MONTREAL — Quebec's manufacturing association and the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association say there will be major damage to Quebec's economy if the government imposes a strict COVID-19 lockdown similar to what occurred last spring.
Veronique Proulx, CEO of Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Quebec, reacted Tuesday 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 she expects a similar situation if manufacturers are forced to close again.
Legault is scheduled to hold a news conference late Wednesday. According to multiple reports, the province may, for the first time since the spring, order "non-essential" manufacturers and the construction sector to close and extend the current closure of schools.
Flavio Volpe, head of the APMA, estimates that about 10 per cent of the country’s automotive supply chain is based in Quebec.
He believes the auto industry is essential and that the government realizes that so there “is no reason for deep concern” at this point.
“Quebec suppliers are in a just-in-time cycle, so disruption to that means long-term damage to Quebec supply chain. They understand that,” Volpe said of the provincial government.
Proulx said that if Quebec were the only jurisdiction in North America to order factories to close, it would put the province's manufacturing industry — which employs 450,000 people and accounts for 14 per cent of the provincial 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."
Quebec is reporting 2,641 new cases of COVID-19 and 47 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including 13 that occurred in the past 24 hours.
Health officials said today that hospitalizations jumped by 76, to 1,393, and 202 people were in intensive care, a rise of eight.
The province says it administered 6,221 doses of vaccine Tuesday, for a total of 38,984.
Quebec has reported 217,999 COVID-19 infections and 8,488 deaths linked to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
Proulx said manufacturers have put measures in place to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, adding that while there may be room for stricter rules in some parts of the industry, she said hasn't seen the data that supports shutting down the whole sector.
About 27 per cent of active COVID-19 outbreaks in Quebec workplaces were identified in the manufacturing industry during the week ending Dec. 19, according to the most recent government data.