SIf the BAPE had examined the project, there would have been a round of public hearings, with opportunities for the population to ask questions to the promoter’s experts, Ciment McInnis, and to the Ministry of the Environment, in the same room. It never happened.
Environmental groups and other organizations generally recognize that public hearings are one way to improve projects intended to cause pollution.
The Port-Daniel cement plant is on its way to becoming the largest industrial emitter of greenhouse gases in Quebec. Between June 5 and August 6, the plant also released sticky substances into the air, the radiation of which significantly exceeded the perimeter of the complex built between 2014 and 2017. The Ministry of the Environment is investigating its releases, in particular because Ciment McInnis did not inform it in real time.
“First, I gave the environmental authorization to Ciment McInnis to create 400 high-quality jobs in the region and I never had the shadow of a regret,” said Mr. Blanchet on Wednesday. , during its passage in Gaspésie.
McInnis Cement and its major subcontractors, however, never created 400 jobs, but 153, according to data provided by the company. The split according to the last account was 78 jobs provided by the company and 75 by subcontractors. Peripheral jobs are not included.
Yves-François Blanchet completely dissociates himself from the sticky emissions projected by the factory from June to August.
“If today, they have a problem, years later, with shows that were not anticipated, so I could not be aware in 2013, we agree. I cannot be responsible in 2020 for something that nobody (did) know in 2013. I believe that this government is capable of taking measures and that the current administrators will be able to make the effort to take measures. We must not tolerate an environmental problem on the pretext that we did not see it coming. It must be resolved. There, I totally agree. Now, it is certainly not me, as Minister of the Environment from 2012 to 2014, who would be responsible for the current problem, ”said the Bloc leader.
Yves-François Blanchet also dissociates himself from the entire cost overrun file that characterized the construction of the cement plant. This cost overrun was exposed in June 2016, 26 months after the defeat of the Parti Québécois at the hands of Philippe Couillard’s liberals.
“I have to say that I had no part to play in the hundreds of millions of dollars that were handed over to them (at McInnis Cement). I was not in this file and the sequence of blackmail to which they lent themselves subsequently seems completely inelegant to me, ”specifies Mr. Blanchet.
He recalls that the cement plant project he had in mind between 2012 and 2014 could have been less polluting.
“I was negotiating with Ciment McInnis so that 40% of the energy required, of the calorific value required for the manufacture of cement, comes from the local residual forest biomass. All four words are important. Of course, we lost. This project was not maintained by the Liberals after that, and then recently, there were discussions with the current government of Quebec. That would have made it probably the most ecological cement plant in the world, ”says Mr. Blanchet.
Ciment McInnis opens the door to a possible use of the residual gaspé forest biomass to contribute to the production of cement, but a threshold of 40% remains improbable with current techniques, according to the company. In addition, the development of the biomass subsidiary in Port-Daniel is quite seriously behind schedule.
Pascal Bergeron, from the environmental group Environnement vert-plus, recently underlined that “Ciment McInnis has always benefited from preferential treatment, both in terms of environmental approval and in the availability of funds in the event of cost overruns”. It should therefore come as no surprise, with the episode of sticky shows from June to early August, “that the company believes it will always benefit from privileges. It has been working like this since 2012 ”.
Yves François Blanchet’s position on the relevance of submitting the Port-Daniel cement plant to the BAPE review was more nuanced in 2017, when he gave the VICE network an interview, on the occasion of the making of the documentary “Cast in concrete».
Mr. Blanchet then did not dissociate himself from his government “but if the Marois government had known that the sequence of events, until now, would have been as complex, perhaps, perhaps …”, says- he, referring to the relevance of submitting the project to the BAPE and to the fact that “small areas of discomfort” characterized it.
He added that “in 2017, the Marois government did not break the rules, it gave them an interpretation that allowed the project to go forward”. He also said he had not seen any dissension against Cement McInnis. “People driven into poverty are rarely sensitive to environmental issues.”
The project was initially submitted by another promoter, Cimbec Canada, in 1995-1996, just before the entry into force of the new regulations requiring all major industrial projects to be submitted to the BAPE for examination. About 18 years later, it was another promoter, Ciment McInnis, who bought out the Cimbec project, which benefited from the old law, or “the rules”, in the words of Mr. Blanchet.