Opinion letter by Yves-Thomas Dorval, President & CEO, Quebec Employers Council
Montreal Gazette, p. A10 – February 10, 2016
With the recent cabinet shuffle, Premier Philippe Couillard is seeking to begin a new chapter in his government’s response to Quebec’s economic lethargy. Now that the National Assembly is back in session, and with a new budget expected soon, it is imperative that the government place a greater emphasis on dealing with the major economic challenges facing us now and in the years to come. Here are three priorities the government should focus on:
1. The economy: An inclusive, mobilizing and positive dialogue
The government must do its part to foster a stable, predictable business environment, one that isn’t dependent on the flavour of the month, but stems from a willingness to provide fertile ground for development projects.
The government should spare no effort to restore the hunger to succeed, and to generate more private investment in every economic sector. Economic development needs to become a unifying force again, inclusive and attractive for investors and businesses, as well as for Quebecers as a whole.
2. The economy: Stimulate through innovation and training
At the dawn of the 21st century, it’s high time for the province of Quebec to leap headlong into the fourth Industrial Revolution. Development and technological innovation; the advent of the digital economy and its new methods of design, production and sharing; the full-fledged implementation of managerial styles that take the requirements of younger generations into account; the transition to a low-carbon economy: these are some of the elements of this fourth Industrial Revolution that Quebec must address, so it can adapt and lead the way, rather than passively submit.
This new mindset has to translate into concrete and concerted strategies to meet the needs of high value-added industries (traditional or emerging). To do so, we must focus on three essential pillars. First and foremost is education, including financial and educational learning. From elementary school to university, this is where the future of our society is built and where the thirst for knowledge and entrepreneurship needs to be further rooted. Quebec needs to train a skilled labour force that can swiftly and efficiently meet the needs of the job market in the context of an aging population. Second, the new Ministry of the Economy, which is now responsible for science and innovation and digital strategy, should help link economic development and solutions to the challenges posed by contemporary technologies. This can happen by encouraging more joint efforts between our universities and businesses. And, third, the ministries of Energy and Natural Resources, Transport and Municipal Affairs should play a highly strategic role in discussions surrounding the major infrastructure projects, in the context of the federal government’s reinvestment announcement, and in striving to adapt to climate change.
3. The economy: Modernize the state
There need to be continued efforts to reduce the tax burden on individuals and businesses, as well as pursuing the regulatory relief initiatives that have been started. But there is still a considerable amount of work to do to modernize the state. The government must stay the course with its objective of balancing the budget, while lightening its bureaucratic apparatus. It needs to agree to conduct an in-depth modernization of its processes and networks, notably in the area of procurement, by combining the private sector’s flexibility and efficiency with public values.
We have the collective duty to honour a commitment to future generations, and that pledge is to prosper without hampering their ability to do likewise. And innovation isn’t only about technology — it’s social, regulatory, political, financial, fiscal, economic, and so on. The global economic slowdown and uncertainty are generating strong headwinds for our economy and this provides a stark reminder of the need to shift into second gear, as the premier stated. But the government cannot meet the demands and challenges of our time, and fulfil its promise of a better, more prosperous society, unless it lends an attentive ear to businesses and employers.