In recent months, business and political leaders in Quebec have publicly deplored Quebec’s knee jerk tendency to say no to new industrial and natural resource projects.

This tendency has greatly delayed or derailed projects in infrastructure, heavy industry, mining and oil and gas.

To counter this tendency Quebec’s Liberal government headed by Philippe Couillard has publicly stated that while he is in favor of private-sector led projects, including in mining and oil and gas, the private sector must ensure that such projects are developed in an environmentally sustainable fashion and supported by the local community (local acceptability).

In order to help enhance the local acceptability of projects, Quebec is rolling out week after week measures designed to reassure the public and render projects meaningful to local communities, including environmental studies by independent experts and revenue-sharing between Quebec and local communities.

These efforts are producing positive results, notably in the wind power sector where locally approved projects totaling more than 2,000MW are vying for Hydro-Quebec’s upcoming 450MW call for proposals.

However, government efforts alone are not sufficient and the private sector must do its share to enhance the local acceptability of its projects and facilitate government’s task.

One area where the private sector can do better is with the siting of projects. It is very difficult for the Quebec government openly to support a project sited in a sensitive area.

In the current political environment, project siting should, from the outset, take into account environmental and social criteria.

The early use of social scientists and communication specialists with local knowledge would go a long way to avoiding unnecessary delays due to protracted and expensive legal and media battles for the hearts and minds of local communities.