Trudeau toured Lion Electric’s factory Saint-Jerome, Que. last March, just before the pandemic. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)
It was the prime minister’s first trip to Montreal in more than a year. He said one of the reasons he decided to attend the announcement was to illustrate the importance of the green economy for future job growth.
The project also aligns with the Legault government’s desire to create a supply chain within Quebec that is able to feed the electric vehicle industry.
At Monday’s announcement, Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon spoke at length about the province’s deposits of lithium and nickel – key components in electric vehicle batteries – as well as its supply of low-emission hydro-electricity.
“If we play our cards right, we could become world leaders in this market of the future,” Fitzgibbon said.
What’s in a name?
But Monday’s announcement was closely watched in Quebec for what it foretold about the political future as well.
Before the news conference, Trudeau toured a nearby vaccination clinic, feeding speculation in the province he is preparing to call an election soon.
Intrigue also surrounded the informal meeting Trudeau had with Legault on Monday. The Quebec premier, and members of his government, have repeatedly expressed frustration with Trudeau during the pandemic.
Several political observers in the province have noted that Legault often refers to Trudeau publicly as ‘Justin’ when discussing disagreements with the federal government. (Ivanoh Demers / Radio-Canada)
Among other things, they have blamed Ottawa for delays in monitoring incoming travelers and are adamantly opposed to Trudeau’s idea of implementing national standards for elderly care, which is seen by Quebec as a jurisdictional overreach.
Several political observers in the province have noted that Legault often refers to Trudeau publicly as “Justin” when discussing disagreements with the federal government.
Both attempted to downplay their differences on Monday. “He calls me François,” Legault said, responding to a question about his relations with Trudeau.
“No one expects the federal government and the provinces to agree on everything but they expect us to work together in a collaborative way,” Trudeau said.
Sources in the Quebec government told Radio-Canada that the two discussed health-care funding on Monday, one of the more urgent issues Legault wants to see resolved.
His finance minister, Eric Girard, will table a budget on March with a $ – billion deficit, caused mainly by pandemic-related spending.
Laws in the province require the government to balance the budget by 2023 – 25, and Legault has made it clear in recent interviews he is counting on increased health transfers to cover some of the gap.