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COVID-19 – Economic Policy Options for Managing and Recovering from the Crisis in Quebec and Canada

This document reflects proposed economic policy options for managing and recovering from the crisis in Quebec and Canada, with a trifold purpose: help manage the health crisis, support our economies in the short term, and contribute to build a better economic infrastructure in the longer term.

Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, governments are urged to take significant actions in the lives of citizens through:

1.      Supporting the health care system to meet the health care demand, which they attempt to reduce through containment and precautionary measures in the hope of flattening the virus spread curve;

2.      Introducing measures to support workers and businesses forced to shut down during this health crisis and to stabilize the financial system;

3.      Implementing policies to promote a healthy rebound in economic activity beyond the crisis and thus accelerate the return to “a normal life” as soon as possible.

Medical breakthroughs or a warmer climate might overcome the current health crisis; however, the entire planet will be very likely caught in a funnel and fall into a long and deep recession.

In the post-COVID-19 world:

  • Governments will be both more indebted and more present in society and the economy;
  • Ecommerce, teleworking and digital governance activities will have taken on huge proportions and will shift our societies into the digital age faster than expected;
  • “Deglobalization” will take the form of a push toward local and national markets;
  • Environmental concerns, coupled with new social tensions, will make collective decisions more challenging and complex;
  • New forms of cooperation and collaboration between the private and public sectors will prevail, due to financial constraints and the scarcity of specific resources, chiefly in the health care and food business.

According to the main thrust of this paper, designing policy responses, for Quebec and Canada as well, so as to “kill three birds with one stone”, i.e. to manage the health crisis, support the economy during this compulsory pause and bounce back quickly in the aftermath of the shock, is possible if our actions are based on a long-range vision of society.

Based on this vision, our society will be:

  • set up with a “strategic reserve” to deal with future crises;
  • supported through robust and efficient regional and sector-based ecosystems, capable of managing the trifold transition - demographic, ecological and digital - our world is facing;
  • driven by a decentralized government, with regions relying on digital and artificial intelligence tools to reach out to citizens, to provide them with services and to revamp democratic engagement while respecting their privacy.

Four immediate public-private initiatives are proposed to design these actions.

The first initiative is intended to strengthen and even develop our Quebec and Canadian industry in the manufacturing of medical and paramedical equipment, in cooperation with the other provinces and the federal government.

The second initiative is designed to reinforce our local agri-food industry, through an acceleration of its digital shift, thereby fostering the implementation of high-level food safety, traceability and logistic standards.

The third initiative is purposed to expedite digital and robotics shift of our transportation and logistic infrastructures.

In addition to these three initiatives, a fourth project is intended to set up a “strategic reserve” to deal with future crises.

We can move forward straightaway with this set of recommendations to help position Quebec and Canada among the societies who have managed to overcome COVID-19.

This unprecedented health crisis provides us with a great opportunity to position Quebec as a modern, inclusive and democratic economy. We definitely cannot miss this opportunity.

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