The number of new cases of COVID-19 continues to decline, deconstruction is happening step by step, in short, Quebec’s economy is slowly moving into recovery mode. Last September, the Legault government presented its plan to boost economic activities, which can be summed up in one formula: concrete and tar.
It mainly consists of 181 infrastructure projects ranging from building homes for the elderly to renovating roads, including the extension of the Blue Line to the Montreal Metro.
Is this stimulus package the right one? Some strongly question it, including Clement Gignac, senior vice president and chief economist of the iA Financial Group, who, at the time of the unveiling of Bill 66, made a resounding journey in the media to denounce “an old recipe applied to an unprecedented process of crisis.” “.
In fact, governments used to extricate themselves from economic downturns with massive infrastructure projects, and the central idea is that this is revitalizing firms linked to the construction sector – which is always important in the economy. – which has quick repercussions for other major sectors: energy, manufacturing, consumption, etc. The catch? This time, we are not facing a “classic” recession, but a crisis that we have never seen before because it is at the same time economic, social and healthy. As a result, nothing says the usual solution – concrete and tar – will be effective. Especially since a number of economists, such as Mr. Gignac, had looked into the matter and came to the conclusion that the Legault government plan would not be sufficient, or even not relevant.
What to do It turns out that the Finance Ministry asked itself last year and had an idea to use economists’ insights to see more clearly in this extraordinary crisis. The academic community in Quebec appealed to economists, asking them to make concrete and innovative proposals to restart our economy. And these academics were happy to answer the call!
As a result, 26 studies and reports are overflowing with new ideas, including a small selection …
1. Create a “local result”
In the view of Bernard Corray, professor in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences at Laval University, the restaurant sector could be used to boost Quebec’s economy. It is suggested to have a “local score” for each restaurant, that is, a score indicating the degree to which the restaurant owner supports the local economy. This result will be determined according to several criteria: the volume of food purchases from local producers, the proportion of local suppliers, the geographical proximity of the suppliers, etc.
“We can imagine a digital platform that brings together all Quebec restaurant owners interested in boosting the local economy. This platform will be membership on a voluntary basis by restaurants,” he explains in his study.
Consumers keen to support the local economy can use this tool to choose their restaurant when planning a picnic. like himAnd the The government can use this indicator as a benchmark for awarding grants to restaurants.
Bernard Corray addressed the issue of restaurants because it is his area of expertise. But one can very well imagine generalizing this indicator to other sectors of the activity, and then creating a company poster – with an easily identifiable logo – that makes it possible to highlight the actors in the local economy.
2. To provide a “climate dividend” for all Quebecers
We can leverage the recovery to encourage citizens to take positive action for the environment themselves, for example by paying them a “climate dividend”, according to the work of the research team led by Christopher Ragan, professor of economics at McGill University. The idea is simple: leverage the Green Fund – valued at $ 800 million annually thanks to the carbon market – to distribute funds to all Quebecers, which can be used to fund personal projects that respect the environment.
“Twice a year Quebecers receive a check with a letter inviting them to spend the amount in an environmental manner, that is, in order to reduce their carbon emissions. The shipment may be accompanied by a brochure with concrete suggestions: buy public transport tickets, an electric bike, or local food, Or a smart home thermostat, or even an energy-saving device, as stated in the study signed by McGill researchers.
The government can give everyone the same return. This would have the advantage of including all Quebecers in a collective effort to combat climate change, while helping to pull the province out of recession. “ Sure, people with lower incomes are more likely to use that amount to cover their basic daily expenses, but that’s not so bad: Others, who generally have a higher carbon footprint, tend to follow instructions, which will have a clear effect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They explain.
The amount earmarked for “climate dividend” will depend on the priorities of current and future governments and their choice to use the green box for other programs. For example, if we decided today to allocate a little more than half of the green box for dividends, Quebecers would receive $ 75 per adult and $ 30 per child, or $ 210 per year for a family. Four people, which would represent a total annual cost of $ 550 million, according to calculations by Christopher Ragan’s team.
Finally, it should be noted that British Columbia actually offers such profits. Pays up to $ 135 per adult and up to $ 40 per child each year.
3. Create an interregional exchange network for entrepreneurs
The overnight closure of borders and the suspension of economic activity slowed down many supply chains, and sometimes even broke them down: entrepreneurs found themselves cut off from their suppliers abroad (the US, China, and Europe), and thus had to limit their activities, or even ban them altogether. . In short, the pandemic was – and sometimes still is – a real nightmare.
Hence the idea of a team of researchers led by Daniel J. Carron, a professor at the National School of Public Administration (ENAP), to take advantage of the reboot to activate new logistics networks, and even new ones, better than relationships between entrepreneurs in Quebec.
This could create a digital platform where a Beauce entrepreneur could find and contact a service provider in Eastern Townships, whenever he or she is accustomed to doing business with an American or Asian supplier. “This platform will enhance the pooling of interests and experiences among local entrepreneurs,” the study said. It will be a collaborative space where it will be easy to exchange ideas, resources and projects. “
Trust between entrepreneurs will build on its own as the exchange takes place on the digital platform. As the researchers say: “Then some form of virtual proximity will begin to transcend physical territorial boundaries.” Result? Everyone can find new ideas, new projects to join, or even business partners.
4. Extending a strong helping hand to youth
The data reveals that the most vulnerable workers before the crisis – especially the youth – are also the hardest hit by the economic backlash to COVID, as noted by Finance Ministry Professor Jean-Michel Coseno, of the school’s School of Industrial Relations. University of Montreal and PhD student Elian Racine. “If we want to reduce inequalities, or at least prevent them from increasing, we must invest in human capital,” they note.
The work of other researchers led by Catherine Hayek, professor of economics at UQAM, highlights a simple idea in this regard: funding internships for fresh graduates. They suggest that “there should be a funded internship program and subsidized jobs in the private and public sectors.” Legault government has to take the lead in this process and bear a large portion of the costs given that few companies currently have the means to do so. “
This will be accompanied by two additional measures:
-> Establishing a motivational program to pursue studies. With the crisis, a number of students hesitated between continuing their studies and getting a job before there was no job, and “going back to school would definitely be a good investment for them and the community,” believes the team led by Catherine Hick.
Reviewing Quebec’s loan and scholarship program, at least to put new and upcoming graduates, who find themselves in uncomfortable situations due to the crisis. The study stressed that “the epidemic is likely to seriously jeopardize the development of their life projects.”
In other words, it is about lending a strong hand to young people about to enter the job market. Meanwhile, for companies that need new talent more than ever. Because both of them are paralyzed today, but together they will be able to recover and grow.
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