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  • David Boudeweel-Lefebvre

Québec-Ontario Relations

Québec-Ontario Relations: the old couple’s dominance endures, but how can Québec match Ontario’s economic success?

Since the founding of Canada, Québec and Ontario have dominated in demographics, economics and decision-making. The Founding Fathers had a clear desire to establish a strong federal government, and provinces with powers basically equivalent to each other. Despite this foundation, and the growing size and power of the West, the political importance of the "old couple" of provinces has been maintained and, in some respects, increased.

In recent federal election cycles, the theory that Canadian elections are won between New Brunswick and Manitoba has once again proven true. On closer inspection, the only significant seat changes in decades have been in Québec and Ontario. As the West crystallizes politically, and the Atlantic provinces are slowly submerged by the demographic growth of the rest of the country, it's not surprising that federal politicians are courting the two big central provinces more than ever.

In this context, it's interesting that Québec's governing party, after the struggle between federalists and separatists, is advocating closer ties with the neighboring province. Québec Premier François Legault has even incorporated collaboration and comparison with Ontario into his political and economic discourse. Since his return to politics, Legault has insisted that one of Québec's major objectives is to achieve economic growth and a standard of living comparable to Ontario. He has also made gestures of cooperation with Doug Ford's government, notably in the areas of health and investment. While some of his predecessors spoke of getting closer to the Canadian average, the comparison with Ontario alone is not insignificant, and testifies to an ambition to shine among the best.

Québec's ambitions to compare itself with the country's largest province are to be applauded, but a number of adjustments will be necessary if it hopes to become an economic powerhouse like Ontario. First, Québec will need to foster its economic development more openly, and modify its tax system, which is far less attractive than that of its neighbour to the west. In addition, the province will have to improve its energy production and supply if it wishes to increase its industrial output, as Ontario is already doing. Finally, Québec will have to find a way to close, at least in part, the immigration gap that is impressively increasing Ontario's economic capacity.

In short, Québec is well on the way to catching up, but Ontario continues to move forward and, in many respects, move even faster than before. If comparisons are to remain possible, Québec will have to continue and accelerate its development, while maintaining a favorable climate for investment and new projects.


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