Montreal

François Legault says Apuiat wind farm project won't move forward

Innu leaders remain optimistic that the Apuiat wind farm project is still on the table, despite Premier François Legault saying it will not move forward as long as Hydro-Québec has an energy surplus.

Innu Nation remains hopeful project will see the light of day

The Apuiat wind turbine project was drafted by the previous Liberal government to produce 200 megawatts of electricity on Quebec's North Shore. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Innu leaders remain optimistic that the Apuiat wind farm project is still on the table, despite Premier François Legault saying it will not move forward as long as Hydro-Québec has an energy surplus.   

Legault made the announcement after a two-hour meeting with Indigenous leaders Thursday.

He cited arguments made by Hydro-Québec president and CEO Éric Martel, who said the project would cost the Crown corporation $1.5 to $2 billion over 25 years.

Legault said, however, that Apuiat would be taken up again when Hydro-Québec is no longer running a surplus — but also said no energy deficit is expected for 20 years.

After the meeting, the Council of the ESSIPIT Innu First Nation issued a statement, saying that the trust between the Innu Nation and Martel had been broken.

It remained optimistic, however, that the Hydro-Québec surpluses are being exaggerated.

It wants Legault's statement — that Apuiat will be revisited when those energy surpluses run out — to become a formal agreement.

"The premier never said the project is dead and buried," the statement says.

"We continue to believe in the merits of the Apuiat wind project and will continue our tireless efforts to achieve this promising project for our Nation and all Quebecers."

The wind farm was projected to create 300 to 400 jobs during the construction phase, with 10 to 15 permanent jobs staying in the region to maintain the operation over the next 25 years, according to the promoters.

The $600-million project had been backed by the former Liberal government and was highly criticized by the Coalition Avenir Québec during the fall election campaign.

The Apuiat project, first proposed in 2015, was to produce an estimated 200 megawatts annually from about 50 wind turbines on Quebec's North Shore, near the town of Port-Cartier.

The wind farm is being developed by Boralex, a private renewable energy firm, in partnership with nine Innu communities on the North Shore and in the Lac-Saint-Jean region. Under the proposal, Hydro-Québec would buy electricity from the consortium.

Hydro-Québec concluded a draft contract with promoters in August, but agreed to wait until after the Oct. 1 election to finalize the deal.

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