Ottawa says contentious caribou talks with Quebec have 'improved'

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Thursday that discussions with Quebec about caribou protection have resumed.

He told a news scrum that officials met Wednesday to address the issue, which has been a source of friction in recent weeks.

"Last night, the associate deputy minister told me that the conversations -- I think you could even call them negotiations -- were going much better," Guilbeault said.

While he called it "an improvement," he said he has not thrown out his plan to intervene by federal order-in-council to protect the endangered caribou.

"I'm moving forward with this in case there is no agreement with the Quebec government, but I prefer... that there is an agreement," the minister said.

"We have never done a conservation decree like this in the history of the country."

Guilbeault had given Pierre Dufour, Quebec's minister of forests and wildlife, until April 20 to finalize and share a plan to protect caribou and their habitat. The day after that deadline, the federal minister announced he was taking steps to intervene by order-in-council.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault did not hide his annoyance at the matter, arguing that the issue fell under provincial jurisdiction.

He has also said on several occasions that his government wants to resolve the issue by balancing wildlife protection and jobs.

Logging is seen as the main reason for the decline of woodland and mountain caribou. Logging roads encourage the movement of natural predators of caribou, such as bears and wolves.

This report was first published in French by The Canadian Press on May 5, 2022.  

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