Public Policies Enabling the Social and Solidarity Economy in the City of Montreal

From : Guidelines for Local Governments on Policies for Social and Solidarity Economy, UNRISD

Marguerite Mendell, Nancy Néamtan, Yi Hyuna, 2020

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Summary :

The social economy has been intrinsic to the socioeconomic landscape of Montreal for more than one hundred years. Citizen mobilization, and the adoption of a place-based ecosystemic approach adopted in the 1980s in response to crisis, have shaped the evolution of the social economy in Montreal since.

This paper describes the development of the Montreal social economy from 2013 to 2019. It situates this trajectory in the Canadian political system in which the provincial and federal governments play an important role in the implementation of enabling policy for the social economy and in which municipalities have a limited capacity to intervene. In Quebec, municipal charters—which outline the boundaries of their authority—are created and regulated by the National Assembly of Quebec. Therefore, within the nested political structure of Canada and Quebec, municipalities cannot be considered separately from the provincial and federal levels of government. That said, in several areas, the province of Quebec does grant resources and responsibilities to municipal governments, including the mandate to directly support new enterprise development. This context has thus not precluded the creation of significant relationships between the social economy and the Montreal municipal government, particularly on a sectoral basis.

The period covered in this paper begins in 2013 with the adoption of framework legislation on the social economy by the Quebec National Assembly. In its wake, a series of public policies and programmes were maintained or created to support its development. The paper documents the new initiatives that have been adopted at the municipal, provincial and federal levels from 2013-2019 as well as certain setbacks to the ecosystem of support due to policy decisions at the provincial and municipal level.

The period 2013-2019, as in past decades, is characterized by an on-going process of co- construction spearheaded by a diversity of actors. The evolution of the social economy during this period is a clear demonstration of its resilience and its deep roots in many sectors. The paper illustrates the important contribution of social economy enterprises to Montreal’s socioeconomic development in key sectors affecting the quality of life, including housing, culture, sports and recreation and food systems.

The final section summarises the major changes during the seven-year period including the development of the social economy in emerging sectors, innovations in traditional sectors, an increased contribution from universities and youth and the intersections with new trends such as the circular economy and the commons. It also draws certain lessons including the importance of adopting and maintaining an integrated, ecosystemic approach, the importance of establishing relations based on partnerships and not on the subordination of the social economy to a political agenda or to public administrations and the importance of integrating the social economy into an overall vision of ecological and social transition in an urban setting.

In conclusion, the period of 2013-2019 underscores the strength and resilience of Montreal’s social economy despite setbacks at the policy level. A culture of collaboration and collective action which has spearheaded the growth of the social economy in the city over the past decades remains deeply rooted and as this paper is being written, the mobilisation of civil society actors, and particularly youth, in favour of an ecological and social transition that is transforming the dominant development model, is opening the door to a new growth spurt in Montreal’s social economy.

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