Quebec ‘part of solution’ finance minister says in bid to ease tension with West

MONTREAL — Quebec’s finance minister is trying to ease tensions between his province and Western Canada.

In an open letter published Friday in the Financial Post, Eric Girard said his province sympathizes with the economic pain the West is going through and asserted ”Quebec is part of the solution.”

Westerners have expressed deep frustrations with Quebecers over the past months, upset the province has systematically refused a pipeline on its territory to help carry crude oil to international markets.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has suggested Quebecers are hypocrites for consuming energy and receiving billions of dollars in equalization payments yet refusing to help out a western province that is hurting because its oil is landlocked.

Girard said that before 2012, less than five per cent of Quebec’s imported oil came from the West. By 2018, that percentage jumped to almost 50 per cent, making it “one of the Western provinces’ best new customers,” he wrote.

And while the proposed Energy East pipeline — which would have brought western crude through Quebec — was abandoned in 2017, the province is evaluating a liquid natural gas project, Girard said.

Girard said Quebec is also fighting in court alongside Alberta against the federal government’s Bill C-69, which increases environmental regulations, because it “believes that provinces have the ability to properly evaluate their own major economic projects.”

He acknowledged that Quebec will receive $13 billion in equalization payments in 2019-20 but said that’s because the province’s citizens are poorer compared to Albertans.

Quebec “is determined to increase the potential of its economy and its fiscal autonomy. Someday, Quebec will no longer receive equalization payments, and this will be a great day for Quebec and Canada,” Girard said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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