Take the case of Québec, an active federated state internationally. With a large land base and its modest size population, Québec has had to depend on exporting much of its local domestic product if it is to grow and prosper. This is why Québec has been, along with Alberta, the most pro-free trade province in the Canadian federation. Our support for the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. in 1988 and later, NAFTA including Mexico in 1993, was pivotal in the eventual ratification of these treaties in Canada.
Let us look further at Québec’s international role. Our renewable energy portfolio involving hydro, wind, solar and biomass, has not been just a factor for local consumption, but also for export purposes. The leadership shown on environmental issues such as GHG emissions was again highlighted by Premier Jean Charest at Climate Week in NYC where he spoke about our absolute commitment to maintain Québec as having North America’s lowest carbon footprint, and announce the Electric Vehicle Policy Initiative with the Climate Group. He made the statements in the presence of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Québec also plays an important role in border security and related intelligence issues with the U.S. security authorities. All together – the economy, energy, the environment, security – make Québec a vital player with its neighbors to the south. Our efforts are well appreciated and enhance our international reputation.
Cultural products and artists add to the international personality and reputation of Québec. Whether Yanik Nezet Séguin directs the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, or Robert Lepage directs The Ring at the Met, or Cirque du Soleil with its new production Zarkana plays the summer at Radio City, Québec considers the U.S. an attractive and a prestigious venue. And the audiences have responded accordingly.
Just recently, Premier Jean Charest announced his Plan Nord aimed at developing Québec’s North above the 49th parallel involving mining, energy, transport, biodiversity, wildlife, and tourism enterprises. With 50% of the territory, roughly half the size of Texas, being protected from industrial use, it ranks as possibly the largest sustainable project in the world. It will be highlighted in Washington DC next October at the 3rd annual CG/LA conference on world infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, the Premier has met leading economic and political actors in the U.S., China, Japan, and Europe to interest potential investors.
Plan Nord is also a project that sends a positive message regarding Québec’s relations with its aboriginal communities. Agreements have been signed, and others are being negotiated, with the Cree, the Innu, the Inuit and the Naskapi nations. Cree Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, once an opponent of large-scale projects in the North, has been an enthusiastic promoter of the Plan Nord.
The international reputation of Québec is hard earned, well deserved, and has evolved over time. The difference between domestic affairs and international affairs is just that – time. Domestic political debate is often short-term and influenced by the electoral cycle. That is to be expected. International affairs are a long-term proposition and here Québec, under successive governments and with its vibrant democracy, has shown its diligence, its resolve, and above all, asserted its leadership over the decades. Its reputation is alive and well as a result, and will continue.