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New York, le 23 septembre 2014 Allocution du premier ministre du Québec, Philippe Couillard, à l’occasion du World Leadership Forum de la Foreign Policy Association

The spoken version takes precedence.

Mr. Noel Lateef, President, Foreign Policy Association
Mr. William E. Conway, CEO, Carlyle Group
Mr. Michael Sabia, CEO, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec

Dear friends and esteemed guests,

It is an honour to be here with you today.

I’d like to extend greetings to Mr. Noel Lateef, a friend of Québec with whom we have had the pleasure of working for over fifteen years now.

***

With more than 400 years of history, Québec is the heartland of French culture in North America. In Québec, we have always felt and expressed a strong sense of identity that forms the basis of our distinct nature. Our opinions about Québec’s future may differ, but our pride and sense of belonging are shared by all Quebecers.

For a majority of Quebecers and for me, this national pride goes hand in hand with being part of a greater whole: the Canadian federation. Seeking a balance between these two sentiments is at the core of our history.

The diversity of our population is a source of innovation and productivity. It also demonstrates our openness to others and our desire to build lasting partnerships with our neighbours and all around the world.

***

This is my third visit to the United States since I was elected premier of Québec last April. I took part in the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers’ Annual Conference in New Hampshire, and later visited Maine for the World Acadian Congress.

I had the opportunity to exchange with our North Eastern partners and deepen alliances which will enable us to continue working together towards common goals.

Indeed, in a context of moderate and unequal global economic growth—and in a global effort to fight climate change—as a continent, we must work together to retain our competitive advantages.

***

Many factors influence our capacity to succeed and my government has the responsibility to create an environment that will foster growth and investment, realizing that growth is accomplished by entrepreneurs operating in an open, well- (not over-) regulated business environment.

And the quality of our institutions of higher learning all across our territory gives us great expectations for the future. Montréal is home to four major universities—there are a number of others elsewhere in the province—and several hundred research centres, many with international reputations. Three of Canada’s seven most active research universities are located in Québec. Only in Hong Kong and Montreal will you find, in the same city, two world-class universities functioning in different languages...McGill and l'Université de Montréal.

Our youth deserves to have the same opportunities my generation had. Our responsibility is to build a society that will allow them to make their own choices. That is why my government has made fiscal responsibility and growth its core priorities.

This is the main takeaway from our first budget tabled last spring.

Our plan is simple: revive the economy and restore public finances in order to give us the flexibility and freedom of choice that will enable us to respond to the needs of Quebecers now and in the future.

Our goal is to balance our budget in 2015-2016. This will be achieved through a combination of budgetary discipline and a longer-term, more structural approach. With that in view, two commissions have been put in place. One will propose changes to our tax policies and the other, permanent, will review our programs' pertinence, coherence and affordability.

In foreign trade, although we have made significant progress, we are not living up to our full potential. We should increase our presence on global markets, and attract more direct foreign investment.

We have a plan to do better—in fact we have 5:

  1. the Plan Nord;
  2. a Maritime Strategy;
  3. focused action directed towards our SMEs;
  4. the responsible exploitation of our vast natural resources, including hydroelectricity and;
  5. the reduction of GHGs seen as an area of economic opportunity.

We believe that the Plan Nord and the Maritime Strategy will go a long way towards improving Québec’s position in the global market and growing our economy.

***

Québec launched the Plan Nord in 2011—an ambitious plan aimed at the development of Northern Québec above the 49th parallel.

We’re talking about an area over twice the size of France...or Texas.

We see this territory as a powerful economic engine, a world-class tourism destination and an opportunity for a great biodiversity conservation project.

Our government is moving forward to accelerate investment and maximize the economic benefits across all regions of Québec, with the involvement of local communities.

And a way to facilitate this interaction between government and the private sector is to act as true partners; so taxpayers also reap their direct share of growth—especially when it comes to non-renewable natural resources.

In our view, the era of old-fashioned government subsidies is over. Today’s economy is calling on governments to be a bona fide partner in promising projects—through minority equity stakes, debt or other means.

