Saturday, February 28, 2009

Québec Solidaire Another Plan for the Quebec Economy

Québec solidaire, the leftist Quebec separatist party (as distinct from the Partie Quebecois, the other leftist Quebec separatist party) is holding a conference this weekend to discuss the origins of the current 'economic crisis'. Specifically, QS's hypothesis is that those responsible for degradation of the economy, and the environment are the same. While QS has not yet explained the nature of this linkage the statement in itself sounds pretty strange.

It is generally accepted that the economic crisis was caused by the collapse of credit and major banking institutions in the United States. It is certainly true that oil companies, for example in the Canadian tar-sands are having significant environmental impacts. It's far less clear how these are the companies responsible for the economic crisis. Hopefully, this supposed relationship will be made clear after QS's conference.

Proposing eco-friendly infrastructure projects as part of a stimulus package are neither a bad, nor novel idea. Indeed, the creation of "green collar jobs" were, and still are part of Obama's stimulus package for the US. Ontario also plans on investing in the development of new wind farms--though more as an ecological measure than an economic one. These are praiseworthy efforts that could create jobs, help the environment and, to a degree, ease our dependence on fossil fuels. They are not, however, the only way the economy will be supported.

QS proposes a seven step plan to resolve the economic crisis facing Quebec (well, really the world, but all politics are local.) Though I did look, I was unable to find any real, expert analysis of these seven points. On their face, some of them seem problematic.

For example, 'massive investment into social housing.' Social housing (whatever that is--undefined in the economic plan) is a nice idea, but, homes for who? Are these homes to be given away? Will taxes need to be paid on them? Who will own these houses and the land they're on? Based on how the proposal is drafted, is sounds like these new residences will be rented. Why would the government not want to encourage more Quebecers to buy their own, new homes, rather than live in rented, mass produced government built rental units?

Investing in the "social economy" (read: cooperatives) especially in the ecological field is also one of the QS seven. Such corporate structures, which 'share the wealth' are nice ideas, especially as they help the environment, but what would they do? Is there really a demand for a product or service high enough that all this investment will produce viable businesses? Creating a company, is not the same as creating a market. One needs the other.

Another item on QS's list is raising the minimum wage by $2.00 and supporting small companies that will need to pay their workers more. Yes! Putting more money in people's pockets is a good thing but how is this going to work? Based on QS's plan, only small companies and non-profits who pay workers the minimum wage will be supported. What about medium sized enterprises? What about industries in Quebec that have become successes, have many minimum wage employees and are falling on hard times, for example, the clothing industry. Will they be punished for their success, for becoming "large?" A company's size does not necessarily make it more able to weather an economic storm. Look at the CBC itself for example, and the hard times it's facing. Furthermore, what about employees whose salaries are currently fixed at a certain rate above minimum wage? For example, an employee who currently earns only 2 dollars more than the minimum, will, under the QS plan, become a minimum wage earner unless their salary is raised too. The plan does not seen to account for this.

Keeping employers on life support works only up to a point. What is conspicuously absent from the QS plan are any efforts to help increase the market share and exports of products from Quebec around the world and by encouraging investment in Quebec. Both of which are options that can inject new money into the economy. Working both on its own as a province by taking advantage of the offices it's been paying to maintain around the world for all these years and (gasp) in cooperation with the federal government, Quebec should be aggressively promoting its industries in new and emerging markets and well as looking to grow its market share with existing trading partners. Quebec also needs to promote itself as a safe place for investors to park their money. Talk of separatism does NOT encourage that.

Like their separatist cousins the PQ, QS seems misguided about what to do for the Quebec economy. One thing that's got to be handed to them though, at least they have a plan!


citizen said...

Don't criticize them so harshly. I am for the QS and everything they stand for. More power to them.
The stronger they get, the bigger the split in the separatist vote.
In fact, my stimulus measures would include starting 2 or 3 more parties just like them. Flood the ridings with separatists candidates. Give the voters more options.
Maybe someone should tell Harper. Or maybe Charest. That would help the Canadian economy in more ways than one.

Charlie H. Ettinson said...

Careful what you wish for! For starters, if you read French, you should check out the QS website. They are the farthest to the left in the Quebec provincial mainstream. Left or right is not necessarily a bad thing, but to be to the extreme of one or the other can be.

I would also support the reduction of the chances of a separatist party coming to power in Quebec. For this reason, I was quite pleased the first time I ever heard of QS. More parties, however, create at least the appearance of more momentum behind the separatist movement. That could pressure even a federal or federalist provincial government to cater to the demands of separatists and present an image of instability to outside observers.