1985.
But the development of James Bay proceeded from a very specific economic development model: 1) use this low-cost electricity to attract energy-intensive industries and thereby create good, well-paying jobs, and 2) export this surplus of clean energy. USA.
It was a 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 The Legault government’s vision of economic development still serves as an indicator for understanding the economic development of the 1970s and James Bay.
The problem is that the world has changed a lot in this half century. In the 1970s the problem of unemployment was at the forefront. It is hard to imagine that Quebec is practically at full employment and the main problem is labor shortages. No one can even imagine that the United States is often denied our clean energy because of the “not in my backyard” syndrome that affects pylons and transmission lines.
But above all, we are no longer in development at all costs. Instead, we talk about sustainable development, which is opposed to the diversion of rivers and the creation of huge reservoirs. In short, James Bay, we’re glad we have it, but if we had to do it over again today, we’re not sure we’d do the same thing.
In Quebec business circles, fundamental differences are rarely exposed in public. Quebec is small and the future is long, so it’s better to be careful. But since the government is also Hydro’s sole shareholder, we know who ultimately dictates its vision.
This explains why in the government and on the M sideme Brochu argues that there are no “differences in policy” between the government and the Hydro CEO.
But by doing, in the process, the image of a man who succeeds is Mme Brochu, Mr. Legault himself confirmed these differences in orientation.
It takes someone who is “in development mode because Hydro-Québec needs to increase its capacity by 50%.” All this from a prime minister who has almost already ordered the construction of new dams in the middle of an election campaign.
A 50% increase by 2050 to achieve carbon neutrality is part of Hydro-Québec’s strategic plan published last spring. But nowhere does it suggest that there is a need to think about the construction of new dams now.
However, what the strategic plan affirms is that we need to make better use of electricity, for example by increasing the energy efficiency of buildings. The most profitable megawatt is the one we don’t use.
But, this week, you’ll never hear Mr. Legault talk about energy savings or what’s in his power, namely amending the building code to make these savings possible. He doesn’t even talk about developing wind power. Not to make existing plants more productive. All things contained in Hydro’s strategic plan.
Quite clearly, Prime Minister Legault, his Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon and the CEO of Hydro are not on the same wavelength.
As recently as Thursday, Mr. Fitzgibbon said he was “in favor of releasing megawatts to any company that creates wealth for Quebec.” As we can see, the minister never strayed far from the “Shakti Dollarama” of Smt.me Paperback last fall.
In fact, we are in what she fears will attract energy-intensive companies like aluminum smelters, forcing them to build dams to supply them. This is the exact opposite of what M wanted.me pamphlet. In fact, it is even against sustainable development.
Since coming to power, Legault has been saying that environmental issues are a blind spot for the government. We can now say that even his vision of economic development did not take this into account.
Mr. Legault often repeats that he is obsessed with creating wealth. But the means of creating this wealth are not what they were 50 years ago.
Apart from that, when the CAQ government got on the economic development train, MM. Legault and Fitzgibbon got off at the “By-James” station. And they are still…