Quebec aims for food autonomy, with major greenhouse farming project

Legault criticizes China, while pitching closer ties to Ontario and Alberta

Concerned that Quebec might one day be unable to import essential foods like fruits and vegetables during a crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic, Premier François Legault said during an online CAQ policy discussion last weekend that the government hopes to launch a major greenhouse farming project, with power provided by Quebec’s vast hydro electric network.

Keven Brasseur, president of the Commission de la Relève de la Coalition Avenir Québec.

Alluding to the CAQ’s policy convention in May last year which focused on environmental issues, Legault noted that a key conclusion during that first CAQ gathering since the October 2018 election was that Quebec’s hydro electric grid should play a key role in helping re-empower the province’s economy.

Ensuring food security

And while acknowledging that public and private modes of transportation as well as industry are already being retooled for this “greener” way of doing things, Legault suggested that environmentally-sustainable methods could also be implemented to assure food security.

“For me, one the great fears I had as I was trying to reassure everyone last March was that we would not be able to import fruits and vegetables during the crisis,” he said, alluding to the start of the COVID-19 crisis, in a keynote address delivered during last weekend’s online event.

The focus on local

“I was truly afraid of that. And it sort of accelerated the necessity of going towards food autonomy.” Out of all the food products consumed in the province, Legault noted that only around half actually are produced in Quebec.

For example, only about two per cent of the wine consumed in Quebec is made here, he said. As well, he pointed out that beef is largely imported from western Canada, although Quebec has the means to raise and process cattle on its own territory.

“There are a lot of areas of production that could be given a second look, and this is an area, agriculture, that young people could look into,” Legault told the mostly young caquistes who took part in last weekend’s gathering.

Criticizes Chinese tactics

In addition to his comments on a greener approach for reviving the province as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, Legault said certain questionable business practices being used by the People’s Republic of China are undermining Quebec’s plans for resuscitating its own economy.

“We are exporting for $3 billion worth to China, but we are importing $12 billion in products from the Chinese every year, for a commercial deficit of $3 billion,” he said. “This has consequences on our economy.

“And I think we will just say things they way they are,” added Legault. “The Chinese often don’t make calls for bids, they play with their exchange rates. And also the Chinese don’t always protect the patents of North American companies. So what I would like is that we are competitive, that we are aggressive, [although] we will not be able to replace all Chinese products.”

Large commercial deficit

Legault said he and Quebec Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade Pierre Fitzgibbon had recently worked on identifying products which could be produced in Quebec, and they talked about working collaboratively with provinces such as Alberta and Ontario and their respective Premiers, Jason Kenney and Doug Ford.

‘One the great fears I had as I was trying to reassure everyone last March was that we would not be able to import fruits and vegetables during the crisis,’ said Legault

“We need to work together, because all of Canada has a large commercial deficit with China,” he said. “If we put our Canadian weight together, and we could think at the same time of working with the Americans, then we could maybe be competive for certain products.”

Carbon-neutrality goal

In other developments during the webcast, the CAQ membership decided that before the United Nations holds its COP 26 climate change conference after the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial government should take measures to set carbon-neutrality as a goal for Quebec to achieve by the year 2050.

The current pandemic offers us a unique opportunity unique to get ahead of things with regards to future generations,” said Keven Brasseur, president of the Commission de la Relève de la Coalition Avenir Québec, which organized last weekend’s webcast event.

The CRCAQ is also asking the CAQ government to promote the idea of the province’s work force being able to alternate between working from home and the workplace. “It is important that during this time of pandemic, young people should be able to maintain a balance between work and family and studies,” the CRCAQ said in a statement.