Montreal Economic Institute removes artificial barriers in Quebec

Quebec stock

Atlas Network partner Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) is taking major strides forward in two areas of Quebec policy: taxi deregulation and healthcare reform.

“There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had in helping to remove artificial barriers that prevent entrepreneurs and workers from providing a wider range of goods and services and doing a better job of responding to people’s needs,” said MEI President and CEO Michel Kelly-Gagnon.

MEI was instrumental in pushing forward legislation to liberate parts of the taxi industry. Former policies favored traditionally licensed taxi drivers and made it difficult for ride-share drivers to compete. With MEI’s recommendations, quota-linked permits were abolished and qualifications to operate, which previously served as a barrier to ride-share entrepreneurs, are consistent across the industry.

“Our publication on the modernization of the Quebec taxi industry generated substantial interest among the media and the political class, and its conclusions were also presented before a parliamentary commission,” explained Kelly-Gagnon. “We drew on the teachings of economics to explain that regulation should not seek to protect producers, but should instead maximize consumer welfare by encouraging competition and innovation. The reform put forward by the government was largely inspired by our conclusions.”

Similarly, MEI supported another bill that was signed into law in 2020 and aims to reduce regulation on specialized nurse practitioners (SPNs) and relieve some of the strain on the healthcare system. So-called “super nurses” would be granted the ability to make diagnoses and prescribe appropriate treatments, an ability that is already available to SPNs in every other Canadian province. In Quebec, SPNs are restricted to a handful of conditions and only “diagnostic assumptions.” These kinds of regulations are harming Canadians’ access to healthcare.

Canada has a universal healthcare system, an idea increasingly popular in Western countries. While many political pundits have highlighted the virtues of such a system, the reality is much more complicated.

“Universal systems mean everybody is forced to join the public system,” wrote MEI Senior Economist Peter St. Onge in a recent publication. “It emphatically does not mean everything is free.”

St. Onge goes on to describe the major problems inherent in a universal system: “Far from being a model of government-run healthcare, Canada serves as a warning of the unintended consequences of socialized medicine: high taxes, long waits, staff shortages and substandard drugs and equipment.”

By allowing super nurses to take on some of the roles of doctors’ offices and hospitals, MEI believes Canadians will have more choice in healthcare providers and the subsequent reduction in volume to individual providers will lead to better conditions in the overall system.

MEI made specific policy recommendations on both taxi regulation and super nurses prior to the introduction and passing of the bills, releasing studies and op-eds on the benefits both reforms. They also regularly hold meetings with government officials to advise on policy and regulation reduction.

MEI is dedicated to reducing the regulatory burden government places on entrepreneurs and consumers. Freedom, it believes, is the result of sound economics and entrepreneurship.

“It is because we are concerned about the well-being of our fellow citizens that the MEI promotes these kinds of economic reforms to increase the liberty to produce, to serve, and to trade peacefully,” said Kelly-Gagnon. “What’s at stake is improved access to goods and services on the one hand, and the right to earn a dignified living on the other.”

With this focus on public education and benefit, MEI continues to release The Free Markets Series, currently in its sixth season. The 30-minute episodes, released in partnership with PBS and its affiliates, features free-market thinkers and activists and are designed for beginning economics enthusiasts and experts alike. The show averages more than one million viewers per episode.

Read more about The Free Markets Series.

Atlas Network supported these reform projects through general support grants.