In pursuing the development of Northern Québec, we are confirming our commitment to making this region a major engine of economic development for all of Québec.

To support this commitment, we created Capital Mines Hydrocarbures, a $1-billion fund whose sole purpose is to acquire equity interests in Québec’s mineral resources projects.

Québec’s North features rich reserves of minerals: nickel, cobalt, platinum, zinc, iron ore, ilmenite, gold, lithium, vanadium, rare earth elements, and soon our first diamond mine.

Many of these minerals are used in advanced manufacturing, robotics, medical instruments, aerospace, ITs, and clean tech such as solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles.

Some of the first projects announced at the beginning of the Plan Nord in 2011 came to fruition this year. Last July, I had the pleasure to announce the beginning of the construction phase of Québec’s first diamond mine. The Renard mine of Stornoway Diamonds is indeed a great example of a successful Plan Nord project:

  1. it opened up our territory to the north through the construction of a new road whose cost was shared between government and the company;
  2. Quebecers are minority equity owners through the government and our Ressources Québec subsidiary;
  3. The Cree community is one of the partners in the project, exemplifying the fact that aboriginal communities must be part of the development of northern Québec.

Québec’s north is home to some 33,000 aboriginal people, including the Inuit and members of the Cree, Innu, and Naskapi First Nations. The Plan Nord’s success depends on our ability to maintain harmonious relations with local and aboriginal communities.

Education is vital to the communities of Northern Québec and to our economic development. We want northern communities to derive benefits from the economic activity created by the Plan Nord so we want to make sure educational facilities and vocational training are matching their needs.

Last week, we announced our partnership with Arianne Phosphate, which is currently working on a phosphate mining project, north of the Saguenay region.

The Plan Nord area accounts for two-thirds of hydroelectricity Ce lien ouvrira une nouvelle fenêtre. installed capacity in Québec, the world’s fourth largest producer of hydropower. This week in particular, it is worth noting that close to 98% of our energy comes from renewable sources, hydroelectricity being by far the main one.

We’re working on a strategy that will leverage our surplus hydroelectric capacity to attract industrial projects from around the world with our renewable and reliable energy. In today's carbon-conscious world, this is already a great strategic advantage.

The price paid for electricity in 2013 by Québec’s industrial sector is more than competitive:

  1. 36% lower than in the United States
  2. 61% lower than in the OECD countries
  3. 66% lower than in the G7

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The Plan Nord is also built on the principles of sustainable development.

To start addressing this challenge, my government dedicated $100M to establish suitable educational facilities that will contribute to the academic and vocational success of people living in the North, in particular aboriginal people.

And while we remain committed to reserving 50% of Northern Quebec after its full economic potential has been defined, the territory will be developed according to the principles of sustainable development. So it is not only about the economic benefits of mining, but also about the environment and the social development of communities. It is worth noting that Quebec recently delegated the governance of a large chunk of its northern territory to the Crees and non-aboriginal Quebecers, working side by side.

***

That is for the north. We invite you to be part of this exciting story.

We also remember that Québec’s beginnings are intertwined with the sea.

And part of our future also depends on this relationship. The St. Lawrence River is the economic and demographic backbone of Québec.

At the estuary, the St. Lawrence is sixty-five kilometers wide. Leading to the Great Lakes, it connects the Atlantic Ocean and North America’s industrial heartland.

Our network of ports along the St. Lawrence handles some 100 million tons of freight every year. And it represents the shortest, least expensive path between Europe and the Midwest. It is also worth highlighting the fact that Québec City will host the next Summit of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, in June 2015.

Two agreements stand to further stimulate transatlantic trade: the Canada–EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, and the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the U.S. and the EU.

Likewise, a new set of locks in Panama will boost trade between the East Coast and Asia.

In the longer term, the North-West Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Arctic Islands in Canada’s North will open in the decades ahead. This will cut 7,000 kilometres from the route between Asia and Europe.
 
