Canadian Manufacturing

Quebec manufacturing sector warns against locking down industry to stop COVID-19 spread

Quebec manufacturers lost $4 billion in sales when they were shut during the first wave of the pandemic

January 5, 2021  The Canadian Press

Quebec’s manufacturing association is warning about major damage to the sector should the province impose a strict COVID-19 lockdown similar to what occurred last spring.

Veronique Proulx, CEO of Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Quebec, reacted on Jan. 5 to multiple media reports saying Premier Francois Legault is set to close non-essential manufacturing businesses to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The worst scenario for us would be to go back to the same situation we had last spring,” Proulx said in an interview. She said Quebec manufacturers lost $4 billion in sales when they were shut during the first wave of the pandemic and said she expects a similar situation if manufacturers are forced to close again.

Legault is scheduled to hold a press conference on the evening of Jan. 6 and is meeting with opposition leaders on Jan. 5. According to multiple reports, the province may, for the first time since the spring, order “non-essential” manufacturers to close along with the construction sector and schools.

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If Quebec is the only jurisdiction in North America that orders factories to close, Proulx said, it will put the province’s manufacturing industry — which employs 450,000 people and accounts for 14 per cent of Quebec’s GDP — at a severe disadvantage.

“If we’re shutting down and consumers continue to buy, as they did during the last shutdown, they’ll be buying from Amazon and they’ll be buying from other manufacturers who can actually continue to produce,” she said.

“The market share that these foreign companies are gaining is there to stay; it’s very difficult for Quebec manufacturers to win them back.”

Proulx said manufacturers have put measures in place to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, adding that while there may be room for stricter measures in some parts of the industry, she said hasn’t seen the data that supports shutting down the whole sector.

Quebec reported 2,508 new cases of COVID-19 on Jan. 5 and 62 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including 17 that occurred in the past 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations rose by 23, to 1,317 — the highest number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 since late May — and 194 people were in intensive care, a rise of six.

The province says 2,529 doses of vaccine were administered on Jan. 4, for a total of 32,763. The test positivity rate in Quebec was 11 per cent on Jan. 3, the most recent date for which data is available, with 20,716 tests conducted.