Charest 'preoccupied' by U.S. crisis but insists Quebec situation solid
Jean Charest admits he's following the financial crisis in the United States closely but the Quebec premier insists Canada is in better shape financially than its southern neighbour.
"I don't have to tell you to what point we are all preoccupied by the events which are happening south of us," he said in a speech Tuesday to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.
"We're following that almost hour by hour."
But Charest said he wanted to reiterate that the situation in Canada is very different than in the United States.
"Our financial institutions are solid. We haven't had the period of inflation, the bubble in the residential sector which the Americans experienced, which created this environment," he added.
Charest noted there are also political differences when it comes to dealing with a crisis.
"Our political system in Quebec and Canada is better adapted to deal with an emergency when we have to do something short term which is tough and unpopular," he said.
Charest said Quebec and Canadian politicians are less vulnerable because they don't have to follow party lines in caucus.
But the head of the group that represents Quebec's manufacturers and exporters says he hopes the U.S. crisis is resolved soon because it's a prime market for the province.
Jean-Luc Trahan pointed out in an interview that 75 per cent of Quebec's exports go to the United States.
"What we're worried about is the longer this crisis lasts, the longer we're in a period of uncertainty," he said.
Trahan said credit restrictions could hurt economic growth in the future.
"As long as you have credit, you can make transactions, [but] if that stops, there is a going to be a period where no transactions will take place, and that's going to affect us," he added.
"All decisions taken there affect our productivity and our market, and that's why we're preoccupied."
Trahan also suggested now might be the time for Canadian exporters to buy companies south of the border.
"Our market is small so we have to think about globalization. So, maybe it's an opportunity for us to buy other companies there."
Charest also talked about what he calls a "new economic space" for Quebec, which would include closer ties with France and Europe.
He's also calling for a new trade agreement between Canada and Europe that he says should be "the most ambitious ever concluded" and could include the free mobility of workers.