Those are the reasons why my government has proposed Québec’s first Maritime Strategy to streamline the logistics chain and promote a strategy of sustainable development for the gulf and the St. Lawrence. By coordinating the development of our ports with road and rail infrastructures, we can lower transport costs.

The Strategy also calls for a corridor linking the St. Lawrence Seaway with road and rail networks. This will create the winning conditions for private investment in transport and logistics, which will in turn boost the capacity of the Port of Montréal.

Let’s remember that shipping remains by far the safest, most environmentally responsible, and cheapest way to transport goods. Increased volumes in both river and coastal shipping will make our businesses more competitive, while lowering carbon footprints.

Our Maritime Strategy includes other components—sustainable fisheries, aquaculture, marine biotechnology, cruise ship tourism, and training the maritime professionals of tomorrow.

It is another major economic initiative that will drive wealth creation, employment and private investment in all of our regions.

It will enable us to responsibly draw on the St. Lawrence River’s full potential through:

  • increased access to the Port of Montreal;
  • multimodal network and strategic infrastructure investments;
  • an integrated tourism strategy to fend off competition in the cruise ship industry.

However, to achieve the Strategy’s objectives, we need modern and reliable ships.

That is why my government intends to provide additional support for Québec's ship owners and cruise lines in their efforts to upgrade and replace their fleets, while building expertise in the province’s shipyards.

In this regard, we are offering an additional 50% depreciation deduction for building or renovating ships.

We have also announced the creation of a tax-free reserve to finance ship maintenance, and renovation and construction projects awarded to Québec shipyards.

These measures will reinforce the competitiveness of our maritime transport industry, while securing and creating high quality jobs.

The Maritime Strategy will also be an opportunity for Québec to establish itself as a major logistical hub for commercial goods handling in North America.

This way, we will be able to harness the opportunities presented by CETA and the substantial growth anticipated in maritime transport.

***

These two concrete projects will be talked about in the coming months all around the world. In October, we will take part in an economic mission to China. On our way back we will stop in Iceland, where we have been invited to present the Plan Nord at the Arctic Circle in Rekyavik.

This is the vision that we will promote. I believe that Quebec has all the right assets and strategic advantages to take advantage of this century's challenges.

Let me say it loud and clear: Québec is open for business. We want the world to know that Québec is one of the best places on earth to invest and do business.

***

And the way we do business in Québec also includes the necessary coexistence of the economy and the environment, rather than a false choice between the two.

Yesterday, United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said it best; there is no “Plan B” for action as there is no “Planet B.” Last Sunday, the People's Climate March showed that we have a responsibility to others and to ourselves.

The business model is shifting and Québec is at the forefront of this change in many areas. In our view, climate action generates important economic development opportunities and new jobs provided by the green economy, driven by innovation and creativity.

We should never have to choose between growth and a cleaner environment. The two go together since there are huge costs associated with unmitigated climate change. As a matter of fact, building a low-carbon economy provides many opportunities for new businesses... and new business models to innovate and create wealth.

We first introduced carbon pricing in 2007 when we joined the Western Climate Initiative. We then introduced a duty on fuels and fossil fuels. In 2012, we introduced a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions, which has been linked to the California system since January 1, 2013. California and Québec will run their first joint auction in mid-November. We now want to recruit new partners among our continental neighbours.

All revenues generated by the auction sales (estimated at $3 billion by 2020) are financing the second edition of our Climate Change Action Plan, a comprehensive plan addressing our need to adapt to climate change, while reducing our GHG emissions by 20% in 2020 from the 1990 level.

Québec is also very active in seeking recognition for the role of state and provincial governments, as well as large cities in the fight against climate change. For example, as a federated state, we will be attending the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Paris in 2015.

We have also made electric transportation a priority. We have research facilities and are perfecting the know-how to move forward. The electric transportation industry—which includes motors, batteries, and charging stations—will create jobs, reduce our carbon footprint, and take us one step closer to our goal of building a low-carbon economy.

