The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal’s federal economic debate was held on September 14, live and in person at the Palais des congrès de Montréal.
Four economic candidates representing the main political parties were invited to discuss the city’s economic issues: Mélanie Joly of the Liberal Party of Canada, Vincent Duhamel of the Conservative Party of Canada, Jean-Denis Garon of the Bloc Québécois and Ève Péclet of the New Democratic Party (NDP). The discussions between the candidates centred around four major themes reflecting the concerns and challenges of the Montréal business community: green recovery, labour shortage, corporate taxation and strategic infrastructure for the city.
“Montréal is a major city that deserves to be at the core of Canadian exchanges.” – Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal
Pathway for a green recovery
With extreme weather events becoming increasingly frequent, all political parties acknowledge that the economic recovery must be green. While the four candidates agreed on the importance of supporting companies, Vincent Duhamel emphasized the need to set clear and realistic objectives.
Mélanie Joly proposed strengthening support for companies that take risks in research and development, while Jean-Denis Garon focused on bringing growth in the oil sector to an end. For Ève Péclet and the NDP, the green recovery must include the development of a Canadian Climate Bank:
“We support the development of a Canadian Climate Bank. Its objective would be to finance research and development projects for new technologies and to support renewable energy and public transit projects.” – Ève Péclet, New Democratic Party candidate in Outremont
Solutions to counter the labour shortage
Montréal businesses are facing a major challenge as many struggle to meet their labour needs. In numerous key sectors of the economy, companies run the risk of not being able to serve their customers and fulfil their contracts due to lack of employees.
According to Vincent Duhamel, the solution to the shortage is to look for incentives to bring people back into the labour market quickly. For Ève Péclet, the problem is structural and requires thinking about the creation of better quality jobs with better conditions and higher wages. Jean-Denis Garon spoke about the importance of immigration and the integration of workers through francization. This view was shared by Mélanie Joly, for whom immigration is a key solution:
“We want an ambitious immigration plan, and we will support immigrants in their francization process. We want to process cases faster and increase the percentage of temporary foreign workers so they can become permanent residents.” – Mélanie Joly, Liberal Party of Canada candidate in Ahuntsic-Cartierville
The importance of controlling public finances
According to a survey conducted by the Chamber in collaboration with the Canadian Global Cities Council and Léger, 77% of the city’s businesses are concerned about an increased tax burden due to the rising federal debt.
When asked about this issue, the candidates presented very different solutions. While Jean-Denis Garon drew particular attention to unconditional transfers to the provinces to stabilize the debt/GDP ratio, Mélanie Joly stressed the importance of ensuring a return to economic growth in order to increase government revenues faster than expenditures. For Ève Péclet, the priority lies in the redistribution of wealth through increased taxation of large corporations.
Conversely, Vincent Duhamel stated that his priority would be wealth creation before wealth sharing:
“The Conservative agenda focuses on creating wealth before sharing it. We need to bring workers back into the labour market to contribute primarily to wealth creation and economic robustness.” – Vincent Duhamel, Conservative Party of Canada candidate in Brome-Missisquoi
Strategic infrastructure for the city
The city’s economy relies on strategic infrastructure whose competitiveness also depends on federal government support. As such, it was important for the Chamber to hear the candidates’ proposals on this matter.
While Ève Péclet insisted on the importance of including environmental considerations in all infrastructure decisions, Mélanie Joly pointed out the numerous actions taken by the federal government to support public transit in Montréal in recent years. Vincent Duhamel supported toll systems to fund public transit.
Jean-Denis Garon believes that long-term predictability is needed from the federal government:
“Public transit is the future. It is above all a public good. The federal government has flexibility. It must ensure the predictability of infrastructure development and provide a stable fund to support it.” – Jean-Denis Garon, Bloc Québécois candidate in Mirabel
The candidates have all pledged to support the funding for the expansion of Montréal’s airport, recognizing its critical importance in the city’s drawing power and international visibility.
“The consensus reached by all the candidates on funding for the expansion of the Montréal airport is excellent news. This is a strong signal for our city and the recognition of the major strategic importance of this asset, which is at the heart of Montréal’s drawing power and international visibility.” – Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal