Quebec and Ontario Cozy Up On Clean Energy and Climate

Quebéc's 129 MW La Gabelle Generating Station, on the  Saint-Maurice River.
Quebéc’s 129 MW La Gabelle Generating Station, on the Saint-Maurice River.

Here are some words I’d love to see in every summary of a meeting between Canadian leaders: Climate change is “a top priority,” and it’s “more important than ever to address this common issue.”

Those words were front and centre in a news release from the Premiers of Quebec and Ontario, published today, describing the two provinces’ plans for working more closely together.

In addition to putting climate change squarely on their priority list—along with trade, infrastructure, and joint cabinet meetings—the Premiers made some promising commitments on climate and energy. Those include:

  • Exploring “the viability of expanding electricity trade between Ontario and Quebec.” As experts on both sides of the provincial border have highlighted, Quebec’s surplus hydro power could provide its neighbour with a source of clean electricity—one that could save Ontario the cost and risk of refurbishing aging nuclear power stations. Quebec’s hydro power is also an ideal partner for Ontario’s growing wind and solar capacity, allowing Ontario to tap into hydro as backup when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.
  • “As an initial step in bilateral co-operation,” the Premiers agreed to launch a working group bringing together their respective ministers of environment and climate change (yes, both provinces now have a climate change portfolio in their cabinets). Senior officials will work towards greater cooperation on climate and environmental issues—so we’ll have to stay tuned to see where those discussions lead.

Quebec also used this meeting to put some welcome pressure on Ontario in the area of carbon pricing, a key climate policy tool. Along with California, Quebec is a leading partner in the Western Climate Initiative’s cap-and-trade system to cut carbon pollution.

But they’d love to see some new members on the team: “We are looking forward to recruiting new partners among our neighbours, thus joining forces in the necessary transition to a low carbon economy,” Quebec’s Premier Couillard said in today’s statement.

No points for guessing which neighbour he has in mind: Ontario has been considering carbon pricing approaches for several years, but has yet to commit to a specific policy. Pricing  carbon pollution in this country’s biggest province would be a huge step forward for Canadian climate action, so let’s hope Ontario takes the hint.

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