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The Province of Quebec

By Dave Lympany

As the only French speaking area in North America, the Province of Quebec is most certainly unique. Home to the separate native tribes of the Abenakis, Algonquian, Attikameks, Cree, Huron-Wendats, Innuu, Inuit, Malecites, Micmacs, Mohawks and Naskapis the first western settlers arrived in 1534. Jacques Cartier was the first westerner to set foot on the Quebec peninsula and claimed the area for France. Samuel de Champlain founded the city of Quebec in 1608 with King Louis XIV of France granting the status of Royal Province in 1663.

By the early 1700's the British were a powerful force in the "Upper Canada region and eventually General Wolfe defeated the French forces defending Quebec after the famous battle of Abraham Plains. The French finally ceded the rights to New France to the British in 1763 and the Province of Quebec joined the Federation in 1867. That wasn't to be the end of the drama in Quebec as first the "Quiet Revolution and then the rise of the separatist movement have all led to interesting times. Still a major part of Canada with abundant natural resources, Quebec is a truly diverse Province.

The Province of Qu"bec is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the south by the United States and New Brunswick, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and to the west by Ontario, the James and Hudson Bay's. Covering an enormous area of well in excess of 1.667 Million square Kilometers, Quebec is the largest Province in Canada and its land mass is one sixth of Canada's total! With one eighth of the territory being freshwater, the Province has exceptional natural resources and is famous for its Hydro electric power generation capacity that feeds the eastern seaboard of North America. Over 60% of the area is covered in dense forest.

There are four distinct seasons: spring is mild, a normally hot summer, a beautiful fall (that compares well to New England) and a winter that is white and cold. Seasonal temperatures and vegetation vary depending on the latitude - Quebec is such a huge landmass that the extreme north is in the Arctic Circle! Quebec has an astounding 27 national parks with the majority operated by Parcs Quebec, though some are administered by Parks Canada.

The province of Quebec is divided into 17 separate administrative regions Each administrative region of Qu"bec is responsible for providing all services essential to promoting and maintaining excellent quality of life for its citizens. Education, social and health care services, sports and leisure activities as well as transportation fall under the jurisdiction of the different levels of government in the region.

Political institutions refer to the National Assembly and the Executive Council, and to municipal institutions, the administrative organization of local municipalities, regional county municipalities (MRC), the Kativik Regional Administration, as well as to the Municipal Commission of Qu"bec. These institutions represent the seat of decision and power in Qu"bec. Qu"bec's parliamentary system is based on the British model. The National Assembly is composed of 125 members, each elected in a riding under the single-member constituency plurality system.

Established in 1791, the Qu"bec Parliament is one of the oldest in the world, aside from the British Parliament. It was established just after the US Congress but at the same time as the French National Assembly.

The last general election was held on April 14, 2003. The Qu"bec Liberal Party, and its leader Jean Charest, obtained 76 seats and forms the Government." Federally, the Province is well represented by the Bloc Quebecois, led by Gilles Duceppe and most recently held around 51 seats in the parliament who as recently as 1995 held a referendum to declare Quebec's sovereignty (which was defeated). Now they are not so separatist but there are still such rumblings around the Province.

Quebec has recently begun to offer some tax cuts though does add QST at 7.5% that is added AFTER the GST 0f 7% which totals an additional 15% on top of the price of goods you see in the shops.

With over 75% of its 7.5 million population French speaking, this is the primary language of the Province. English is a distant second placed though many people are bi lingual. French was passed as the official language of Quebec in 1974.

Quebec is an extremely historic city and with some magnificent architecture is almost 400 years old. The scene of the early struggles of the Canadians and then the francophone population, Quebec City certainly offers a unique experience. With world class cuisine and, the world famous Ch"teau Frontenac, perched atop towering Cape Diamond the city promises memories you will never forget. An exceptional place to live, the fortified city on the banks of the St Lawrence waterway is a UNESCO world heritage site that welcomes over 6 million visitors each year.

Montr"al is the major city of the Province with over 3.3 million inhabitants spread throughout its 19 boroughs and with 2 major airports (Trudeau and Mirabel) is definitely the powerhouse of the Quebec economy. The major aerospace manufacturing plants of Rolls Royce, Bombardier, Dowty and the technical base for Air Canada serve as major employers. With professional sports teams the Canadiens (ice hockey) and the allouettes (CFL) the city is well represented, with arts a major interest the international jazz festival offers jazz lovers a 2 week experience that is the envy of many cities.

Outaouais, - this is a large region that is on the Quebec side of the Ottawa river just across from Ottawa. Many federal civil servants live here and cross the river for each work day, living in the largest residential area of the region, the City of Gatineau.

The minimum wage is split into 3 distinct categories, the general wage is $7.60 per hour, the limit for people earning tips is $6.85 and those in the clothing industry is $8.10 - these are the 2005 rates. There are comprehensive laws that regulate the employment in Quebec and provide protection and rights for any employee's without a standard contract or decree. If you are new to the province I would recommend you thoroughly understand these rights and obligations.

The main Quebec economy has a GDP of C$250 million which is built upon several different areas of excellence:

Aerospace, IT, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals provide a strong area of technical expertise. The manufacturing industry (Montreal area is especially renowned for its transportation manufacturing - Bombardier for instance) are a major factor in the huge export of goods (82%) into the USA with around1/3rd of the GDP coming from external trade.

The natural resources are huge with 60% of the North American newsprint manufactured from the lumber in Quebec, mining of gold, iron, titanium, asbestos, copper, zinc and silver and the extensive hydro electric power plants. With over 50,000 new jobs being produced each year and estimated growth of over 2.5%, Quebec is definitely moving forwards, though the unemployment rate of 9.1% is still fairly high compared to other Canadian provinces.

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About The Author
Dave Lympany immigrated to Canada in 2003 and has constructed a free information website about Canadian Immigration and life in Canada based on his family's experiences.

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