Personally I’m not surprised that Hydro-Quebec has studied alternative ways of getting some power from the North. I think it’s they’re biggest source. I think we would have been a little naive not to think that while the Great Whale River project was being delayed—probably more for political reasons—that quietly and secretly people in Hydro-Quebec were given instructions to look at alternatives. And I think this has happened.
While I was happy to hear they had shelved it some time ago when Jacques Parizeau announced it, I felt there was a reason behind it. It was not really to please the Cree people. It was perhaps the thing to do given the political climate. They probably wanted to focus on something else in Quebec in preparation for the whole question of the referendum.
Now that that’s behind us, Bouchard has concentrated on bringing down the deficit and so forth. I think he has to in order to establish credibility. I don’t think the people of Quebec can always rely on commotion, on being an independent country, without really addressing its financial and economic situation. I think Bouchard knew very well at the time, even though the commotion and the feelings were high, the reality was that Quebec was in a bad shape—and probably not in a good shape to even negotiate with the rest of Canada on any kind of economic arrangement.
Now that it has gone through a couple of years of cutting, it appears it has drawn the deficit down. Quebec elections are coming up and the popularity has somewhat dropped for the separatists. I think the fact that the Bloc in the federal election dropped is an indication of that. So I would think that the PQ strategy would be to find a way of getting some support.
The federal elections have always gone well when the issue is about jobs and employment. That is what hits home, the bread and butter issues. Here in Quebec it’s no different. The types of jobs that are normally created in hydro-electric projects, all the construction, a lot of suppliers, the forestry industry is a large contributor of that, mining—the major industries in Quebec are contributors in one way or another. It’s a big economic impact for them. So it’s a fine way of pleasing individuals who are looking for jobs and the industries, and particularly the unions who are upset right now. From a strategic point, it’s better to upset them now and then show your generosity, appearing to understand and compromising just before an election. To me, it’s a part of an overall strategy-
So it’s going to be a difficult time for the Crees. I think Bouchard is not really taking the Crees very lightly and that is why he has visited the Crees, just to hear them out, just to see who his opponents are face to face, I think also to see what kind of solidarity there is among the Crees and of course to see what are our needs. Sometimes our needs can also be interpreted as our weaknesses. Those are what we expect.
I believe it’s going to be a very tricky time for the Crees to really assess a number of things, beginning with principles they have with regards to the massive flooding that this may cause, the impact that may have. Crees have gained a lot of credibility on some of the principles they’ve been pushing in this province. So it’s going to be a big test that they don’t compromise on their principles in exchange for enhancement or community development. It’s going to be something worth discussing in the Cree communities and I think the leadership has to get out and has to talk with the people. We can’t wait ‘till the 11th hour to react. And that could be a danger if we don’t do something quickly.