Quebec must exploit its resources – by Yves-Thomas Dorval (National Post – March 15, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Yves-Thomas Dorval is ­president of the Quebec Employers Council.

There are no human activities without risk

Yves-François Blanchet, Quebec’s minister of sustainable development, environment, wildlife and parks, recently announced a bill to formalize a moratorium on shale gas exploration and exploitation in the province of Quebec.

In doing so, he was honouring a promise made by his party during the last election campaign. But he was also heading toward a troubling tendency that has taken root in Québec and which is aimed at suspending, contesting or prohibiting any economic development endeavour, until there is absolute proof such development contains not even the slightest risk.

This same phenomenon is noted in the issue of oil and gas exploration in the town of Gaspé and, soon, in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, as well as in the Plan Nord development, Enbridge’s Line 9 reversal, and in many other instances.

But are there any human activities that are absolutely risk-free? Shouldn’t we be striving, instead, to responsibly and sensibly exploit to their full potential these enormous natural resources which Québec has, after ensuring this activity can be safely done according to standards applied worldwide, and properly addressing the concerns expressed by the people who are directly affected? Why turn our back on wealth and prosperity any longer?

By creating uncertainty through moratoriums, endless studies or regulations relating to most of the proposed development projects, Québec is sending a message to investors: This isn’t the time to invest here! In Québec, we are applying the precautionary principle to the extreme. We are fearfully rich; we are sitting on our potential while others move ahead.

Québec aspires to a high quality of life, but it often refuses to provide itself with the resources (other than on credit). We have often cracked jokes about our poor Newfoundland cousins, but now they are the ones who, through responsible exploitation of their natural resources and the money they subsequently contribute to the equalization program, are paying for part of our generous social programs.

Freezes, moratoriums, consultation after consultation — all of these words are synonymous with procrastination. It’s just another way of putting things off to tomorrow, evading the issues, standing on the platform as the train leaves the station. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

For the original of this article, please go to the National Post website: http://opinion.financialpost.com/2013/03/14/quebec-must-exploit-its-resources/

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