Ontario and Quebec governments sign deals on climate change, energy projects

TORONTO – Ontario and Quebec signed several agreements on Friday promising to co-operate on trade, climate change, energy projects and alcohol sales at a joint meeting of the two provinces’ Liberal cabinets in Toronto.

Premiers Kathleen Wynne and Philippe Couillard agreed to build “a stronger and more competitive low-carbon economy” to fight climate change, but wouldn’t say when people could start paying a carbon tax.

“We believe that putting a value on carbon is very important,” Wynne said following the meeting. “We’ve been supportive of cap-and-trade process for many years, and we are continuing to have that discussion with Quebec.”

For his part, Couillard said he sees opportunities to grow the economy as new technologies are developed to reduce greenhouse gases.

“Nobody talks about the cost of not fighting climate change,” he said. “This cost is passed to citizens too, whether it’s health care, coastal erosion or spectacular weather events. This is hugely expensive for our society.”

The premiers also signed agreements on electricity, with Ontario making 500 megawatts available to Quebec in the winter, when Quebec has greater demand to heat homes, with Quebec returning the favour in the summer months when Ontario’s demand is greater because of air conditioners.

“We have complimentary supply and complimentary needs, and there’s a simplicity and elegance to the solution that we brought forward today in terms of the seasonal needs of the two provinces,” said Wynne.

She rejected suggestions that more power from Quebec might allow Ontario, which already shut down all coal-fired generation, to reduce its reliance on nuclear power.

“We’re not anywhere near having a conversation like that,” added Wynne.

Couillard and Wynne also agreed projects like the Energy East pipeline, which would carry oilsands crude to refineries on the East Coast for export overseas, should proceed only when they are environmentally sustainable and have local support.

“We basically are signing off on seven principles,” said Wynne. “We’re talking about compliance with the highest available technical standards, contingency planning and emergency response programs, making sure proponents and governments fulfil their duties to consult with First Nations.”

Ontario and Quebec hope Alberta Premier Jim Prentice agrees the seven principles are reasonable, added Wynne.

The premiers directed the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and its Quebec equivalent, (the Societe des Alcools du Quebec), to find ways of allowing the sales of locally produced alcoholic beverages from each province through their respective liquor stores.

Couillard also threw his support behind Wynne’s efforts to secure a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, something he’s had no trouble arranging for himself.

“We are showing today how governments can work well together,” said Couillard. “That’s the way to do it in Canada, we are a federation, so I’m sure that every premier should have the opportunity of talking to, or meeting with, the prime minister.”

Wynne said she doesn’t know why Harper is refusing to meet with the premier of the most populous province in the country.

“You’ll have to ask Prime Minister Harper why it’s not possible for him to have a meeting with me,” said Wynne. “I will continue to ask for that meeting.”

The premiers also signed a declaration affirming a shared commitment to protecting and promoting Francophone culture and heritage.

“We talked about the Francophonie as part of Canada’s DNA,” said Couillard.

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