2015 Québec-Ontario Joint Meeting of Cabinet Ministers: Progress on Shared Priorities
Following a joint meeting in Québec City between members of their cabinets, Québec Premier Philippe Couillard and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne reported on the progress made on continuing and new initiatives as part of their renewed partnership.
At a joint meeting of cabinet ministers in November, Ontario and Québec signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to exchange electricity capacity and help make power more affordable and reliable in each province. At the meeting in Québec City, the provinces took another step in their partnership by signing an MOU that will explore the potential for increased trade in electricity between the two provinces to provide more value for them, including savings to Ontario ratepayers, and to help meet Ontario's energy needs through Québec's clean and renewable electricity supply.
This continued partnership is in keeping with the spirit of intergovernmental cooperation between the two provinces and builds on their shared and individual actions to combat climate change.
It is in that spirit that Québec and Ontario have also committed to:
- Explore areas for further collaboration, such as the potential to enhance the reliability of the electricity system;
- Work with other provinces and territories on the Pan-Canadian Task Force to reduce the use of diesel in remote communities using both grid connection and non-grid solutions;
- Continue collaboration around the National Energy Board's regulatory process for the Energy East Pipeline project.
Québec and Ontario agreed to continue working together to fight climate change to ensure a prosperous and low carbon future for current and future generations. This will include working to implement a cap and trade system in Ontario, fostering initiatives to increase the use of electric vehicles, and emphasizing the importance of swift action in the fight against climate change.
It was in this spirit that the two governments today signed a new MOU covering current and future collaboration in the area of climate change and market-based mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Among other elements, this framework will make it possible to:
- Harmonize the regulations needed to link our carbon markets;
- Collaborate to develop common protocols for carbon offset credits, helping to foster innovation and providing opportunities for businesses in both provinces;
- Support expanding the use of electric and zero-emission vehicles through joint initiatives;
- Continue the deployment of green technology essential to the transition to a low carbon economy;
- Take measures suitable to the size of our common market (e.g., joint communications, public education and awareness);
- Promote Ontario and Québec's leadership within Canada and internationally, such as at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) taking place in Paris this December.
Premier Couillard and Premier Wynne committed to be present in Paris in December. They will participate in the day set aside for federated states governments in order to have the contributions of their governments recognized and to promote the benefits of their actions in the fight against climate change.
Internal Trade and Public Procurement
An important milestone was reached in the trade relationship between Québec and Ontario with the ratification of a new chapter on public procurement in the Ontario-Québec Trade and Cooperation Agreement (OQTCA). The updated chapter will expand government procurement opportunities for businesses in both provinces and ensure taxpayers receive better value for their tax dollars. The agreement will be phased in over the course of 2016. This new chapter demonstrates the leadership and commitment of both governments to help businesses innovate, compete and become more productive by removing barriers to internal trade.
The revitalization of the OQTCA will continue to be a priority for both governments over the coming months.
Social and Affordable Housing
Access to housing is vital to the well-being of the population. For low-income or single-parent families, senior citizens and the homeless, access to safe and affordable housing can make the difference between marginalization and full integration into society and the workforce. Yet federal funding for social housing continues to decrease from year to year, and will disappear completely in Ontario in 2033 and in Québec in 2034. This situation endangers the financial viability of the social housing stock in both provinces.
So far the federal government has ignored calls from the provinces and territories to ensure that federal savings over the coming years are reinvested in the form of sustained, adequate and flexible funding for housing. Québec and Ontario encourage municipalities, provinces and territories, as well as other housing stakeholders, to join them in asking the federal government to commit to permanent and flexible funding.
In addition, the two governments have announced their plan, over the coming months, to organize a joint summit on housing and homelessness. The summit will be an opportunity for a productive exchange of ideas by sharing best practices and presenting key research projects and findings, as well as to map out potential areas for future collaboration.
Québec and Ontario are fortunate to share one of the world's largest fresh-water ecosystems, and they have a history of ongoing bilateral cooperation on the environment. Earlier this year, the two provinces began a new partnership to better manage their shared water resources, particularly through a discussion on the management of water and watershed areas in order to better address common concerns of residents.
Both governments recognize the importance of strengthening the resilience of their water resources and the ecosystems that depend on them. They also recognize the positive impacts this can have on climate change adaptation, the economy and the health and safety of the residents of both provinces. Over the coming months, they will be working to modernize the 2006 Agreement Concerning Transboundary Environmental Impacts and will be closely collaborating as members of the Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers, a new organization created this past June in Québec City.
