400 years: Let's join the party!Viewpoint by Isabelle Hudon

Text signed by Isabelle Hudon, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, published in Voir on June 26, 2008.

400 years: Let's join the party!

When he founded Québec City four centuries ago, Samuel de Champlain did much more than just build a city on Cape Diamond: he anchored the Francophone presence in North America and began writing a history that has only just begun. He inaugurated a line of illustrious founders from all over Europe including, of course, the Laviolettes and the De Maisonneuves, but also the Peter Stuyvesants (New York), the John Winthrops (Boston), and the Jean-Baptiste Le Moynes (New Orleans), to name just a few.

In short, the walls of Québec City served as an incubator for urban life in North America and the economic engines of today.

So it's clear to me that we Montrealers have many reasons to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Québec City. In fact, I'd say this anniversary is nothing less than the social event of the year – especially given that the party is happening just 250 kilometres up the road!

Montrealers are thus invited not just to celebrate and to rediscover their capital but also – and above all – to take ownership of their share of the festivities. All this to say that the 400th anniversary and all the celebrations that surround it are the business not just of Québec City but of all of Quebec.

Since the beginning of this year, much has been made of the problems encountered by the organizers of the 400th anniversary celebrations, and it seems a shame to me that such peccadillos have been allowed to cast a shadow over the entire event. How unfortunate that the promotion of the event itself has not attracted more media attention in Montréal and that the excitement it has generated is not filtering down to us.

Be that as it may! The 400th anniversary is our celebration too, in a way, and there's just one thing for us to do about it: pack our bags and invite ourselves! And it was with just this in mind – the desire to take the initiative and to join the party – that I issued the first invitation to Régis Labeaume, mayor of Québec City. This marked the first time in Québec City's 400-year history, not to mention the almost 200-year history of the Board of Trade, that the mayor of our capital city has graced our forum.  This gives you some idea of the exceptional and, since we're on the subject, the historic nature of his visit.

In coming to our forum to discuss not just the 400th anniversary celebrations but also the complementarity of the two cities and their ability to work together even more closely in future, Mayor Labeaume, accompanied by Mayor Gérald Tremblay, answered the call.  And, as I watched the stream of media photos of these two mayors getting along like a house afire, I realized it was well worth the effort of creating this event and provoking these encounters.

At the same time, we took advantage of the opportunity to remind Montrealers that they too have a role to play in the quadricentennial of their capital. I'm optimistic that we've launched a movement and created circumstances allowing us to envisage the next steps with enthusiasm.

Mayors Tremblay and Labeaume have spoken at length about the complementarity of their two cities. Still, it's all very well to say that Montréal and Québec City are above all complementary and that their rivalry is nothing more than an urban legend – or an FM legend:  the fact still remains to be proved.

And this 400th anniversary gives us the ideal opportunity to show once and for all that the concept of complementarity is not just the stuff of speeches and textbooks but really exists and can be expressed at a party.

So let's all proudly converge on the capital – and wish ourselves a happy birthday!

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