July | August 2017



 

MNA Guy Ouellette (right) and MNA Guy Leclair (left) of Québec serve as the 2016 co-chairs of
The Council of State Governments’ Eastern Regional Conference. They will host the 56th Annual Meeting Aug. 7–10 in Québec City, Québec, Canada. They believe that state and provincial leaders must work together to achieve economic prosperity on both sides of the border.
 
By CSG Staff

What is the most important issue facing state and provincial policymakers
in your region in 2016?

OUELLETTE: “The economy should be a concern shared by every legislator of both eastern states and Canadian provinces. The slow recovery since the Great Recession of 2007–2008 is a major issue that continues to challenge policymakers on both sides of the border. We all need to work together to be able to spot and seize opportunities to get out of this long recovery phase and enter an era of prosperity.”
LECLAIR: “The road to prosperity is not an easy one: The population is aging and states and provinces have lagging revenue growth. We need to be more creative to diversify our economy and ensure that governments meet their commitments in terms of providing health care, keeping our infrastructures safe and making sure that our youth is provided with good opportunities through a modern education system.”

What is an issue that you believe your region is “getting right”? What
achievements are being made on the state or provincial level?

OUELLETTE: “I think the best example of our region making positive strides is in the area of climate change. The eastern states have had a regional initiative to reduce greenhouse gases since 2005. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was the first mandatory cap-and-trade program in the United States to limit carbon dioxide from the power sector.1 … Québec and Ontario also share a carbon market with California.”
LECLAIR: “We are also making strides toward looking at ways to cope with severe weather events resulting from global climate change through resiliency planning. ERC has been very effective in this area, having hosted a conference on state responses to severe weather in Boston over a year ago.”
 

Partisanship in governance often makes the headlines. How are leaders in your province and region rising above polarization to achieve the best interests of constituents?

OUELLETTE: “I think we can point to success on how we are working together on the U.S.-Canada border issue and, in order to do so, putting our partisanship aside. State and provincial officials from all parties in our region recognize the importance of the trading relationship between our countries.”
LECLAIR: “This cross-border trade amounts to over $1.2 billion a day. … We share the same concerns over border security, and people from both countries and from all parties came together and worked hard to promote a balance between the need to secure our borders and the need to ensure the free flowing of goods and people across the U.S.-Canadian border.”

What initially led you to pursue elected office?

OUELLETTE: “Having world-renowned expertise in outlaw motorcycle gangs (mainly in the Hells Angels) and having worked in the Québec police force for 32 years (1969–2001) in my previous career, I was asked by then-Premier Jean Charest to serve as MNA for Chomedey in March 2007, and I have been elected four times since then.”
LECLAIR: “Helping my fellow citizens, ensuring that everyone is treated fairly and helping people who often feel helpless against the various levels of government—this is a part of me that comes naturally.”
 

Serving as a legislator can often be a thankless job. What is it about your role that motivates you to keep moving forward, even on challenging days?

OUELLETTE: “My quest for justice. The possibility of serving Québecers and making their life better on a daily basis. Every bill we adopt changes their future.”
LECLAIR: “Serving as a legislator is a demanding job, but we can change things and truly impact the lives of our fellow citizens. I really enjoy serving Québecers.”

States are often called the laboratories of democracy and incubators of innovation. How can states and provinces continue to demonstrate their leadership as they tackle the issues of 2016?

LECLAIR: “States and provincial legislators are often the ones who mostly impact the lives of citizens directly. For instance, in Québec, we are responsible for health care and education, which are of prime importance to our population. … Providing these important services requires constant creativity, and we need to come up with solutions that will ensure their sustainability.”
OUELLETTE: “When I look south of the border, the states’ responses to an unstable federal funding for transportation can be inspiring. States and local jurisdictions have been
taking matters into their own hands and became laboratories for fiscal innovation … gasoline taxes, tax on fuel at a wholesale level, dedicated sales tax for transportation and floated toll revenue bonds.”
 

How can CSG help states in this effort?

LECLAIR: “The role of CSG and ERC is to facilitate the sharing of information on new approaches to the public policy challenges we face, such as new approaches to financing transportation infrastructure. By bringing state leaders together at conferences like the annual meeting, state officials can discuss and test new ideas and approaches to various public policy challenges and bring the best ideas back home.”
 

Why did you initially become involved in CSG?

OUELLETTE: “The National Assembly of Québec was the first international affiliate member of CSG and the ERC, and is really proud of it. Guy and I understand the importance of such an organization. Our economies are so integrated and our partnership is so deep that we share the same objectives on both sides of the border. … Each time I go to an ERC/CSG conference, I learn a great deal; I feel inspired by my peers. I become aware of the new challenges ahead of us. It’s also an opportunity for my counterparts to learn more about Québec and realize how similar we are to eastern states.”
 

How can state and provincial officials get involved in CSG and maximize
the opportunities they have through the organization?

OUELLETTE: “State officials can get involved by requesting appointments to regional policy committees, attending annual conferences—which are open to all state and provincial officials
—and requesting publications and newsletters provided by CSG and ERC. The training programs offer excellent ways to become involved in the organization. These programs build critical leadership skills and can help state and provincial officials become more effective in their roles back in their respective state or province. ERC’s Eastern Leadership Academy program is open to all state and provincial officials from all branches of government.”
 

What do you hope to achieve as co-chair of CSG’s Eastern Regional Conference in 2016?

LECLAIR: “We hope to continue the important cross-border dialogue between the eastern states and provinces in order to ensure continued economic growth for our regions and to remain competitive in the global market. I would also like to further my American counterparts’ understanding of Québec. That’s why it will be a pleasure for us to host the ERC’s 56th Annual Meeting in Québec City.”