The Institute on Quebec Studies at SUNY Plattsburgh invites experts from Quebec to speak on issues of cross-border interest. This year the Distinguished Quebec Address focused on the province’s post-COVID international strategies.
The Institute on Quebec Studies’ Distinguished Quebec Address was delivered virtually this year.
Dr. Stéphane Paquin was the Institute’s first Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Quebec Studies. He is now a professor at the National School of Public Administration (École Nationale D’Administration Publique) in Montréal. He has written or edited 33 books on Quebec policy and political issues. Paquin says the provincial government is already preparing post-COVID economic strategies. “I think it is a very interesting thing that is happening in Quebec. Even before the crisis the Governor of Quebec has started a shift in the international policy of Quebec more focused on the economy and I think it’s going to serve them well. The government of Quebec will be more ready to face the after-COVID situation than they were in the past.”
Paquin outlined Quebec’s unique position as a province that engages in international relations. About 20 percent of jobs in the province are related to exports and Paquin says Quebec’s strategy is focused on economic diplomacy. “Investment Quebec it’s a state-owned enterprise that will have a lot of new funds to attract foreign direct investment. The goal the government is setting is really ambitious to eliminate Quebec’s long term trade deficit of about 23 billion before the pandemic and they want to double the attraction of foreign direct investment in five years. And also Quebec wants to become the green battery of the Northeast of the United States. So the government of Quebec is putting a lot of emphasis to export energy in Maine but also in the state of New York.”
Institute on Quebec Studies Director and president of the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States Dr. Christopher Kirkey moderated submitted questions. “I think what we would like to see at least on this side of the border is a greater sense of engagement from our political leadership in Albany towards engaging with Quebec. From your side of the border is there an appetite in Quebec for a deeper stronger relationship between Quebec and New York?”
Paquin: “Most people don’t understand how important is the relationship between Quebec and New York, how our businesses work together. But it’s more than just business. It’s also education and tourism and agriculture.”
Kirkey also asked about the continued closure of the border. “We’re hearing a number of voices in Canada that are still hesitant to say hey let’s reopen the border. Even if it’s a gradual reopening looking from Quebec what do you hear, what do you see?”
Paquin: “It’s the federal government who handles the frontier. The federal government’s going to go into an election probably before the summer. I don’t think they will move before the election. It’s too risky. But if there is an election in June then it could come very fast after the election. So the pressure will be very very strong. So I suspect it could be reopened partially in July, August. But if the variant is strong it’s going to be after September after everybody gets this second shot.”
The Institute on Quebec Studies was created in 2004. Speakers over the years have included the Delegate General of the Québec Government Office in New York, the CEO of the Montreal Alouettes professional football team, Quebec’s Minister for Native Affairs and university leaders.