The Quebec Employers Council’s Report Card: Much Ado About Nothing

For the fifth consecutive year, the Conseil du patronat (CPQ, Quebec Employers Council) published its report card on prosperity. Once more, Quebec’s grade (C) leads to the impression that it’s not doing enough to foster economic growth.

Taxation is obviously at the heart of critiques, as are the Costs for Employee Compensation and the strong union presence which sets Quebec apart from other Canadian provinces. It’s not very surprising: the CPQ has always put its own interests before those of the population as a whole.

What is surprising, however, is the alarmist tone which pervades the publication. Quebec, as it has become unfortunately common to hear, is facing a demographic disaster. In this context, the time has come for hard choices to be made should we hope to ensure long-term prosperity in Quebec.

I say “unfortunately” because the most recent data encourages us to take another look and revise our catastrophist take on demographics. Sure, the population is getting older. Of course, that brings about a certain number of challenges. But no, completely overthrowing Quebec’s social model —giving tax breaks to the richest, lowering payroll taxes (pension and parental insurance plans, etc.), or reducing the influence of the big bad unions— won’t change a thing.

The Institut de la statistique du Québec’s (ISQ) latest demographic prospects undermine the use of population aging as a fear-mongering tactic. In 2003, fertility rate projections were at 1.5, now they’re at 1.65. Again, back in 2003, projections regarding international immigration supposed 28,000 people would be arriving per year, now that number has reached 44,000. And finally, the deficit in net interprovincial migration is also not as large as was expected ten years ago.

What does this mean? Simply that all the fuss regarding the demographic crisis, in the end, amounts to much ado about nothing. In fact, as shown on the following graph, the ISQ almost systematically revises its demographic predictions upwards.

In this context, it’s slightly surprising to see the CPQ still sounding the alarm. Unless of course the hysteria surrounding this issue has always been but a pretence, used to attack the model for the redistribution of wealth.

No wonder Yves-Thomas Dorval, the Quebec employers’ leader, expresses surprise at Quebec population’s distrust of the business community. Let’s simply say that if trust is the opposite of distrust, not basing one’s public statements on inaccurate data would be a good way to start rebuilding bridges.

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