As I wrote in May, Quebec’s Plan Nord was supposed to build 500 new housing units in Nunavik, the northern, mostly indigenous region of Quebec, over the next five years. 300 social housing units and 200 individual homes would be built for the region, which is in a severe housing crunch. At least 1,000 new homes are required immediately to meet the demand for housing. However, it turns out that construction on the first 74 homes slated to be built in 2012 under Plan Nord will not begin until spring 2012 because of a surprising oversight: policymakers did not factor in the limited construction season and the timing of sealifts into their plans. Thus, since 2011 is the first year of the program, and no construction took place this year, the 300 new housing units have to be built within a four-year span from 2012 – 2015. This is a short amount of time when so many of the materials have to be delivered by sealift. In fact, this year, it was only in the summer that the Kativik Regional Government received the green light to order the building materials, just in time for one of the last sealifts.
Watson Fournier, manager of the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, was quoted in NunatsiaqOnline as saying,
“We told them about this…But in their $80 billion investment, housing is a drop in the bucket. One of the major, immediate objectives of the plan could have started this year — but it didn’t.”
At least with regard to the housing issue, Plan Nord seems to be making similar mistakes as the Northern Strategy. Both were developed in the south: Plan Nord in Quebec City, and the Northern Strategy in Ottawa. Policymakers likely did not correspond enough with the First Nations to understand some of the simple logistical issues involved with developing the Arctic, such as the shorter building seasons. The fact that you can only build in the summer should be clear to anyone with knowledge of the High North’s climate, but apparently, the policymakers lacked this information. Now, the Nunavimmiut will likely have to wait even longer than planned to receive their new housing units and homes. Compounding the situation, the Aboriginal people have a higher birth rate than non-Aboriginal Canadians. Consequently, it’s likely that population growth will soon outgrow the Plan Nord’s projection to only build 500 homes when a full 1,000 are already required.