I already received an email this morning suggesting that no one has the right to tell Quebec which industries it can or can’t development. If they were to re-read my column in the Economy Lab they would see the following sentence:
“No jurisdiction should be compelled or cajoled to implement any industrial development that is deemed to have a substantial environmental risk….”
But I go on to say: “it becomes complicated when the jurisdictions using that argument are in the minority.”
In other words, Quebec’s natural resources minister, Martine Ouellet, says “she doesn’t believe the controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale, known as “fracking,” can ever be done safely.” Her counterparts in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland would say the opposite.
Now, it may be that Ms. Ouellet will be proven right. Maybe compelling evidence will emerge that fracking is very dangerous and other provinces will shut the industry down. Maybe the Ministers of natural resources in BC and Alberta will send letters to Ms. Ouellet thanking her for her foresight.
Or, maybe President Obama is right and shale gas is a game changer that will provide the U.S. with a competitive advantage for several generations.
It just seems to me that this issue will emerge as a big deal in the deliberations about changes to the equalization program that are currently underway.
The western provinces have always pushed for natural resource industries to be removed from the equalization formula. Now that other provinces are actually rejecting those same industries – I would be highly surprised it if didn’t become a flashpoint issue.
As I say in the piece, this might be just what the PQ wants – to stir up resentment in the West and convince Quebeckers that the West is trying to tell them what industries they can and can’t develop. But not all Quebeckers nor all Canadians want that province to separate. Most Canadians support the concept of equalization – as do I – as a fundamental, binding attribute of our country.
But this issue could start to challenge that view.