Québec Inc was the name given to “one of the main legacies of the Quiet Revolution … [which] … allowed the emergence of a French-Canadian business class that … [it was hoped] … would have paved the way for the economic emancipation of Quebecers and would eventually facilitate their political emancipation. Jacques Parizeau often spoke about.” But, journalist Claude Villeneuve continues, in Le Journal de Québec, explaining that Québec Inc. is more “myth” than reality. But it is a large “myth” that really does have significant political clout, especially when one understands that the provincial government uses the considerable financial resources (over $300 Billion) of the Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec (the Quebec government’s pension plan, its version of the Canada Pension Plan) to support private companies, home-grown and foreign-owned, like Bombardier, SNC-Lavalin, Power Corporation, Quebecor Media, Molson-Coors and Bell Helicopter, in the marketplace.
Now I see that SNC-Lavalin‘s turmoil continues with the abrupt retirement of Neil Bruce, CEO for the past few (troubled) years, who was brought in, from the UK, to lead SNC-Lavalin out of the ethical-legal morass into which it had sunk under former CEO’s Jacques Lamarre and Pierre Duhaime.
Also, it has been reported in Forbes and other media that “Bombardier may be close to completing its exit from the airliner business, confirming [recently] that it’s holding talks with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to sell its once-mighty CRJ regional jet line.” Analysts say that Bombardier has failed to ‘keep up’ with (equally or even more state-supported) Embraer and that it continues to disappoint in its rail business, too.
I remain highly suspicious of the whole Québec Inc “myth” because I honestly doubt that the Brazilian-Canadian-French and so on “statist” model works well enough for long enough. Even South Korea’s famed chaebols ~ Hyundai, LG, Samsung, etc ~ which grew and prospered under President Park Chung Hee, and made their country into one of the premier Asian Tigers, have been, are and will be troubled unless and until they become modern, global, public corporations rather than family-owned and state-sponsored ‘champions.’
Québec Inc has been, and remains, too closely identified, for my comfort, with the Liberal Parties of Canada and Québec, and, right now, with the continuing Justin Trudeau~SNC-Lavalin~Jody Wilson-Raybould fiasco. As I have suggested before, Canada has a productivity problem, and I am increasingly persuaded that part of that problem is that politicians believe, and have convinced too many people, that they, supported by their officials, have some special insights into business and that “government is the answer.” It’s not. As a synopsis of Professor Donald Savoie’s recent (2015) book ‘What is Government Good at?‘ says, “politicians and public servants are good at generating and avoiding blame, playing to a segment of the population to win the next election, embracing and defending the status quo, adding management layers and staff, keeping ministers out of trouble, responding to demands from the prime minister and his office, and managing a complex, prime minister-centred organization … [but] … they are not as good at defining the broader public interest, providing and recognizing evidence-based policy advice, managing human and financial resources with efficiency and frugality, innovating and reforming itself, being accountable to Parliament and to citizens, dealing with non-performers, paying sufficient attention to service delivery, and implementing and evaluating the impact of policies and programs.” All those things at which the reviewer says governments do not do well ~ defining problems, developing evidence-based policy, managing resources, innovating and being accountable ~ are essential to good business. Why on earth would we think that governments can do business well?
Québec Inc and France’s failing socio-economic model, and Brazil’s even worse crises are all examples of too much illiberal government which thrives because people mistrust liberal capitalism which seems to depend on a dog-eat-dog, devil-take-the-hindmost ethos, when, actually, it is based on the common-sensical notion that, in some remote 17th century Scottish glen, people were better off, as a whole, when instead of everyone trying to do everything for themselves, some people raised sheep for wool and food, others grew grain and still others wove cloth and made garments and shoes and still others traded wool and grain with people in a distant glen who mined iron and made tools.
Québec Inc, like its Brazilian, French and South Korean cousins must give way to a more modern, more sensible, more advantageous system which rewards innovation and productivity and doesn’t try to accomplish vague social goals by manipulating business and the economy.