To begin with, we must remember that we have abundant resources that will allow us to easily transition from our current situation to an independent Quebec. Our mining sector ranks among the top ten producers in world. The main minerals being mined in Quebec are iron, gold, copper and zinc. We also produce titanium, silver, magnesium and nickel as well as many other metals and industrial minerals, including diamonds. And that's just the beginning: 60% of our mineral potential remains unexplored. Forestry is also a sector that can contribute to our development.
We also have large reserves of drinking water. Within the context of global warming, this resource will become increasingly important. Moreover, hydro-power also puts us in an enviable position in this regard, allowing us to attract energy-intensive industries or for export in the case of rising electricity prices. In a similar vein, the St. Lawrence River is an important strategic resource since its waterway reaches the heart of North America. As an independent country, we would be able to regulate traffic and impose regulations and tariffs that seem most appropriate to us without having to account for Ontario's needs. Currently, the bulk of maritime traffic through the St. Lawrence is directed to the Great Lakes without any real benefits for us. The benefits are primarily for the Toronto area.
Finally, our main wealth is, and should remain, our brains. Quebec scientists, artists, athletes and innovators are already bringing Quebec to the world. Having a population that is three times as bilingual and seven times more trilingual as anywhere else on the continent also represents an important economic asset for us.
For any state, possessing wealth - natural or otherwise - is not enough, it must be able to develop competitive industries and companies. It must also be able to protect its strategic interests, that is to say, the competitive advantages it has over other states in certain industries. Like other nations of the world, we too must defend our strategic interests. However, our interests do not always coincide with those of Ottawa. By remaining a province of Canada, we are entrusting an important part of our economic levers to another nation which often has other objectives.
First of all, the industries that get support from the Canadian and Quebec governments are not the same. On the one hand, there is the oil and automobile industries, and on the other, there is renewable energy, aerospace and forestry. When the automobile industry based in Ontario experienced difficulties in 2009, the Canadian government invested $10 billion to help maintain jobs, but when at the same time, similar difficulties were felt in our forestry industry, it was essentially our government in Quebec that came to its aid. As for oil, $1.4 billion are invested each year by Ottawa (over $60 billion since 1970). Meanwhile, Hydro-Québec had to be financed almost exclusively by our government and has never had the benefit of any significant Canadian funding.
Our economic weakness as a province of Canada can also be seen in the area of international trade agreements. The global economy is governed by a multitude of trade agreements concluded between independent states. Canada rarely negotiates and signs these agreement with our interests in mind, but rather with those of the larger Canadian economy (mainly that of Ontario and Alberta). The recent free trade agreement with the European Union demonstrated this once again. During the final negotiations, the Canadian government offered Europe the import 17,000 tons of cheese in exchange for the opportunity to export 50,000 tons of Canadian beef. As European farmers are more subsidized than ours, this deal will greatly harm our cheese industry, which represents 60% of the Canadian total. Obviously, the beef industry, based mainly in Alberta, is satisfied with this outcome.
Everyone makes choices according to their own interests. We can't blame Canadians for wanting to defend their economic interests here and abroad. But then why should the people of Quebec have to justify their determination to defend their own economic interests? Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for us to adequately defend these interests as a province of Canada.
As an independent country, we could better use the money we currently send to Ottawa. The Government of Canada spends billions in areas that are of no interests to the majority of Quebecers. Examples are numerous: intensive military spending, subsidies to oil, the Senate, the Governor General, the monarchy, etc. Under military spending, Canada has more than doubled its funding in the last 14 years ($10.1 billion in 1998-1999 to $21.7 billion in 2013-2014). Canada's 2008-2028 defense plan will cost $490 billion. Therefore, Ottawa will require us to spend almost $113 billion on the military while we are being forced to cut spending on health and education. The plan includes more than $33 billion for the purchase of new ships for the Royal Canadian Navy, of which not a penny will be spent in Quebec, despite the fact that the Lévis shipyard is one of the world's best.
Among these examples of forced expenditure must be added the purchase of more than a billion dollars a year of services paid by Quebec to Ontario via the Government of Canada. Since the majority of the Canadian public service is established on our neighbor's territory, they largely benefit from the money we pay in taxes. Independence would enable us to bring home the bulk of this economic activity.
In addition, many Canadian programs or departments spend far less in Quebec than its economic or demographic weight would merit. As an independent country, we will stop paying for the Canadian Wheat Board, which mainly benefits the West. We will also cease to pay for the Canadian nuclear program, whose expenditures are mainly made in Ontario. Canada has 22 nuclear reactors, 20 of which are in Ontario. Quebec only had one, Gentilly, which will be closed for economic reasons. As an independent country, we will stop paying for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, whose expenses are incurred mainly in British Columbia and the Maritime provinces.
Another striking example is the system of Canadian tax credits that punishes us for some of our social choices. For example, our child care program costs us $149 million in tax credits because child care costs are lower in Quebec than is the rest of Canada. The situation is the same for tuition, we choose to keep our tuition low to promote access to school. The Canadian system, organized around the reality of other provinces, deprives Quebec students of $100 million in unused Canadian tax credits.
We must also consider the significant savings that would be achieved by eliminating the duplication of government. As an independent country, we would not have to pay for two Ministries of Finance, Health, Revenue, Natural Resources, International Relations, etc. Canadian officials of these ministries spend a lot of time administering parallel programs that could be streamlined or eliminated if control is passed to Quebec. One of the most absurd examples of such duplication is that of the Canadian Ministry of Health, which employs 9079 staff but only manages one hospital.
To add to all this, several studies have been done on the effects independence would have on the public finances of Quebec. The latest was done by Stéphane Gobeil who clearly showed that the savings would be in the order of $7.5 billion whereas the costs would be of $5.5 billion. So as an independent country, we would save about $2.0 billion in the first year. In the past, other studies on this issue have all demonstrated the benefits of independence. In 1994, Jacques Parizeau ordered a study on costs and revenues of independence from the Minister for Restructuring, which indicated that we would have saved nearly three billion in 1995. In 2005, François Legault's "Budget of the Year 1" estimated that independence would generate more than five billion dollars in surplus.
With the savings generated by independence, our room for maneuver would be wider, allowing us more choices. For example, a more interventionist government could invest in our strategic sectors, a more conservative government could lower our taxes, while a more left-wing government could reinvest in health and education.
Overall, being a province of Canada does not benefit us economically. We have all the potential to become a rich nation, free and prosperous. Already as a simple province, we have a modern and diversified economy which compares favorably with that of many sovereign countries. However, to face the economic challenges ahead and to bring about solutions that truly meet our needs, we need to decide our own economic future. Our political subordination, however, leaves us with very little leeway. Independence will not bring paradise on earth. We will still have to deal with a number of economic issues like natural resources management, public finance management, defending our economic interests, fighting against poverty, improving living conditions, etc. The difference is that we will have all the tools that allow us to face these challenges. We will, in short, have the power to put into action our own economic vision and undertake projects that fit that vision.