Posted by: rosemary | October 7, 2009

Waiting for Charest

Street theatre in Quebec City

Street theatre in Quebec City

(Oct. 7th) Alliance Romaine arrived in Quebec City Monday with a dramatic flourish, exposing our message in a colorful street theatre performance in front of the National Assembly. As marathoner Julien Leckman looked on, a team of actresses presented a skit designed to warn about the dangers posed by bulk water and bulk energy exports. The script, and especially the gesturing, were beautifully executed, and the photos just seemed to take themselves!

Since the start of our marathon, Alliance Romaine has argued that hydroelectricity is not clean energy, but through the theatre piece we hope to emphasize the additional fact that the electricty to be produced by new projects like the Romaine will not be targeted to domestic consumption, but will supply external markets in New England and Ontario. The problems that we have with this are two-fold. First, by exporting underpriced and polluting energy from Quebec’s rivers, we are discouraging other jurisdictions from investing in greener energy alternatives such as wind and biomass; and second, the sheer scale of planned hydroelectric production and export does not account for the natural carrying capacity of Quebec’s ecosystems. With fourteen of our seventeen large rivers (the Romaine would be the fifteenth) already dammed or altered, this carrying capacity has already been exceeded.
The night before our run to the National Assembly, we drove into the city to take part in a discussion on hydroelectricty and energy policy that was being held at Café Ninkasi, on rue St. Jean, and we were intrigued to learn that in the early nineteen nineties a series of province-wide public hearings had advised the government to focus its future energy strategy on reducing consumption and eliminating waste, and that this advice was never followed. The comments made in this regard by M. André Bélisle, of the Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (website www.aqlpa.com) were most informative.  If the then PQ government had heeded the citizens’ recommendations fifteen years ago, neither the Rupert nor the Romaine River would now be threatened.
Alliance Romaine had written ahead to Mr. Charest solliciting a public debate on points like this, but in another moment reminiscent of theatre (this time recalling Beckett’s Waiting for Godot), our inscrutable and, to some, revered premier did not show up, leaving us high and dry on the steps of the National Assembly. Jean Charest’s absence was not totally surprising, given his past reluctance to disclose information. As environmental activists we had already heard of the Plan Nord, a supposedly comprehensive development strategy including a decision to produce 8000 new megawatts of hydroelectricity (five times the capacity of the Romaine project) on the North Shore, and we knew that the provincial government had so far refused to provide a list of the North Shore rivers that these dams would be built on. But what we did not know, and what we only found out from M. Bélisle of the AQLPA was that the Plan Nord did not exist! That’s right; M. Bélisle had written to the government asking that the “Plan Nord” document be sent to him, and was informed that there was no policy document available in any government office known as the Plan Nord, nothing for citizens to evaluate, or base their assesment of Mr. Charest’s performance on. The “Plan Nord” was a campaign slogan tailored to last year’s provincial election, and nothing more. A revelation like this truly underscores the culture of secrecy, or else, incompetence, that must prevail in high places!
After four weeks of travels, visits to communities, and not a few eye-openers, an at once wiser and more militant Alliance Romaine marathon team is now on the road, carrying our message towards Trois-Pistoles, anticipating the broadening of the St. Lawrence and the beginning of rough country as we embark on the final stretches of our approach to the Romaine River.
Before signing off, we would like to offer a few thanks. First to Joey and Julien Leckman, our first duo of brothers, who drove out to join the marathon together, and carried the baton gracefully between Ste.-Anne-de-la-Pérade, and the Montmorency Falls, east of Quebec City. Second, to Valérie Roussel, our cheerful and talented Quebec City host. A Masters student in ethnology at Laval University, theatre buff, and a long-time Alliance Romaine sympathizer, Valérie had originally volunteered to run a leg of the marathon for us, but she broke her leg . Nothing daunted, Valérie threw herself heart and soul into the organizing of our itinerary, inviting speakers and booking a café, and alerting media to our presence. It is thanks to Valérie that our stay in the provincial capital went so smoothly. The skit in front of the National Assembly, which we will all remember for a long time, was her brainchild, and its success is hers.
To all those people like Valérie, who have helped us in one way or another to stand up for our endangered rivers, un gros merci! You folks are the democratic backbone of our movement, and the eventual guarantors of our success.
Smiles and greetings to all!
The Alliance Romaine road crew
East of Quebec City
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