(Host) New political administrations in Vermont and Quebec mean new opportunities for strengthened ties between the two.
As VPR’s Neal Charnoff reports, Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie wants to expand the relationship.
VPR’s Neal Charnoff reports:
(Charnoff) Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie says the time is right for Vermont to reacquaint itself with Quebec, the state’s biggest trading partner. Newly-elected premier Jean Charest is expected to concentrate on Quebec’s economics, and on it’s weakening health care system.
In an effort to establish relations with Quebec’s new government, Governor Jim Douglas has appointed Dubie to be Vermont’s ambassador to Canada. Dubie says he plans to act as a liason for business leaders above and below the border.
(Dubie) “We can brainstorm ideas to increase trade or tourism or economic development, or perhaps find solutions in prescription drugs. There’s gonna be a lot of dollars spent in improving the Canadian health care that would present opportunities for U.S. companies, and Vermont companies.”
(Charnoff) According to Dubie, Vermont’s computer chip industry is strong enough to compete with nations such as Taiwan and Singapore. But he points out that while labor is becoming less of an issue for production, Vermont’s electric rates are prohibitive.
(Dubie) “We need to look long-term, strategically, and figure out ways to address the fact that rates are pretty high in our state. You know, they’re top ten in our nation, our neighbors to the north have a lot of electrical power.”
(Charnoff) Dubie says high electric rates are a problem for all of Vermont’s industries, including dairy farmers. He notes that all options for power resources, including Hydro-Quebec, are being considered.
(Dubie) “My service as a lieutenant governor isn’t to pick out winners or loser, or Plan A or Plan B. My spirit is to build relationships that could put more options on the table in electrical power, so that Hydro-Quebec is on the table.”
(Charnoff) Dubie is also the chair of the governor’s Homeland Security Advisory Council. He says an effort must be made to strike a balance between border security and the trade and tourism industries.
(Dubie) “Two billion dollars of products go north from our state, to Quebec, and $1.9 billion come south. So we need to balance those two concerns. We need a border that enhances our security, and increases our economic security, increases trade. And that’s a challenge.”
(Charnoff) Dubie’s first step as a representative of the Douglas administration was to meet with U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Celluci. On April 29, Dubie will attend the inauguration of Premier Jean Charest.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Neal Charnoff.