Spotlight Interviews with Co-operators

Julie Chartrand-Beauregard, Strategic Advisor and Executive Assistant, Directorate of Collective Entrepreneurship at the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Quebec, Canada

“Spotlight Interviews with Co-operators” is a series of interviews with co-operators from around the world with whom ILO officials have crossed paths during the course of their work on cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy (SSE). On this occasion, the ILO interviewed Julie Chartrand-Beauregard, Strategic Advisor and Executive Assistant, Directorate of Collective Entrepreneurship at the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Quebec, Canada.

Article | 08 December 2023

How did you first get involved in working with collective enterprises?

I had my first contact with social economy enterprises at the conclusion of my academic training when I was working on a Université Laval research team that was evaluating the outcomes of the 1996 Socio-Economic Summit, which launched the social economy concept in Québec. For me, this marked a genuine discovery. I had just completed my studies in economics but had not come across the social economy model. It was not something that was taught in 1998.

At the time, I had met people who believed in it, worked according to their values, and were somewhat idealistic. It quickly resonated with me. I subsequently chose to accept mandates that reflected my values. I returned to this mandate in 2015 after a stint in sustainable development.

What do you think is the role of collective enterprises in the economy of Quebec, Canada?

The social economy is an integral part of Québec society. Through its historic contribution to society’s economic development, it is part of the DNA of the public service model that complements the government.

Social economy enterprises are important in Québec’s economy since they provide communities with community-based solutions in response to their needs, regardless of the type of needs, e.g., a local service in a town, a day care centre, a forestry development cooperative, or an organization that helps marginalized individuals enter the labour market.

The social economy relies on the sale of goods and services to satisfy needs that the private sector does not meet. In 2023, a specific situation prevails in Québec and in Canada: the unemployment rate is low, the number of job openings is high, and women are highly active on the labour market.

A specific characteristic of the social economy is that it draws people to the labour market either through organizations that focus on a specific community or specific problems. Data reveal that the creation of the network of day care centres in Québec increased the presence of women on the labour market. The economic model works.

What does the direction de l’entrepreneuriat collectif du Ministère de l’Économie, de l’Innovation et de l’Énergie of Québec do?

The remit of the Direction de l’entrepreneuriat collectif in the Ministère de l’Économie, de l’Innovation et de l’Énergie du Québec is to advise the government in the realm of collective entrepreneurship and foster the emergence and growth of collective enterprises (NPOs and cooperatives) so that they contribute actively to sustainable development in Québec. The MEIE is responsible for the administration of legislation pertaining to cooperatives and Québec’s social economy, adopted in 2013. The Social Economy Act stipulates that the government must adopt a social economy action plan every five years and engage in a dialogue with the stakeholders to promote the construction of social economy development tools.

What is the relevance of the UN resolution on the promotion of the SSE for sustainable development for collective enterprises in Quebec?

The UN resolution confirms the relevance of the Social Economy Act adopted in 2013 and the partnership-based approach adopted by the Québec government to construct policy with social economy stakeholders. Through their involvement and influence, stakeholders in Québec civil society have contributed to promoting abroad recognition of this entrepreneurial model. Today, the UN resolution embodies this involvement.

The UN resolution will help to further promote this entrepreneurial model in Québec to achieve more sustainable economic development, above all with the advent on the labour market of a generation focused on values of cooperation.