Quebec defends the large grant allocated to the Boreal Forest Alliance, saying that it fully meets its funding criteria.
The private organization made up of elected municipal officials defends positions favorable to the forest industry with public funds that it manages behind closed doors, showed a La Presse investigation on Tuesday; in particular, it hired lobbyists to put pressure on Quebec and Ottawa and chartered a plane to bring Ontario mayors to a demonstration in Lac-Saint-Jean.
The $202,500 grant, spread over the years 2020, 2021 and 2022, was paid by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MAMH), which is thus the main funder of the organization.
The organization’s request for funding met in all respects the criteria of the Regional Outreach Support Fund, which aims to meet “regional priorities”, explained to La Presse Dominique Dufour, regional director of Saguenay–Lac- Saint-Jean at the MAMH.
These priorities are defined by the elected representatives of the regions concerned, said Mr. Dufour.
The elected officials who also sit on the Board of Directors of the Boreal Forest Alliance therefore directly developed the criteria under which the organization was able to obtain this funding.
The office of Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Andrée Laforest declined to comment on Tuesday.
The Minister of Natural Resources and Forests, Maïté Blanchette Vézina, did not indicate what influence the Boreal Forest Alliance could have on her ministry.
“Like all other organizations that lobby, the Boreal Forest Alliance must respect the applicable framework in this area,” simply replied its press secretary, Flore Bouchon.
The proximity of the forest industry and the Boreal Forest Alliance is a “normality”, defended Tuesday the president of the organization and prefect of the regional county municipality (MRC) of Domaine-du-Roy, Yanick Baillargeon, in an interview on Radio-Canada radio in Saguenay.
He also defended himself from not consulting “environmentalists and ecologists”, claiming to have invited the forestry company Boisaco, which he considers exemplary in terms of sustainable development, to make a presentation at the “Rendez-vous of forest communities “, which will be held Thursday in Forestville, on the North Shore.
The professor of the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi (UQAC) Claude Villeneuve must also make a presentation there, underlines Mr. Baillargeon, who also claims to have “discussed” with the researcher of the University of Quebec in Rimouski (UQAR) Martin -Hugues St-Laurent, a caribou expert.
The latter called Yanick Baillargeon’s assertion a “recovery”.
“It was I who requested a meeting,” he told La Presse, explaining that he systematically communicates with the organization, like others, when erroneous assertions about the caribou are made, in order to offer explanations.
The president of the Boreal Forest Alliance has also once again affirmed that there is a lack of information on the situation of the woodland caribou, arguing in particular that “there is no study at the moment that has been done on the impacts of climate change on the species directly”.
This statement is “false”, retorts Martin-Hugues St-Laurent, who rightly says that he presented scientific articles on this question during his meeting with the Boreal Forest Alliance.
Yanick Baillargeon also criticized the quality of the inventories of caribou herds carried out by Quebec.
The Minister of the Environment, the Fight Against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks Benoit Charette did not want to respond to these remarks.
“We will not have a reaction on the subject for the moment,” said his press officer, Mélina Jalbert.