The Social Economy in Canada: The Quebec Experience


The position occupied by the  social economy in Québec, in the production of goods and services as well as collective services, is important enough for some to claim that a “Québec model” exists. Be that as it may, use of the term “social economy” by other than a handful of academics influenced by European studies is relatively recent. Other expressions, such as “community economic development” (CED), are more commonly used in Québec and elsewhere in Canada (Ninacs, 1997) to identify social innovation  in the field of economics. From this point of view, even if social economy enterprises are first and foremost local or, in a broader sense, civil society initiatives, they generally call upon a broad range of government programmes related to local development, job creation, employability or community services. According to a sample of community groups that provide collective services (i.e. services associated with the social economy), Employment and Immigration Canada’s Employment Development Programme (EDP) and the community organization support service of the Ministère de la santé et des services sociaux1 have been the two major government sources of funding (Bissonnette, 1990). The various programmes provided by the two levels of government suggest a new compromise between governments and community groups and local associations, with the former discovering new ways of supporting local development and delivering services to the community (Economic Council of Canada,1990) and the latter perceiving government aid as an opportunity for empowerment (Lévesque, 1984).

From this perspective, the originality of the Québec experience rests in large part on a social dynamic open to co-operation and partnership. Two recent events have brought the social economy concept to the forefront of public debates in the media and within various organizations. The first event, the Women’s March against Poverty, organized by women’s groups in June, 1995, sparked renewed interest in the social economy as an alternative in the struggle against unemployment and social exclusion that have victimized many people, especially women. Following the March, a steering committee on the social economy was struck, made up of representatives of women’s groups and three Québec government departments (Employment and Solidarity, Status of Women, and Income Security; Natural Resources and Regional Development; Health and Social Services), to advise the Government on its actions regarding the social economy. The second event, a Socio-Economic Summit organized by this same government at the end of March 1996 to establish a plan of action in light of the economic and social crises facing Québec, invited women’s groups and other community groups, for the first time, to participate on an equal footing with the more traditional sectors (private sector, labour, State). Against all expectations, these new players introduced a ray of hope into the difficult discussions on reduction of unemployment and job creation by suggesting approaches that blend economic and social development within specific sectors of the economy. At the end of the Summit, a task force on the social economy was set up to draft recommendations for a fall 1996 meeting. Following that meeting, it was decided to assist the Task Force’s work by creating a follow-up committee which, for all intents and purposes, has become an interim social economy secretariat.

In Québec, these events stimulated a wide-ranging discussion on the social economy and revealed significant differences in substance regarding its definition and role in a context of budget cutbacks in the public service. The goal of this paper is to uncover this vibrant reality, rich in lessons to be learned, by an overview of the social economy in Québec. We begin with a presentation of the definitions most commonly used in Québec, followed by a look at the Québec social economy model and related issues and challenges.

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pdf The Social Economy in Canada: The Quebec Experience William A. Ninacs 1997William A. Ninacs, The Social Economy in Canada: The Quebec Experience, avec Lévesque, B., in E. Shragge and J.-M. Fontan (Eds), Social Economy: International Debates and Perspectives, Montréal, Black Rose Books, 112-129 - Texte produit pour le colloque de Développement des ressources humaines Canada et de l’Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques (OCDÉ) qui a eu lieu à Montréal en 1997

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Intégré par Archie l'archiviste, le 16 mai 2023 20:36
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Archie l'archiviste. (2023). The Social Economy in Canada: The Quebec Experience. Praxis (consulté le 22 juillet 2024),