Maritime Strategy: Open letter to the Prime Minister

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Open letter released (in French) in Le Soleil newspaper on 2015, April 27th

M. Couillard,

In a few weeks, you will announce the Maritime Strategy, a flagship project with a 1.5 billion. With this major investment, you will enhance the St.Lawrence River to impulse many economic activity sectors and thereby create jobs for province of Quebec.

In clear words, we are not against this idea. If the Maritime Strategy contributes to the economy and generates great jobs, it’s a good thing. However, we are questioning another essential component that should be part of the Strategy: conservation of the St.Lawrence River.  How can we think generate profit from the St.Lawrence River if we can’t ensure his ecosystem perenity?  We are concerned because your 2015-2016 budget suggests exactly a Strategy that focuses on industry needs.

As you know, the St.Lawrence River is an invaluable natural heritage. Every day,  3.7 million Quebecers drink water of the river. The wildlife, the flora and the majestic landscape of the St.Lawrence River is part of our culture and our economy since generations. Let’s just think about the touristic industry connected to the St.Lawrence River which generates over 500 million dollars benefits per years or the fishing and transformation of marine products industry that is a major part of the coastal regions economy. Moreover, the St.Lawrence River is a fragile ecosystem which is already perturbed by human activities. The Maritime Strategy deals precisely with this delicate ecosystem.

Here, we’re asking you to make an effort so that the Maritime Strategy to be published will respond to the environmental challenges of the XXIe century.

Take for example the marine protected areas. For now, just 1.3% of the Quebec maritime environment is protected. This is a worse statement compared to countries like Russia or China! Thereby, we think that the Maritime Strategy should absolutely include the establishment of marine protected areas in a specific action plan aimed to addressing this defiency. This action plan should include the now famous estuary, which encompass the waters off Cacouna.

Besides that, what about climate changes which impact the St.Lawrence River and the maritime transport? Is the Maritime Strategy provide proceedings to assess and reduce those impacts? We believe that the Maritime Strategy cannot omit to assess the cumulated impacts of industrial projects planned on the St.Lawrence River. We also believe that a chapter of the Strategy should be devoted to the Saint-Pierre Lake, one of the most important wetlands of the St.Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. This chapter could report the vulnerability of this area and proposed actions that could ensure its preservation. Finally, the Maritime Strategy should explicitly exclude capitalization dredging projects which allow passage of larger ship.

Recently, when you launch The Plan Nord, you presented ambitious measures for natural habitats conservation. You even asserted that “the protection of the environment is not negotiable”.  M. The Prime Minister, we’re asking you to have the same discourses for the Maritime Strategy. It’s still time to place the St.Lawrence River and all its wildlife in the middle of your approach.

Patrick Nadeau, general manager of SNAP Quebec
Philippe Bourke, general manager of Regroupement national des conseils régionaux de l’environnement du Québec
Karel Mayrand, Quebec general manager of David Suzuki Foundation
Christian Simard, general manager of Nature Québec