Riots struck today in Montreal as students and unions attacked a conference of business and political leaders discussing Plan Nord. While this is seen as part of an extended battle against tuition increases, the target picked by the thousands of protestors was deliberately chosen for its platform of industrial-capitalist development.
From the Financial Post
Plan Nord is the Liberal government’s development plan for its northern territory that is aiming to lead to $80-billion in investments and 20,000 in new or consolidated jobs annually over 25 years. The effort is being likened to Quebec’s massive development of the James Bay and La Manicouagan hydroelectric projects in the 1960s and 1970s.
Ian Lafrenière, spokesman for the Montreal Police, said eight people were arrested and two were hurt.
“This is no longer a peaceful demonstration,” he said, suggesting a group of radical demonstrators had joined students.
Mr. Charest inexplicably joked about the protest, alluding to the events outside only briefly in his speech.
“The [Plan Nord] represents a chance for job seekers,” he said to howls of laughter from the audience. “And so to those who knocked on our door this morning, we could offer them a job, in the North as much as possible.”
The Caisse has said it is interested in financing infrastructure development as part of the Plan Nord. It is currently working with Canadian National Railway Co. on an estimated $5-billion project to build a new 800-km railway stretching from Sept-Îles north past Shefferville into the Labrador Mining Trough. The partners need firm transport commitments from mining companies before they can proceed.
Students are protesting the government’s plan to raise tuition fees by $325 a year over five years. Even with the increases, the cost of education in Quebec will be among the lowest in the country.