Couillard/Brown make history
at Queen’s Park
By MPP Toby Barrett
May 13 was somewhat of a historic day in the Ontario Legislature with the address of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard - the first time in 51 years for a Quebec Premier to visit Queen’s Park.
One condition for Couillard to speak was that the Opposition leaders would also be allowed to speak. That opened the door for unelected Patrick Brown, newly-minted PC leader, to enter the chamber and address those assembled.
Brown opened by saying he was proud of the work of former Premier John Robarts, who did so much to build a strong relationship between Ontario and Quebec. Robarts was premier at the time of Jean Lesage - the last Quebec premier to speak to the Legislature. The two premiers forged a bond and a sense of mutual respect between their two jurisdictions.
Delivering a large part of his address in French, Brown described travelling Quebec with former Premier Jean Charest, hearing Charest speak passionately about what it meant to be a Canadian and what it meant for Quebec to be part of Canada. Brown said he will never forget rallies where Charest would hold up his Canadian passport to and say how proud he was to be a Canadian.
Brown complimented Premier Couillard for showing leadership in many areas of importance, including low energy rates contributing to the general economic health of Quebec.
In response to government criticism, Brown said, “If the Liberals feel that a compliment towards a balanced budget and low energy rates is an attack on their record, well maybe then that’s something they need to think about.”
Brown also praised Couillard for making a balanced budget a priority to ensure the long-term financial health of his province. “You realized that to be able to have a prosperous province, you need to have a strong economy,” Brown said. “This thing gives you the ability to invest in projects and people.”
Similar kudos came for Quebec’s energy policy. Brown said both provinces have an abundance of hydroelectric power. Quebec embraced this power and is using it to ensure electricity rates remain low for the people of Quebec.
“Low hydro rates mean a better business climate,” Brown continued, “Companies see these rates as a cost of doing business rather than a barrier to doing business. Families and individuals who don’t have to carry the burden of ever-increasing rates are better able to manage their household budgets, and businesses that want to set up operations in the province don’t have to worry that hydro costs, either for their operations or their employees, will be a huge burden.”
Brown told the House that low electricity rates enable Quebec to adopt a cap-and-trade policy. It also allows Quebec to attract jobs. Brown provided the example of Xstrata Copper moving to Quebec because of its reasonable electricity rates. This is the kind of environment Brown would like to see in Ontario.
Ontario and Quebec have been important partners in the history of our country, dating all the way back to the partnership of Canada West Premier Baldwin and Canada East Premier LaFontaine establishing responsible government. While we haven’t always been on the same page on every issue, there is certainly more to unite us than divide.
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