Hydro-Quebec and the utility’s employees remain enthusiastic about the Great Whale project despite statements by Natural Resources Minister Christos Sirros that Quebec’s energy policy is being re-examined. “We support the development of Great Whale,” said Raymond Gravel, president of the union representing Hydro-Quebec’s 7,000 blue-collar workers. “We are convinced that Great Whale is the best solution. You won’t find anything less polluting.”

Hydro spokesman Guy Versailles, for his part, downplayed the utility’s energy surplus of nearly 4,000 megawatts. “By no means do we have so much capacity that it will delay any projects,” he said. Versailles added that much of Hydro’s overcapacity is in fact reserve energy needed for emergencies like power-line failures. Without these reserves, the actual surplus is only 1,000 megawatts, he claimed.

Sirros, who is also native-affairs minister, told The Nation last month that Quebec would not proceed with new hydro-developments unless the need for the projects is proven. Quebec has an overcapacity of nearly 4,000 megawatts. Sirros has also said that Great Whale would be delayed for at least a year, but that it would be built eventually.

But Gravel, the union leader, called for construction to start as soon as possible on the $13-billion Great Whale project, saying that Quebec still needs the extra energy. “It’s not for this year or the next year. It will be eight or 10 years before it’s built.” He said the Great Whale project, which would flood 4,400 square-kilometres of forests, is necessary to create jobs.