Governor, premier sign Vermont-Quebec agreement

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a comprehensive cooperation agreement with Québec Premier Pauline Marois in Montreal on Monday that signals a closer relationship between the state and the Canadian government.

The agreement encourages broad partnerships in economic development, renewable energy, higher education, transportation, and lake management, among other mutual areas of interest.
The last major agreement between Vermont and Quebec was signed in December 2003; it was updated in March 2010.

“Since Quebec is our biggest and most important trading partner, obviously the relationship to Vermont for jobs and prosperity is critical,” Shumlin said in an interview.

The governor highlighted transportation, energy and management of Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog as the most important areas of agreement in which Vermonters could see real benefits.

Specific provisions include joint management of Lake Champlain, Lake Memphremagog and Missisquoi Bay to combat threats like excessive phosphorus, which has contributed to large cyanobacteria or blue green algae blooms; deregulating small businesses; extending the Vermonter train service to Montreal; and boosting agricultural tourism.

Improving rail service, finishing the A-35 highway and promoting hydropower in New England were also specifics the two government leaders discussed.

Shumlin said he and Marois “share a similar vision … I thought we really had a strong rapport with each other.”

Marois replaced former Quebec Premier Jean Charest in a dramatic September election, after which a gunman tried to assassinate Marois. Marois belongs to Parti Québécois, which advocates for Quebec’s secession from Canada.

Shumlin played down the political differences between Charest and Marois as unimportant, saying: “We agreed that we’d cooperate in every way we can, to continue what has been a really critical relationship, for both Republican and Democratic governors, and premiers from opposite parties.”

University of Vermont history professor David Massell, an expert on Canadian and Quebec politics, noted there were few major or noteworthy changes in the Shumlin-Marois pact compared with the 2003 agreement brokered with Charest by then-Gov. Jim Douglas.

“Whatever Premier Marois’ domestic politics (i.e. the separatist politics of her Parti Québécois), this agreement represents continuity, not change, in Quebec’s relationship with Vermont,” said Massell in an email.

“The point is: Whether a Quebec government is Parti Quebecois or Liberal, it must serve the interests of the province as a whole. Selling hydroelectricity to New England is in that interest; as is collaborating with Vermont in the management of the waters of the Richelieu-Champlain waterway; as is increasing the flow of tourists and trade.”

The agreement also includes a major section on transportation priorities, including improving high-speed rail and cross-border bike paths.

Although the agreement covers energy issues, it doesn’t mention the possibility of a tar sands oil pipeline from Montreal to Portland, Maine, via Vermont, which has caught the attention of Vermont lawmakers who want to regulate transport of the fuel.

Shumlin said the topic didn’t come up in the private meeting just before they signed the agreement, adding that Marois didn’t seem “particularly focused” on that controversy.

The Joint Vermont-Quebec Committee will monitor how well the agreement is implemented and set new goals. The six-member committee meets once every two years. Shumlin appoints three members, while Marois selects the other three.

Read the full agreement here.


Nat Rudarakanchana

Comments

  1. So the Quebec Premier isn’t focused on tar sands oil transport, such tar sands oil transport is an obvious concern for a large number of your (the Vermont Governor’s) constituents, and you didn’t see any need to introduce the subject.

    Huh.

  2. Bruce Post :

    I find it interesting that there is opposition in Quebec to foreign takeover attempts of Quebec companies. See: http://business.financialpost.com/2012/11/27/takeovers-are-coming-some-of-quebecs-biggest-companies-vulnerable-to-foreign-bids/

    From that November article: “Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau said Friday the PQ plans to introduce legislation, likely in the new year, to give directors the right to take into account the views not only of shareholders but also employees, retirees, suppliers and affected communities after they receive an unsolicited offer.”

    Ironic. Our Governor, who supported a foreign (Quebec) takeover of the bulk of our energy utilities, travels to meet a PQ Premier who is resisting takeovers of Quebec assets.

  3. Bruce Post :

    I would invite our VT Digger friends who are much more cognizant of the utility business than am I to comment on this statement in the agreement:

    “… Vermont is a gateway to New England for the transmission of hydroelectricity produced in Quebec.”

    I consider that in the context of the ongoing efforts to build major transmission lines from Quebec to the New York City market and also southern New England. The Champlain-Hudson Power Express through New York involves submerged transmission lines under Lake Champlain, and the highly controversial Northern Pass project is proposed for New Hampshire. (By the way, I understand that the Conservation Law Foundation has been an opponent of the Northern Pass.)

    If the Northern Pass gets held up or if its entry into northern New Hampshire is blocked, what are the possibilities for bringing any upgraded transmission lines into the Northeast Kingdom down to, say, the Comerford Dam, located between Barnet, Vermont, and Monroe, New Hampshire?

    Folks might like to check out the Northern Pass project at CLF’s special website on this issue: http://www.clf.org/northern-pass/ It is interesting to read CLF’s shining a spotlight on the negative impacts of the Northern Pass — i.e., 135-foot towers, viewshed concerns, wildlife habitat and wetlands degradation, “the only large-scale industrial infrastructure” in rural and open areas. Yet, CLF, to which I have belonged, seems to find these harmful impacts tolerable, and perhaps even preferable, here in Vermont when it comes to industrial wind development on Vermont’s mountains.

    • Kevin Jones :

      Very interesting excerpt that should raise some red flags. Many years ago, when I was an undergrad at UVM, political science professor Frank Bryan wisely noted in class that the the HQ Phase II line, which cuts a swath through the Northeast Kingdom, was one of the most important energy policy issues of the time, but that it would be decided by the PSB not the legislature. More recently, then candidate for governor, Brian Dube suggested that maybe the Northern Pass project should be routed through Vermont — to me that was a particularly bad idea with significant environmental sacrifice for little or no Vermont benefit. Using Vermont as a gateway to New England for power deliveries — requiring massive high voltage transmission lines — would seem to be as foolish as building 400 foot wind towers on our sensitive ridgelines in order to sell all of the renewable energy to southern New England customers (e.g. selling them all of the renewable energy credits). Our political leaders would never support such an unbalance policy as that — except that is exactly what they are doing today through the fundamentally flawed SPEED program.

    • THANK YOU for that Bruce! My thoughts exactly. Heads up Vermonters! Any recommendations of what we might do about this now?

  4. I would love to see the Governor talking about reducing waste and promoting reduction and Zero Waste ideas in-state and with political allies such as Québec Premier Pauline Marois, especially since this is such a pressing issue in our state, as we face having only one landfill and potentially vastly reducing its lifespan with overload.

  5. We just returned from a lovely visit to Quebec so this is a bit more relevant to me now. With all the natural beauty we both share it makes great sense to improve things like cross-border bike paths and help eco-tourism flourish.
    Vermont could certainly use some more healthy industry as well, there are so few good manufacturing jobs here.
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