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Freedom of expression: Censorship is expensive

Montreal, January 14, 2021 – A climate of censorship seems to be taking hold on our university campuses, within our cultural institutions, and even among the general public. This new puritanism hurts the economy and makes Quebecers poorer. Indeed, a new publication launched today by the Montreal Economic Institute shows that we would be richer if we had even more freedom of expression.

“Around the world, we can see that freedom of expression and the increasing wealth of the population are intimately connected,” says Miguel Ouellette, Director of Operations and Economist at the MEI. “There is every reason to believe that a climate of censorship reduces the sharing of information and innovation, which are essential to economic growth.”

Freedom of speech pays off

Using an econometric model, MEI researchers were able to evaluate the cost of Canada’s obstacles to free speech. “If Canada were as good as Norway in terms of freedom of expression, Canadians would be $2,552 richer every year,” says Maria Lily Shaw, Economist at the MEI and co-author of the publication.

“It’s unfortunate that freedom of expression is less and less valued on our university campuses. These are normally fertile ground for the exchange of ideas, which is a necessary condition for innovation,” adds Ms. Shaw.

How to improve our showing

The researchers share three recommendations to promote freedom of expression and freedom of the press:

  • Create a regulatory and fiscal framework favourable to all media, including emerging media, instead of allocating discretionary subsidies that leave room for discrimination;
  • Encourage Canadian public universities to protect freedom of expression in order to truly allow their researchers, professors, and students to express themselves freely without risk of reprisals; and
  • Increase the information and data available to the population by reducing the need to make requests for access to information, in order to facilitate public debate.

“Canada has a mediocre record in terms of access to information. This necessarily has repercussions on the capacity of political parties and of the media to evaluate the government’s performance and contribute to the public debate. We have to do better,” concludes Miguel Ouellette.

The Economic Note entitled “Canada Must Do More to Protect and Encourage Freedom of Expression” is available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.


Interview requests: Daniel Dufort, Associate Researcher, Cell. : 438-886-9919, email: ddufort@iedm.org

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