It might be tempting to believe that all is well in the manufacturing sector. After all, it is the biggest contributor to Quebec’s GDP and represents more than 85% of our exports. Half a million people work there in all of our regions.
In fact, manufacturers have never been under so much pressure.
The last few months have been marked by a sharp rise in inflation. This situation has inflated borrowing costs for businesses, but also wages, transport and raw materials. Supply chains are also greatly weakened by the global geopolitical context, in particular the war in Ukraine. And the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States makes the competition even fiercer.
Added to this is the lack of workers, with manufacturing companies alone posting 30,000 vacancies.
Solutions exist. In its March 21 budget, the government must first focus on innovation and increased productivity in the manufacturing sector.
Concretely, we must raise the rates of tax credits for research and development, better support support for SMEs and help them discover and adopt new technologies. We also believe it is important to support large companies in their projects to increase their production using key measures such as the investment assistance program for electricity consumers at Rate L.
Second, the government must recognize the critical labor issue in manufacturing. Because at the moment, even if the manufacturer is a priority for the Ministry of the Economy and in the deployment of the government’s economic plan, public policies are not keeping up. Other departments, such as those of Employment and Immigration, must also prioritize the manufacturing sector in the implementation of programs, measures and initiatives.
Finally, immigration remains essential to support the sector. The government must consent to an increase in immigration thresholds. In the shorter term, other measures are possible, such as reducing the processing of applications or setting up a priority access route to permanent immigration for temporary foreign workers already employed.
Manufacturing companies are already making a major contribution to carrying out the government’s economic plan. It will be through them that catching up in terms of productivity with Ontario, the increase in exports so that their value reaches 50% of GDP, the reduction of GHGs, or even the increase in foreign direct investment can be achieved. They are also the ones that will sustain our economy during a downturn.
However, the current context is making many manufacturers hesitate to deploy new investment projects. The budget is an opportunity to send them a strong signal that the government will be there to support them.
Mr. Girard, we have to help manufacturers help Quebec.