The histories of Québec society and the St. Lawrence River are closely linked. Even today, more than 70% of Quebecers live in the St. Lawrence Valley. A significant proportion of businesses is also located there, including numerous firms that rely on maritime transport to take advantage of strategic access to domestic and international markets.
In the north and the south, the maritime territory continues to contribute to Québec’s collective wealth.
A contribution to Québec’s economic wealth
In addition to being essential to the Québec economy overall, the maritime economy is highly diversified and creates numerous jobs. In 2013, it supported nearly 25 000 direct jobs in Québec’s regions.
The St. Lawrence River offers Québec the possibility of positioning itself as the gateway to eastern North America. Its navigable waterway extends to the heart of the North American continent and is the shortest route between Europe and the North American heartland, two of the world’s most heavily industrialized areas. Its strategic commercial port system comprises 20 ports. It is interconnected to rail (through CN and CP) and road networks, which enables it to reach a North American market of more than 135 million people. The network plays a pivotal role not only in the development of international trade but, more generally, in the development of Québec’s economic and industrial fabric.
A contribution to Québec’s environmental wealth
Québec’s maritime territory abounds in a wide array of diversified ecosystems. The St. Lawrence River is home to unique fauna and flora. The presence of vast areas of freshwater and saltwater combined with variations linked to tides and the degree of salinity explain this uniqueness.
The St. Lawrence River, its banks and islands provide a habitat for diversified fauna comprising nearly 400 species of birds, more than 200 species of freshwater and saltwater fish, 16 amphibian species, 14 species of reptiles, roughly 70 terrestrial or amphibian mammals, and 20 marine mammal species, including the blue whale, the world’s largest animal, or the beluga. Mention should also be made of more than 1 900 plant species, equivalent to nearly 77% of Québec’ vascular flora.
A contribution to Québec’s social wealth
The St. Lawrence River is also a source of betterment for numerous Québec communities in that it supplies nearly 40% of the population’s drinking-water. In addition, several communities depend on maritime access to obtain basic supplies and ensure their economic development. Québec’s maritime sector is also an outstanding source of cultural and heritage diversity. Some examples are the Historic District of Old Québec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is closely linked to the St. Lawrence River. What is more, the wreck of the Empress of Ireland, in addition to delighting divers, evokes the historic, constant importance of the St. Lawrence River as our gateway to the world.
Lastly, Québec can rely on outstanding maritime assets found in few regions of the world, which can further and better contribute to the collective wealth of our society in economic, environmental and social terms. There are numerous development opportunities but we must grasp them in a sustainable development perspective. Our maritime ecosystems are fragile and it is essential to protect them to ensure long-term, acceptable development.