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New Quebec Delegate General in New York discusses economic ties

Quebec Delegate General in New York Martine Hebert tours the Nova Bus manufacturing plant during a visit to Plattsburgh
Taylor Reak
Office of the Quebec Delegate General
Quebec Delegate General in New York Martine Hebert tours the Nova Bus manufacturing plant during a visit to Plattsburgh

The federal government of Canada appoints consul generals to U.S. regions or states. Individual provinces appoint delegate generals. The Quebec premier recently appointed a new Delegate General in New York.

Madame Martine Hebert, an economist who is transferring from her position as Quebec Delegate General in Chicago, was in Plattsburgh last week. Hebert says her key role is to strengthen economic relations between the province and New York state.

“We work on tightening the links that we have with our partners. And as you know United States is Quebec's major trading partner, and especially the state of New York. Actually the state of New York is the second most important state that we trade with and we trade more with the New York State than we do with some countries altogether like Australia, Brazil, and the UK combined. So it's very important,” says Hebert. “And Quebec delegations, you know, we have the mission to promote Quebec's interests of course, but also to promote the partnerships and the relationships and maintain and build up the relationships that we have with our US partners. And actually Quebec is the Canadian province that has the most presence all around the world. We have nine Quebec offices in the United States. And we have 33 around the world in 18 countries.”

“Why did you want to accept being the Delegate General of Quebec in New York?” asks Pat Bradley.

“Well, I was Quebec delegate in Chicago for the past two years actually,” relates Hebert. “And when I got appointed in Chicago, when Premier Legault was elected in Quebec, he really wanted to reinforce the economic mission of the Quebec delegations abroad. He thought that it was important. It's a good instrument to tighten our partnerships and business partnerships. And so he wanted to have some economic people with economic background at the head of the delegations. And I thought it was fantastic. Because in my previous life I was working with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which is the equivalent of NFIB here. We agreed that it was a good good fit for me and I'm very happy to be there because as I said New York is one of our main economic partner in the U.S.”

“Obviously, we've just been through the pandemic,” says Bradley. “It's still kind of hanging on here. Is trade between Quebec and New York and the US improving or are we still experiencing problems due to the pandemic, you know, supply chain problems that we keep hearing about and other situations? You know, what are you seeing regarding the cross border trade?”

Hebert responds, “Well, I looked at the numbers before I came in. And the latest numbers from August, if we look at the numbers, what we see is that there's an increase of 24%, in total trade between Quebec and the state of New York. So this is very good news. And I think that this is partly due to the fact that the economic recovery is taking place. I mean the predictions for the GDP increase rate would be around 6%. I mean 6% increase in the GDP we haven't seen that since 2008. Before 2008! So I think that both of our economies are recovering. And I think that we have to continue to make sure that they recover together; that we recover together. Because in an integrated vision of that, because as you said, the supply chains suffered during the pandemic. And I think that if there's one lesson that the pandemic showed us is that we have to secure our supply chains.” Hebert explains, “We have to secure our supply chains in North America. We have to buy North America. So we have to do everything that we can to make sure that these supply chains will be in the continent here. So I think that we have to continue to build on that. And certainly Quebec offices all across the United States, this is part of our mission and this is what we intend to do.”

“Well, when people talk about the supply chain especially in the US they tend to think about the ports of entry out in California, along the west coast, and materials coming from China,” says Bradley. “You just talked about the importance of really strengthening the internal continental supply chain here between the US and Canada. Are we in a position to really interlace that more or is this going to take some time?”

“I think that we are in a position to interlace that more and on many, many fronts,” says Hebert. “Let's talk about electrification of transportation which as you know is one of Quebec's priorities. And the Quebec government has invested a lot into promoting the innovation of our Quebec companies in electric transportation from charging stations to electric vehicles. Same thing in renewable energies. Let's stick to the electric transportation. If you talk about electric transportation you need electricity. Clean electricity preferably and you need batteries. Well in Quebec we have a lot of critical minerals. We have a lot of lithium. We have graphite. So what we are trying to do is to build up a green North American battery supply chain. So that we are extracting the minerals from the Quebec soil, but with green energy, putting this mineral into battery cells that will be shipped in the United States. So this is one of the visions that the Quebec government is having. And this is a really good example of what we can do together to be less dependent of some Asian countries like China for example, for battery cell supply. So I think this is a very good example of how we're better together, and we're stronger together, and we can do great things together.

Pat Bradley turns to the vaccination issue and if there are similarities in the debate. “Madam Hebert, one thing that I'm curious about: it seems like the mandatory vaccination issue, the controversy in Canada seems very similar to the debate in the US. I saw recently the Quebec officials just eased back on some requirements for health care workers. I think specifically because of one hospital in Montreal. Is the debate fairly similar in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, since you focus on Quebec?”

“I think that the Quebec government did a pretty good job at the vaccination because a really high percentage of Quebec population received the double vaccination,” notes the Delegate General. “So I think that the strategy that they adopted, the communication that they did with the population was pretty good.”

“I know that before Canada reopened its border one of the factors was that Prime Minister Trudeau said he didn't want to open it until they reached a certain level of vaccination,” recalls Bradley. “Could the debate over mandatory vaccinations that's going on, whether it's in the US or Canada, possibly impact efforts to restore, you know, the cross border, quote, unquote, normalcy that we've seen between Quebec and New York?”

You know as long as our mission as Quebec delegations is concerned I think that what we've been trying to do during the pandemic, with all of the obstacles that we had to cope with, was to try to continue to strengthen the links with our Quebec partners, make sure that our businesses and that U.S. businesses would continue to do business together,” asserts Hebert. “We adapted. We changed our approach. We had a more surgical approach than we had before. We adapted and in fact we had the best results. I think that we've shown resiliency and that we are going to continue to do so and we'll let the authorities, the competent authorities, to decide what's best in terms of measures that they want to implement. But no matter what they decide our job and our mission is still the same: to try to help both of our economies to prosper together, continue to prosper together. And that's what we're going to continue to do.”

Quebec Delegate General in New York Martine Hebert toured several Quebec-based manufacturers with facilities in the Plattsburgh area.

Hebert said there is no fixed term but a Quebec Delegate general serves an average of three years at each posting.

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