And as I mentioned before, hydroelectricity generates tremendous business opportunities. With additional transmission lines in the Northeastern United States, we could be supplying much more, at a competitive price. This could also help stabilize the price of electricity (given the volatility of gas prices during the last winter) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Québec supports the Canada–U.S. Beyond the Border Action Plan, designed to facilitate the movement of people and goods while strengthening security through such measures as customs pre-clearance and investments in border infrastructure.

The American market as a whole continues to be a preferred market for our companies and generated over $73 billion in trade value in 2013. It’s a long standing relationship and a market that we continue to develop.

Since the adoption of NAFTA, many Québec and U.S. companies have already stepped up their presence in the North American market. Today hundreds of subsidiaries of American companies operate in Québec, generating about one hundred thousand jobs. 

These include:

  • General Electric
  • Pratt and Whitney
  • Bell Helicopter Textron
  • Morgan Stanley; and
  • CMC Electronics

just to name a few.

In recent years a number of Québec companies have also stepped up and become major players in the U.S. economy. 

For example,

  • Bombardier’s operations generate nearly $3 billion in operations with its U.S. suppliers every year;
  • The agrifood group Saputo now employs over two thousand people at its ten plants operating in nine American states; 
  • And the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec manages over $40 billion in assets in the United States. 

Closer to home, our biggest trade partner, the State of New York, is now home to a large number of manufacturing companies, such as Novabus in Plattsburgh.

The Canam group and its U.S. subsidiary Structal teamed up to help build Yankee Stadium, Citi Field Stadium, and MetLife Stadium, and they are currently working on other major projects such as the Hudson Yards Project.
Montréal’s Moment Factory has designed and produced multimedia environments for shows by Madonna, Jay-Z, and the NFL, as well as for Oakley’s flagship store in Manhattan.

Cirque du Soleil and Arcade Fire are just two examples of the creative Québec talent that performs regularly in New York.

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While maintaining our relations with the U.S., Québec has also been at the forefront of trade talks which will soon yield the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union—“CETA”—the most comprehensive trade agreement Canada will have ever signed.

With our European roots, and our North American history, we are the transatlantic gateway to commerce for both our European and North American business partners.

We see the European market as a great partner and it has become our second-largest economic partner after the United States.

In 2013, Québec exports to Europe amounted to $6.8 billion, representing 10.4% of all international exports from Québec. Similarly, Québec also imported close to $20 billion of goods from Europe.

***

With its 500 million consumers, the European Union is a powerful economic force. It’s also the world’s largest public procurement market, valued at close to $2.7 trillion annually. For its part, Québec enables access to a key North American market, offering a favourable business environment for the development and strengthening of business and technology partners.

Québec has implemented the tools necessary to encourage European businesses to accelerate their growth and the commercialization of their products in North America. With regard to public procurement, Canada presents to the European Union the most comprehensive offer that has ever been made as part of a free-trade agreement. This agreement is a huge step, which advances Québec on the world stage.

Moreover, by establishing themselves in Québec, American companies will also benefit from non-tariff access to Europe’s markets and enjoy positive spinoffs from this agreement. By choosing Québec, American companies can also participate in our economic development initiatives such as the Plan Nord and the Maritime Strategy.

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Over the years, we have built a network of delegations and offices in the United States and have well-established relationships with many U.S. businesses, universities, and states.

This objective is founded on a principle of vital importance to Québec: the ability to represent ourselves internationally in the areas within our purview.

This principle is indeed at the heart of the Canadian confederation's mission to promote the prosperity of its provinces, by upholding their vitality and individuality.

***

Our ancestors explored the continent with the help of the First Nations, leaving in their footsteps French names that still mark the landscape—in the Midwest, in New England, along the Mississippi.

Rooted in northeastern North America for over 400 years, Québec is a creative and vibrant society. A society at once distinct, yet fully integrated into a continent we aspire to enrich with our energy and uniqueness.

My message today is clear; let’s work and invest  together to make our economies flourish, and make our continent a beacon of peace and freedom in today's troubled world,  stronger than ever.

Thank you.


Online as of: September 23, 2014


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