PODCAST: The surprising strength of Quebec’s economy

PODCAST: The surprising strength of Quebec’s economy

This is a recording of an article, written by economist Stephen Gordon, that first appeared in the November 2013 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.

Life in Quebec Magazine is a lifestyle publication covering the Quebec region and is currently published at least 3 times per year.  Subscribers have their copies mailed directly to them.

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Le mystère de Québec is the term some political observers have given to the sometimes inexplicably idiosyncratic voting habits of the people of the greater Quebec City area.

The region has experimented with both the ADQ and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, and many attribute the result of the 1995 referendum to the fact that Quebec City voters were markedly less in favour of independence than other Quebec francophones. LIQ_Mag_Nov2013_Cover

This is a genuinely puzzling pattern, because there is nothing obviously special that sets Quebec City apart from the rest of the province.

Unlike Montreal, but like the rest of Quebec outside Montreal, the population of Quebec City is comprised almost entirely of white francophones born in Canada.

There’s another, perhaps even more intriguing Quebec City enigma: its economy. In 2000, Quebec City’s unemployment rate was slightly above that of Montreal, and more than one percentage point above the Canadian average.

But by August 2013, the average unemployment in the Quebec City Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) was 5.1 per cent – more than two percentage points lower than the Canada-wide average, and three and a half percentage points below the unemployment rate in the rest of Quebec.

Of the thirty-five largest CMAs in Canada, Quebec City’s unemployment rate is lowest east of Saskatchewan.

So perhaps the more interesting mystère de Québec is: why is Quebec City’s economy performing so well?

To be sure, Quebec City has several built-in advantages: it is a tourist destination with a global reputation, and it home to both the provincial government and, in the form of l’Université Laval, a major centre of post-secondary education.

But these assets are at best a partial explanation for Quebec City’s recent success. For one thing, Quebec City has been a tourist attraction for generations, and little has changed over the past decade or so that would explain the sharp improvement in the local labour market.

And if the presence of a major university was the key, then Montreal – home to four major universities, including l’Ùniversité de Montréal and McGill University, the flagship schools of Quebec’s French-language and English-language post-secondary systems – would be outperforming most of Canada.

Read the original article in full The surprising economic strength of Quebec City



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About Author

Stephen Gordon

Ontario-born Stephen Gordon has been teaching at the Département d’économique at Laval University for more than twenty years. He founded the influential economics blog Worthwhile Canadian Initiative (http://worthwhile.typepad.com) and contributes regularly to the web site of Maclean’s magazine. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenfgordon

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