Last week, Chantal Hébert was on Radio-Canada radio [in French only]. She's by far my favorite political observer and, as usual, was very interesting. She talked about the place of women in politics, in journalism... I like her attitude and her wits. She also commented on a recent column she wrote in Le Devoir about Alberta's Questerre first shale gas operation in Québec. Her column, a piece of political fiction, broached the environmental decisions the province would have to face and the geopolitical impacts of a prosperous Québec.
Québec is in a good position to sell gas to the USA. A pipeline would financially be more feasible than linking Alaska to the rest of the USA. Even if exploiting gas isn't as polluting as the oil sands, it certainly can't be considered sustainable development. But who could say "no" to billions of dollars?
Wiping off the debt, building super hospitals and more efficient transportation networks are mere examples of what new inflow of monies could do. A prosperous Québec could then shift from beneficiary to contributor in the equalization program.
What if it did? Would a richer Québec accept to watch part of this wealth be distributed to poorer provinces such as Ontario or New-Brunswick? According to current rules, provinces that benefit from equalization can apply these amounts to whatever priorities they see fit. Would a richer Québec remain unmoved by having contributed, even remotely, to tax reductions in Ontario or an ambitious universal home care program for the elderly in Fredericton?
Up until now, Edmonton has responded "yes" to these questions. Would Québec's answers differ?... how?... and why? Wouldn't the Parti Québécois use this situation to its own advantage?
Click here [Google translation] to read the full column.
Does Canada really want a prosperous Québec? Some say the time isn't ripe for a constitutional reform. Perhaps it is.