Quebec’s recent announcement of a massive investment of public funds in a new cement plant project in Port-Daniel-Gascons has spurred the creation of an advocacy group calling for a fair and equitable competitive environment to be maintained for the cement industry in Quebec. The Regroupement pour l'équité dans l'industrie cimentière québécoise, which consists of representatives from various sectors, is shedding light on the unfair and unlevel playing field that the group contends will result from the government’s involvement in the proposed cement plant.
“The context speaks for itself: the cement industry in Quebec is in a situation of overcapacity and the government is unfairly providing substantial financial assistance of $450 million, as well as tax benefits for 10 years, for the construction of a new cement plant,” said Michel Binette, spokesperson for the Regroupement pour l'équité dans l'industrie cimentière québécoise. “Out of fairness, transparency and respect for taxpayers, the government should withdraw from this project and release the studies on which it based its decision to make such a large investment that could have a negative impact on many regions in Quebec.”
According to the coalition, the Port-Daniel-Gascons project, for which government funding was announced on January 31, will result in inequity on several fronts: employment, the economy, the environment, and energy.
“This investment of public funds won’t help create new jobs in Quebec. The existing cement plants are already operating at barely 60 percent capacity. In the final analysis, thousands of direct and indirect jobs will be put at risk by the arrival of this new, subsidized plant. This explains why so many regional stakeholders have responded to the newly formed group's call for action. People realize that what is happening here is that Peter is being robbed to pay Paul,” explained Binette.
Moreover, the Port-Daniel-Gascons project will not be subject to the BAPE environmental process that applies to other industrial projects in Quebec. “It is unjustifiable that one of the largest industrial projects in Quebec would not have to undergo the usual BAPE environmental process on the grounds that it obtained the green light nearly 20 years ago. In fact, the initial project never got a certificate of authorization to build the cement plant, so the government cannot simply use the argument that the initial project was approved before the Environment Quality Act and its BAPE (office of public hearings on the environment) came into effect for the cement industry. The Port-Daniel-Gascons cement plant project is a brand new project, and out of fairness to all other industries, it should be subject to the BAPE environmental process.”
The group is asking that the government put a figure on the benefits it has granted the Port-Daniel-Gascons project, including tax breaks, preferential electricity rates, and any other benefits that could give it net advantages not currently available to the rest of the cement industry. More information can be found at their website.