Montreal

Philippe Couillard says he's ready to pull plug on Anticosti oil, gas exploration

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says he's ready to pull the plug on the oil and gas exploration project underway on Anticosti Island.

‘The destruction of natural environment like Anticosti will not bear my signature,” Quebec Premier tells CBC

Anticosti Island is a natural environment "we must protect," says Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard. (CBC)

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says he's ready to pull the plug on the oil and gas exploration project underway on Anticosti Island.

"The destruction of natural environment like Anticosti will not bear my signature. I've said this very, very strongly and I believe it. It's a personal conviction that runs very, very deeply," Couillard told CBC Montreal News anchor Debra Arbec in a year-end interview Friday.

The destruction of natural environment like Anticosti will not bear my signature.- Philippe Couillard, Quebec Premier

The project was initiated by the former Parti Québécois government.

In February 2014, then premier Pauline Marois announced that the Quebec government was taking control of oil exploration off the coast of Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The government partnered with three companies: Petrolia, Corridor Resources and Maurel & Prom.

The Mascaty shale rock that runs underneath Anticosti is rich in hydrocarbon deposits. (R. Rancourt)
"Frankly, I don't think it was a good idea," Couillard said. "I don't want to have oil and gas exploration and exploitation on Anticosti. Why? Because I want to have my children, our children, grandchildren, their children to have access to protected natural environments in Quebec — and there will not be that many of those 50 years from now. But that's one we must protect. You know, Anticosti for me is a special case and not only for me, but for our society and for our future and for what kind of Quebec we want."

Couillard said he's willing to face the financial consequences of pulling out of the project and cancelling the contracts with the companies.

"I think they know the writing's on the wall. We still want to work with [Petrolia] on the projects that they have elsewhere, in the Gaspé peninsula, for example. Hopefully they will see it as good news so they will work with us."

Anticosti Island is about one and a half times the size of PEI, but is home to fewer than 250 people. ((Google Maps))
"We must have a balanced approach with the economy and the environment. If you look at it globally, this is what we're doing. But each project is a different world in itself. In some projects, the environment will prevail on the economy. Anticosti is an example of that," Couillard said.

Watch the full interview, where he also talks about issues such as education, taxes and public sector union negotiations, here.

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