Ontario and Quebec renew partnership to reduce electricity costs and strengthen economic ties

Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Clement Allard

Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Clement Allard

Quebec and Ontario agree to reinvigorate relations and provincial trade

On Nov. 21, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne met with their respective cabinet ministers at a joint meeting in Toronto to address major economic and political interests between the two provinces, including climate change, affordable energy, infrastructure projects and provincial trade deals.

“Québec and Ontario are resuming joint meetings of cabinet ministers on a regular basis because we know we can achieve greater benefits for people by working together,” said Kathleen Wynne.

This is the fourth joint Québec-Ontario meeting of cabinet ministers. Previous meetings took place in 2008, 2009, and 2010. The fifth meeting will take place in 2015 in Québec.

“The challenges facing our two governments are numerous, and there are many opportunities for us to work together to take a joint approach to address them. Whether it is for economic development, climate change, energy or the Francophonie, Québec and Ontario are committed to working together not only to benefit the citizens of our two provinces, but also for the benefit of Canada as a whole,” said Philippe Couillard, the Premier of Quebec.

Both governments agreed to revamp the Ontario-Québec Trade and Cooperation Agreement to bring the agreement’s procurement commitments in line with the Canadian-European Union Trade Agreement (CETA) recently signed by Prime Minister Harper government.

The two premiers also agreed to jointly pressure the federal government to honour its commitments to compensating the dairy and agricultural industries as stipulated under CETA, which are expected to incur major losses due to the free trade deal with Europe.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and the Société des Alcools du Quebec (SAQ) were also discussed.  Both Wynne and Couillard want to establish an efficient and profitable system to allow Ontario and Québec to exchange locally made wines and other alcoholic beverages.

The LCBO and SAQ are to form a working group to examine marketing and sales measures to promote the idea among local wineries and breweries.

Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and the Ministère du Tourisme du Quebec are to collaborate on a number of initiatives to market Québec’s and Ontario’s cultural and tourism industry. China and France were mentioned specifically in the meeting as countries of interest to encourage tourism.

Also of mutual interest between the two premiers was the issue of climate change and environmental policy.

“Canada’s two most populated provinces will collaborate to ensure that their efforts to fight climate change and safeguard our environment for future generations are complementary … [and] will also work together to ensure that the Canadian Energy Strategy being developed by the provinces and territories takes climate change objectives into account,” said Wynne.

The real test is TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, a proposed $8 billion project to carry crude oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Eastern Canada. It’s already a controversial deal and Québec is showing signs of opposing the project.

Wynne is more sympathetic to the idea and wants to “define a common approach to ensure compliance with the principles that will allow the project to be implemented in a way that offers safety and protection for the environment.”

The Wynne government also committed the province to expanding the French language and programs for Francophone culture in Ontario.

Wynne declared at the meeting that her government will urge the federal government to increase funding to Radio-Canada and fulfil its mandate to ensure that radio and television services are accessible in French across Ontario.

Wynne said her government will meet over the next few months with the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages to discuss the issue. With nearly 630,000 Francophones living in Ontario, Wynne understands the importance of the French vote in the province, one which is often overlooked.

The two governments also agreed to invest in major infrastructure projects and making electricity more affordable. Starting in the winter of 2015, Ontario will make available to Quebec 500 Megawatts of electricity and beginning in 2016, Quebec will make 500MW available to Ontario during the peak electricity season in the summer.

Over the next decade, Ontario will invest nearly $130 billion in economic and infrastructure projects in Quebec while Quebec plans to invest close to $90 billion in Ontario over the same period of time.

“At this meeting, we have taken concrete steps to keep electricity affordable and reliable, fight climate change, build modern infrastructure, support our shared heritage, and create more trade between our two provinces,” said Wynne.

“We want to ensure our two provinces remain leaders —the largest, most dynamic, resilient and diversified economic region in Canada: Canada’s economic powerhouse.”

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