MONTREAL -- Quebecers are being encouraged to buy local through a new initiative called Le Panier Bleu, one of the Quebec government’s attempts to lessen the pain the COVID-19 pandemic has caused small businesses across the province.

The website itself doesn’t support transactions – it serves as a resource for people to find businesses that are still selling products online during the pandemic, as non-essential stores have been forced to close until May 4. 

People can use the tool to search for where to buy local either by business or by city. So far, 1,170 businesses have registered, and others are encouraged to follow suit. 

As the website is currently in its early stages, it outlines its upcoming plans: to create a product-based search engine, and to incorporate a feature for shoppers to create a profile, that would then personalize their experience according to their taste. 

On Monday, the Union des municipalites du Quebec (UMQ) voiced its support for the buy-local movement in a press release. In it, the union states that if each Quebecer bought $30 more of local products every year, after five years, an additional $1 billion would be injected into the province’s economy, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Quebec. 

“Let us remember that every dollar invested counts and helps support our local products and our expertise, which further stimulates our economy," Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec’s minister of economy and innovation, said in a release on the initiative’s website. 

Last month, local start-ups around Montreal hosted a Facebook event encouraging consumers to buy from them on April 2. Users were quick to comment that this type of initiative should be prioritized all the time. 

The UMQ intends on devoting its messaging to supporting this movement for the time being, as the pandemic continues to impact businesses everywhere. 

“All of the union's communication tools will be called upon to share a message of solidarity in these times of crisis,” said interim UMQ president Suzanne Roy. “Every effort should be made to encourage residents to make their purchases in their local businesses.”