Google chooses Beauharnois for its new data centre

May 12, 2021

Tech giant Google announces its intention to acquire land in Beauharnois and pursue plans for further growth in Québec. The move will result in a potential investment of US$600 million, or about C$735 million, to build an IT data centre in Beauharnois. Once the proposed project gets underway, it is estimated that the investment will create approximately 30 specialized well-paying jobs when the data centre is operational. 

To make the initiative possible and meet the specific needs related to the future construction and operation of such a data centre, the government of Québec has removed the Agricultural zoning designation for 62.4 hectares of land belonging to Hydro-Québec. 

Compensation measures will be taken to mitigate the impact of the project on the region and farming operations. The measures stem from commitments to the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) and the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM). An equivalent area of land belonging to Hydro-Québec, which is outside the agricultural zone and adjacent to the land that Google will purchase, will be rezoned as agricultural to then be ceded or entrusted long term to the UPA-Fondaction agricultural trust to support its work and efforts to preserve Québec’s agricultural heritage. 

Furthermore, the Government of Québec will award a non-repayable financial contribution of $3.54 million to the UPA-Fondaction agricultural trust to help kick-start the trust’s operationsThe province will also grant $2.7 million in non-repayable funding to the CMM to establish the Metropolitan Agricultural Park. 

Moreover, to emphasize the significance and continuity of its relationship with UPA, Hydro-Québec will cede to the UPA-Fondaction agricultural trust approximately 150 hectares of land located in Saint-Stanislas-de-Kostka, in the Montérégie region. This will also help the trust start up its operations. 

Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation, made the announcement today along with André Lamontagne, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Minister Responsible for the Centre-du-Québec and Chaudière-Appalaches Regions; Jonatan Julien, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources and Minister Responsible for the Côte-Nord and Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine Regions; and Claude Reid, Member for Beauharnois and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transport. 

Quotes

“Today, I am very proud to announce a future major project for the region. The data centre is expected to generate well-paying jobs here in Beauharnois, both during construction and in the first stage of the project. When a company like Google decides to expand its operations in Québec, this reinforces our position as one of the world’s greenest and most vibrant technology hubs.” 

Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation 

“Protecting agricultural land is very important to the Government of Québec. The measures implemented to mitigate the impact of the project on agricultural zones are unprecedented and show our commitment to preserving our agricultural land base, which is essential to our food self-sufficiency and to the vitality of our regions. This agreement benefits all of Québec.” 

André Lamontagne, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Minister Responsible for the Centre-du-Québec and Chaudière-Appalaches Regions 

“The announcement today confirms Québec’s ability to attract worldclass players in the new economy with its clean, renewable and affordable energy. Google’s decision to locate here will result in major investments that will help create wealth in Québec, to the benefit of the entire community.” 

Jonatan Julien, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources and Minister Responsible for the Côte-Nord and Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine Regions 

“The prospect of welcoming tech giant Google and participating in its future projects in Beauharnois has acted as a catalyst for local players. We are very excited to go one step further today to make this promising initiative a reality and revitalize the regional economy, while bolstering the vitality of farming communities in our riding.” 

Claude Reid, Member for Beauharnois and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transport 

“We are extremely pleased that Google is choosing to use Québec’s clean energy to reach its goal of running its entire business solely on renewable energy by 2030. It is a significant recognition of the role that our energy can play in drastically reducing CO2 emissions in North America.” 

Sophie Brochu, President and CEO of Hydro-Québec 

“The development of this project is great news for our city. We have been working with the promoter for several years to meet its needs without negatively affecting residents. Google’s presence in Beauharnois will help us develop our industrial park and build a data technology hub.” 

Bruno Tremblay, Mayor of the City of Beauharnois 

“The agreement announced with the UPA-Fondaction agricultural trust, on the sidelines of the project, is important to the UPA. The trust’s mission is to preserve agricultural land in Québec and support projects that will grow the next generation of farmersThese are special circumstances where, for the first time, the government is acknowledging the need to maintain the size of our agricultural zone in a meaningful way by compensating for lost agricultural land. We cannot increase our food self-sufficiency without preserving or expanding crop areas in Québec.” 

Marcel Groleau, President and Chief Executive Officer of UPA 

“Montréal International has been working with Google’s various business lines in Greater Montréal for several years. The future data centre project proves that in addition to being home to creative and innovative talent, the 82 municipalities of the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal provide an environment that fosters the development of new technologies and new knowledge to help reduce our carbon footprint.” 

Stéphane Paquet, President and CEO of Montréal International 

Highlights 

  • The mission of the UPA-Fondaction agricultural trust is to make sure the next generation of farmers has better access to agricultural land and to preserve Québec’s agricultural heritage by pulling acquired agricultural land from the speculative market, protecting it and keeping it available to agriculture.  
  • The Metropolitan Agricultural Park, which is part of the memorandum of understanding between the CMM, UPA and CDPQ Infra, is designed to ensure the protection and sustainability of metropolitan agricultural land. The Park will encourage projects that demonstrate best practices and innovation in suburban agriculture. Furthermore, it will bring together urban and rural communities by increasing public access to agricultural land and fostering educational activities. 
  • Google has had a presence in Québec since 2004. Its Montréal offices can accommodate as many as 1,000 employees in three business units: Chrome, Cloud and AI. Recently, the company further committed to making Montréal the site of one of its three main offices in Canada. 
  • On April 28, 2021, the government adopted Order in Council 599-2021 on removing the Agricultural zoning designation for parcels or parts of parcels needed for the construction of IT data centres on land belonging to Hydro-Québec as per record 420388 of the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec relating to the application submitted by the City of Beauharnois. 
  • The commitments of the various parties to compensate for the impact of the project on the region and farming operations and to ensure the completion of the project are recorded in a document signed by government representatives, UPA and the CMM and entitled “Principes convenus visant à atténuer les impacts sur le territoire et les activités agricoles de la réalisation d’un projet de centre de données informatiques à Beauharnois sur le territoire de la Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal et à soutenir le démarrage de la Fiducie agricole UPA-Fondaction. 
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