Avenir Mont-Sainte-Anne, a group of political leaders, business people, representatives of the tourist industry, high-level athletes and citizens, was created in December 2021 to mobilize the greater Quebec City region and ensuring that Mont-Sainte-Anne is developed to its full potential.
A priori, we should therefore be pleased that the current manager of the mountain, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR), is finally preparing what the company calls a “major investment plan” for the mountain, as announced publicly by the last week.
Unfortunately, at this stage, the events of the last 20 years invite us to be extremely cautious. This is the fourth time that RCR has presented ambitious plans for Mont-Sainte-Anne. As early as 2003, we were told of investments of $200 million. In 2008, it was $150 million. And in 2011, we were again told of $150 million. To date, none of these commitments have materialized, with the results that we know.
Broken trust bond
These broken promises, the obsolescence of the facilities and the multiple incidents that have occurred at the resort, including the a gondola falling to the ground last December, have broken the bond of trust between RCR and the community. This rupture was confirmed in January, when a Léger poll revealed that 81% of the population of the greater Quebec City region wanted a change of management at Mont-Sainte-Anne.
In these circumstances, at a time when RCR is once again knocking on the door of the State to obtain public funds, we still believe that the Government of Quebec must reconsider this partnership and, at the very least, impose very strict conditions before provide financial support from taxpayers’ pockets.
Three essential conditions
First of all, the government must ensure that the overall investments made are sufficient to ensure the quality and sustainability of the infrastructures. If $200 million were needed in 2003, it is hard to see how the $100 million announced by RCR would suffice 20 years later.
In 2021, the Friends of Mont-Sainte-Anne commissioned Lemay, an internationally renowned Quebec company, to develop a global revitalization plan for Mont-Sainte-Anne. Conclusion: investments of some $175 million would be needed to modernize the site and develop a 4-season recreational tourism destination. This sum should serve as a reference.
Second, considering the history of the file, all public funding must be tied to legal and binding obligations in terms of reporting, investments, construction schedules and infrastructure maintenance for the future. Under the current agreements, government officials maintain that Quebec has no “levers” against RCR, even though the site ultimately belongs to the Quebec population. The granting of new public financial support should be an opportunity to correct the situation. Any failure to meet these obligations required by the State should result in the assignment of the current lease.
Third, we are counting on the government to tirelessly ensure that the management of the eastern sector of Mont-Sainte-Anne – the one dedicated to cross-country skiing, golf, mountain biking and camping – is effectively withdrawn from RCR and integrated into the SÉPAQ portfolio, in a collaborative mode with the local community. Last February, a motion was filed with the Superior Court of Quebec by SÉPAQ, following an arbitration decision unfavorable to RCR. The reaction of the company was to contest but, good news, its request for dismissal has just been rejected by the Superior Court on April 13. Quebec must ensure that this legal process completes its course and that SÉPAQ will have free rein as soon as possible to revitalize the site in partnership with local stakeholders.
Don’t repeat the same mistakes
In an ideal scenario, the Quebec government would pave the way for a change of operator at Mont-Sainte-Anne. This avenue, which still seems possible to us, remains the wish of the local community, the members of our group and the population of the greater Quebec City region.
Whatever its decision, the government must at least ensure that it does not repeat the mistakes of the past. Let’s not play in the same movie again. Let’s not sign another bad deal .
Mario Bédard and Alex Harvey, Spokespersons, Avenir Mont-Sainte-Anne