Premier Wynne should not toy with Quebec.

It seemed an unfortunate heading given to a story in The Toronto Star the other day. The heading was “Wynne toys with buying more Quebec electricity.” The headline editor must have been very impressed that the two lines of the headline were balanced but the connotation was unfortunate. This is not a question with which anyone wants to ‘toy.’

And the absolutely worst basis for this discussion is as a customer. To approach Hydro Quebec, hat in hand, as a customer is entirely wrong. Ontario and Quebec are the two oldest and largest members of the Canadian confederation. The only appropriate stance for them is as equals and as partners.

Yes, Ontario is going to need Quebec’s huge hydro capability. It has to offer something in return. To offer just to pay is crass and stupid. It does not say partners.

But what both provinces need is high-speed electric rail service carrying commerce and tourists between Windsor and Quebec City. That is a dream that’s time has come. It is now. Both provinces need the market access, the tourism, faster movement of people and the ease of business connection.

Ontario is already well aware that it can never make the commuter train system in southern Ontario function effectively unless it is electrified.

And both Premier Philippe Couillard in Quebec and Premier Kathleen Wynne in Ontario are Liberals of a sort. And they are in the driver’s seat. With the federal government set for an election next year, the provinces are in position to bring that third party, the feds, into the partnership. They have to make it very clear that whoever wins that federal election has to be ready to pony up their fair share of the infrastructure funds needed by the two provinces to make that rail dream a reality. It is vital to the country’s well being.

It is certainly in the interests of both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair to assure voters of their intentions to support the two provincial partners. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper might be writing off Quebec in that election but he dares not write off Ontario. Nor does he dare to take the Conservatives back to being a western rump party.

The west can keep thinking of its resource based economy as being the answer but reality is that no party can carry the country without addressing the east’s need for a strong business economy to match. This is a country desperately in need of economic balance and our leaders have to start thinking about how to get us there.


Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

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