Economic Innovation and Climate Change
The fight against climate change is synonymous with sustainable economic development and long-term job creation. Québec and Ontario recognize and foster this potential, and have included climate change innovation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change in their economic strategies.
These strategies prioritize innovation, productivity, and research and development to ensure long-term prosperity. They aim to achieve an international standard of excellence in science and in clean technologies and clean energy. To maximize the effectiveness of these strategies, Québec and Ontario have agreed to collaborate on economic innovation related to climate change. This joint effort will be aimed at implementing open innovation strategies that would build on the two provinces' economic and clean tech strengths, promote low-carbon innovation, and position Central Canada as a key green market and innovation hub.
Sustainable Forestry Development
Québec and Ontario have a long tradition of cooperation in forestry, including promoting the sustainable development of public lands and natural resources and protecting forests. The two provinces have agreements in place to govern information sharing and the development of responses to threats, such as forest fires and insect infestations.
The forestry sector in both provinces supports over 110,000 direct jobs and is a major economic engine. Both governments continue their efforts to highlight the stringent rules and regulations that guide the provinces' sustainable forestry management practices. Together, and with partners, Ontario and Québec will make every effort to increase the global recognition of Canada's sustainably managed forests and environmentally friendly wood products to all potential customers and key contacts.
Recognizing that some forestry companies operate in both Québec and Ontario and face different requirements under their distinct forest regimes, both governments will explore how to increase their cooperation on sustainable forestry management. In particular, Québec and Ontario will work to better identify issues and possibilities for collaboration in areas such as innovation, recovery efforts for woodland caribou, renewal of the Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement, and climate change and carbon credit systems.
Sometimes people living in one province are the subject of child protection court orders from another province. The two governments intend to improve their cooperation to strengthen protection services for children.
Ontario and Québec are sharing expertise and best practices in order to promote better coordination of child protection services across the two provinces. The Ontario government is also in the process of reviewing its Child and Family Services Act.
In the coming months, both governments are committed to signing the revised Provincial/Territorial Protocol on Children and Families Moving Between Provinces and Territories. This protocol provides a framework for consistent, quality services for children and families moving between provinces and territories. It is based on the principle that the protection and best interests of children are the primary considerations in all decisions and services.
Québec and Ontario are committed to providing adequate retirement income security for their residents. In recognition of Québec's considerable experience administering the Québec Pension Plan and Ontario's plan to move forward with the implementation of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP), the two provinces today agreed to cooperate by sharing information regarding best practices relating to the delivery of fair and cost-effective retirement savings arrangements and pension administration.
This will assist Ontario in the establishment of the ORPP, including its internal policies, guidelines and directives as well as the compliance and enforcement framework.
Ontario and Québec have extensive freight rail networks that include the large Canadian railways and a number of shortline railways -- over a third of Canada's rail lines pass through these provinces. Québec and Ontario are working to ensure railways under their jurisdiction meet enhanced safety standards. Provincial ministries continue to work with Transport Canada to support the safe operation of railways as they serve the needs of industries across the two provinces. While Bill C-52 made improvements for rail safety, more needs to be done.
The tragedy in the municipality of Lac-Mégantic in the summer of 2013 and the derailments in Northern Ontario earlier this year reinforced the need to enhance the safety of these rail networks and better protect communities and the environment. Rail safety must continue to be improved, particularly for transporting hazardous and flammable goods such as crude oil and ethanol from other parts of North America. This includes collaborating to ensure an efficient and effective response and recovery process when incidents do occur.
Ontario and Québec call on the federal government to expand coverage under Bill C-52's compensation fund to include provincial shortlines. In its current form, this shipper-financed compensation fund will not cover damages from railway incidents involving crude oil on a provincially licensed shortline railway.
Québec and Ontario agree on the importance of promoting the creativity and know-how of artists and cultural organizations, and of fostering the dissemination of their works in Québec and in Ontario. The Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) and the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) have agreed on the renewal of the memorandum of understanding on the residency program for professional artists and writers. This agreement will consolidate the ties between the cultural sectors of the two provinces and the collaboration between the CALQ and the OAC.
The two governments also wish to deepen their relationship on culture and have announced their desire to share information, best practices and expertise on cultural strategy. The timing is perfect, since Québec will shortly be starting the process of renewing its cultural policy, which dates back to 1992, whereas Ontario is preparing to create its first cultural strategy.
Furthermore, other forms of artistic and cultural exchanges between Québec and Ontario will continue to be developed.