QUEBEC CITY – Premier François Legault has scuttled the $600-million Apuiat wind farm project near Port Cartier on the North Shore, at least until Hydro-Québec has sold its surplus inventory.
Legault made the announcement Thursday night after meeting for nearly two hours with Innu leaders in the offices of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources. The announcement put an end to several months of controversy, with critics having urged the newly elected premier to reconsider his position.
“There will be no project as long as Hydro-Québec is in a surplus position,” Legault told a news conference, where he was joined by Minister of Energy Jonatan Julien and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Sylvie D’Amours.
The premier said the Apuiat contract would have represented a “potential cost” of $1.6 billion for Hydro-Québec, which estimates it has about 20 years’ worth of surplus energy.
“It’s a lot of money,” Legault said, noting that the wind-power purchase contracts that bind Hydro-Québec to producers in the Gaspé have already cost $2.5 billion.
Hydro-Québec had been bound by an agreement in principle made just before the election to buy Apuiat’s 200 megawatts of electricity, with the support of Philippe Couillard’s former Liberal government, but the project had always been criticized by the Coalition Avenir Québec.
Legault did say that he promised the Innu their project would be a priority, even before the dams he dreams of building, as soon as the need for electricity arises and that he was going to push his ambitions to sell electricity to neighbouring provinces and states.
There was no talk of compensation, but the premier indicated there was some discussion about the “possibility of some economic development projects” in the region, but he did not want to specify.
The Innu leaders left the meeting without speaking to the media. The Innu nation founded much hope on this contract, hoping to take control of its development.
On Thursday, opposition leaders called for Legault to agree to Apuiat.
Joliette PQ MNA Véronique Hivon asked the premier to make amends, particularly to consolidate the relationship between Quebec and Indigenous peoples.
“I think there will have to be a very open attitude, he must pick up some of the broken pots, because I think it was very badly engaged.”
For their part, the Liberals argued that Apuiat was a “profitable project” that was good for communities and that the CAQ should accept.