On Feb. 1, I had the pleasure of speaking to the business community in Providence as part of an event organized by the R.I. Economic Development Corporation. Québec places great importance on its relationship with Rhode Island, because we are convinced that this partnership is essential to our common growth. Personally, it’s an honor to represent Québec government on the international stage, and it’s especially a privilege to be able to do it here in New England, a region with which we share a deep history with regards to the Franco-American heritage, common values and significant alliances in many fields (policy, business, education, culture, etc.).
For example, Québec and Rhode Island have always enjoyed a productive trade relationship, with local companies partnering with Québec companies in the aerospace, agri-food and construction sectors. As Rhode Island’s economy is regaining steam, I believe that it’s a great opportunity for businesses to look at the exciting things that are happening in Quebec right now and to position themselves as partners. The trade between Rhode Island and Quebec was just above half a billion dollars in 2010 and there is no reason why that number couldn’t be much higher considering the integrated nature of our economies.
Québec recently launched a major initiative, The Plan Nord (Northern Plan), which represents one of the biggest economic, social and environmental projects ever undertaken in Québec’s history. It will run for 25 years, with investments of more than $80 billion. The Plan Nord area is immense, representing 72 percent of Québec’s overall land mass. It is an area north of the 49th parallel with outstanding potential for development in the sectors of mining, energy, forestry, tourism and transportation. I see here opportunities for Rhode Island businesses, because we will not be able to realize this project alone and will be looking to partner with companies that have specific expertise in different fields.
It is important to add that the area covered by the Plan Nord accounts for more than three-quarters of Québec’s installed hydroelectric-production capacity, a clean and renewable form of energy. And the potential in terms of unexploited hydro, wind and underwater generation is just as impressive. Québec made a strategic decision a long time ago to become an environmental leader, and today we have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita in North America, thanks to the fact that 97 percent of our electricity comes from a renewable source. We have more than 40,000 MW of “clean” electricity available for domestic and exportation purposes and we export to all the New England states through the spot market and through a specific contract with Vermont.