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Ontario 'well-positioned to decouple from adversarial foreign regimes': finance minister

Ontario is ready to cut ties with bad trading partners, according to the province's finance minister
Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy listens to Ontario Premier Doug Ford speak after touring the Oakville Stamping and Bending Limited facility in Oakville, Ont., on Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

Whether you call it "friend-shoring" or "conscious decoupling," Ontario is ready to cut ties with bad trading partners, according to the province's finance minister.

Speaking to a parliamentary committee Tuesday, Peter Bethlenfalvy said the province has a more self-sufficient economy that can withstand choppy geopolitical waters.

"Ontario is well positioned to decouple from adversarial foreign regimes that have no intentions of being reliable, or fair trading partner," he said in opening remarks on a meeting to examine the finance ministry's budgetary estimates.

Later, he told The Trillium he was speaking about the same concept that his federal counterpart, Chrystia Freeland, calls "friend-shoring": strengthening trading ties with countries that share Canada's democratic values and becoming less reliant on those that don't.

"I just don't like that term," he said.

Bethlenfalvy added that he's focused less on friendship with trading partners than reshoring some economic activity to ensure Ontario's independence, he said. His prime example is the critical minerals that are the foundation of the Ford government's plan to build a complete electric vehicle supply chain in the province.

The finance minister wouldn't single out China as one of the "adversarial foreign regimes" that Ontario should decouple from.

"Seventy-five per cent of the mining of cobalt is in Congo," he said, by way of an example of a mineral used in electric vehicle batteries. "We have a town in Ontario called Cobalt, you know ... It's not about picking on anybody. It's just been more of a self-reliant economy and, of course, working with people that share a number of our democratic values."

Overall, the finance minister said the province is living through some of the most uncertain times he's ever seen.

"With geopolitical tension provoked by Russia's aggression against Ukraine, the reopening of China's economy, the energy transition, and policies such as the United States' Inflation Reduction Act, more and more global trading partners have begun looking inwards"

— The Trillium