Omicron variant could have economic impact on Quebec, says finance minister

The Omicron variant could force Quebec's Ministry of Finance to revise its projections for 2022, but Minister Eric Girard said he didn't want to elaborate Monday on what kind of changes could be in store.

"There is no economic growth if there is no health security," said the finance minister during a speech before the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

"It is a necessary condition for economic growth."

Girard unveiled his economic update last Thursday, and concerns about the Omicron variant have since intensified.

Global equity markets retreated last Friday as the S&P/TSX dropped 500 points and the price of a barrel of oil fell 13 per cent.

The variant is already present in Canada, with two cases detected in Ottawa and Quebec's own first case confirmed Monday.

For its 2022 projections, the Ministry used more cautious assumptions than the private sector did, Girard emphasized at a press briefing.

"We are conservative with our forecast. If it needs to be changed, we would do so in the budget," he said.

It will be about two weeks before the World Health Organization (WHO) makes public its conclusions on the characteristics of the new variant, Girard said during his speech.

"It's very serious -- we take it seriously," he said. "We're going with science and we're going to keep everyone informed of the situation."

In the meantime, however, he put into perspective the importance of short-term concerns on the stock markets. The drop in world markets of more than 2 per cent on Friday does not mean that we are going into recession, he pointed out -- the S&P/TSX is still up more than 20 per cent since the start of the year.

"Alan Greenspan once said that the stock market has forecast nine of the last two recessions. You can't stop every time the stock market is down 2 per cent."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 29 2021.

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