Canada has often been plagued by its tenuous relationship with Quebec. If, however, Canada is to engage in meaningful climate change mitigation measures, la belle province may present a unique opportunity to transition Ontario and Quebec energy consumption to more sustainable alternatives.
Students and faculty members from York University and abroad gathered at Osgoode Hall Law School’s Professional Development Centre at Yonge-Dundas Square Jan. 9 to discuss the possibility of creating interprovincial energy agreements, particularly between Quebec and Ontario.
The workshop was aimed at bringing a Québecois perspective to Ontario scholars. Normand Mousseau, professor, Université de Montréal, and co-president, Quebec Commission on Energy Issues, and Pierre-Olivier Pineau, chair in energy sector management, HÉC Montreal, were enlisted to discuss the state of Québec’s power consumption and needs, and to suggest contexts in which Québec and Ontario mergers might find solid footing.
Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) PhD Candidate Colleen Kaiser and The Globe and Mail environmental and national affairs columnist, Jeffrey Simpson, were also invited to discuss the political and institutional backgrounds of both provinces and the feasibility of joining the two power grids. FES Professor and Sustainable Energy Initiative Co-Chair Mark Winfield presided as moderator of the dialogue.
Kaiser opened the discussion arguing that climate change mitigation strategies must come from sub-national actors and, considering the environmental policy of the current Canadian federal administration, sub-national actors such as provinces may represent the only possible avenue to implement these strategies. Quebec is currently engaged in a “cap and trade” carbon economy linked to California, however, no other provinces, territories or states have signed such an agreement.
Simpson shared insights regarding the political topography of energy markets in central and Eastern Canada. These discussions were followed by presentations from the Québecois panellists. Pineau presented a comparative analysis of Quebec and Ontario power consumption, arguing for the benefits of linking these two economies through the trade of Quebec energy surplus to Ontario (particularly during the summer months). Mousseau provided a synopsis of his co-authored overview of the state of Quebec energy and recommendations for its future.
Running central to all of these discussions was the role that an inter-provincial agreement between these two parties might have in helping to mitigate climate change. While initially, particularly with Kaiser’s presentation, this was the explicit thrust of the discussion, panellists turned a large amount of focus to the political economy of the issue. They agreed that, if a Quebec-Ontario energy agreement was to be made, political leg-work on all levels of government would be required to promote a sustainable partnership and convince the public of the merit of such a project.
These discussions will continue in Montreal in April as part of the Sustainable Energy Initiative’s ongoing attempt to promote progressive energy policies in a time of sustained threats to the environment.
By Dylan McMahon, Faculty of Environmental Studies graduate assistant