OTTAWA – The Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau, sent the following letter to the Premier of Quebec, Philippe Couillard:
I read with great interest your letter dated August 14, 2015, regarding your expectations in this federal election campaign.
Please allow me first to acknowledge your unwavering commitment to Canada and Canadian federalism. We have every reason to be proud of what we, as Quebecers, have built with our fellow Canadians. I applaud and share your desire to see the Government of Quebec remain an active partner within the Canadian federation.
We must constantly come back to the spirit of federalism: the idea that we must work together – respecting our differences – in order to achieve our common objectives. The challenges that we face cannot be resolved solely from Ottawa. They require a true partnership between the federal and provincial governments; one based on respect for the jurisdictions of Quebec and all the provinces. This requires open and ongoing dialogue. That is why I have already made a commitment to hold an annual meeting with all the Premiers if my party should win the election on October 19, 2015.
These meetings should be devoted to priorities of Quebecers and other Canadians –such as economic stimulus and middle class prosperity. For example, my Senate reform plan can be carried out without having to plunge back into long constitutional negotiations, which are not in the country’s best interest at the moment.
The Liberal Party of Canada recognizes that, given the unique character of Quebec society, the Government of Quebec has specific responsibilities. If my party is elected, Quebecers can rest assured that our government will respect that reality and will work enthusiastically with your government to promote the French fact and Quebec culture, in Canada and abroad. This is a part of who we are as Canadians.
The platform we are putting forward in this election campaign respects provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Allow me to respond directly regarding the issues you raise in your letter.
Transfers to the provinces are a very important issue in federal-provincial relations. Unlike Mr. Harper, I do not intend to deal with this issue unilaterally. My party is aware of the challenges that increasing health care costs and an aging population represent for provincial governments. If my party forms government, it will call a federal-provincial meeting to reach a long-term agreement on health care funding. I agree with you that, as part of a renewed health partnership, innovation will be critical to achieving concrete results for improved health care access and quality across the country.
With regards to equalization, we are completely open to engaging in a dialogue with the provincial governments. Of course, we will need to account for the fiscal framework that will be left behind by the current government. We are committed to returning fiscal responsibility to public finances.
As for the provinces’ right to opt out with full compensation, I believe that is a principled and well-established practice within the Canadian federal framework. The 1999 Social Union Framework Agreement and the 2004 Health Accord confirm this.
Economy and infrastructure
The economy is a central concern for Canadians and central to this campaign. The plan that we are proposing to Canadians is based on two core principles. First, we must act on the fact that, to achieve economic prosperity, Canada needs a prosperous middle class. That is why I have already announced that we will lower taxes for the middle class and introduce a new Canada Child Benefit. Second, we will invest in industries that will stimulate long-term economic growth. To that end, I have already made a commitment to make substantial investments in infrastructure. I am pleased that you share this priority, and I have taken note of your comments regarding the allocation of funds. If we make wise investments in our infrastructure, we can build a more competitive economy that will ensure good-paying jobs and stronger growth in the future. We will have more details to share soon on our infrastructure plan.
With respect to climate change, I believe our Liberal plan for Canada’s environment and economy stands out as a great example of the kind of collaborative federalism that we want to practice. I am committed to partnering with the provinces to help strengthen their own plans, taking into account their realities and building on the leadership that a number of them have already demonstrated – especially in Quebec.
If I am elected Prime Minister, I will attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris with all the Premiers, so that we may speak with a strong, united voice. I sincerely hope that you will be able to participate. Within 90 days of the conference, I plan to hold a First Ministers’ meeting to develop an framework for reducing carbon emissions in Canada, thereby accelerating the fight against global warming. In addition, a Liberal government will invest in green technology. I would be remiss if I did not mention the remarkable leadership demonstrated by Quebec on the national scene in the fight against climate change.
Regarding the negotiations that may lead to a multilateral Pacific Rim free trade agreement, I have already made a commitment on behalf of my party to protect supply management under any agreement. I understand the importance of supply management to the agri-food industry in Quebec.
Radio-Canada and bilingual Supreme Court Judges
I am pleased to know that we are both concerned about funding for Radio-Canada. This unique institution must be able to carry out its mandate, which is crucial to Canadian society. In a country as vast and diverse as ours, Société Radio-Canada remains essential to the quality of our democratic life and to the broadcasting and promotion of Quebec’s culture in the rest of Canada and worldwide. It must therefore have adequate funding, the means to go digital, and a governance framework that ensures its independence. That is why I have repeatedly expressed our commitment to cancel the cutbacks made by the Conservatives and to restore funding to Radio-Canada, a promise that I reiterate today.
Regarding another institution that is crucial to democracy, the Supreme Court of Canada, in Spring of 2015 I publicly made a commitment to introduce a judicial appointment process that is more transparent, respectful of the provinces, and guarantees candidates can work in both official languages.
On Bill C-51, my party is committed, if we form government, to amending this legislation to respect the rights and freedoms of Canadians, and to provide better guidance on the new powers given to law enforcement agencies.
In closing, I wish to assure you of my commitment to be a good and constructive partner of the Government of Quebec and, as I have always done, both before and after entering politics, to listen to my fellow Quebecers.
Since the people in the riding of Papineau elected me to represent them in Ottawa, and even more so after I was elected as the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, I have been travelling across the various regions of Quebec. Today, my team of Quebec candidates is determined to give Quebec a strong voice in Ottawa and to co-operate with your government.
Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada