MONTREAL – Count Quebec in on the Canada-Europe free trade deal.
The pro-independence PQ government has expressed its support for the initiative, which was initially spearheaded by the previous Charest Liberal government, meaning the project has support on both sides of the legislature.
There is one unresolved issue, however.
Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau has told a news conference that he’d like some clarity on compensation for dairy farmers before the Quebec legislature votes to ratify the deal.
He says the compensation mechanism could include money, or import licences, for farmers negatively impacted by an influx of European products.
Marceau says he wishes the federal government had negotiated different rules on cheese imports, but is pleased it agreed to an as-yet-unspecified form of compensation.
He says the Quebec government also played a role in pushing for exemptions for certain sectors, including culture.
While the pro-independence PQ has historically clashed with the federal government on myriad policy fronts, free trade has not traditionally been among them.
In the 1980s, the original Canada-U.S. FTA had broad political support in Quebec. The Bourassa Liberals worked with the Mulroney government to rally skeptical premiers in other provinces, while the then-opposition PQ worked to rally public opinion in Quebec.
As for the opposition Liberals, Leader Philippe Couillard says he’s rejoicing over the deal, and he gives credit to his predecessor Jean Charest for getting the project launched seven years ago.
He says this deal, and the ongoing Pacific-region talks, demonstrate how Quebec benefits from being part of the Canadian federation.
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