Québec Premier Philippe Couillard spoke before the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal on May 4. He took the opportunity of his address to 600 representatives of Montréal’s business community to take stock of the four years of his government in Québec.
With approaching general elections, scheduled for October 1, the Premier pointed to the major achievements of recent years and emphasized the idea of a “new Québec,” which he wants to promote.
Mr. Couillard was quick to point out that he believes the Québec he is leading today is markedly different from the Québec from the beginning of his mandate and that the province, previously at the bottom of the class, is now regularly pointed to as an example.
Here are three highlights from his speech.
Québec thinking like a winner
Describing the Québec economy as one of the most dynamic in Canada, the Premier said that Québec can now think like a winner, and its success is being recognized beyond its borders.
He backed his speech with data that lent weight to its statements, including the following:
- the unemployment rate, which is around 5.6%, the lowest in 30 years
- growth in GDP, which climbed from 1% in 2015 to 3.1% in 2017
- the reduction in the debt to below 50% of GDP
- the addition of $2.4 billion to the education budget
According to Mr. Couillard, sound public finances are behind this revitalization. He applauded the involvement of the business community, which took advantage of the favourable economic situation to act on its ambitions. He emphasized the importance for Québec of pursuing its course in the coming years.
A strong city that generates pride
Philippe Couillard believes Montréal is once again the major city Québec needs. He sees it as a source of pride for Québec and a solid partner for the capital and the regions.
The city’s distinctive features that the Premier identified include the field of artificial intelligence, in which Montréal has shown tremendous leadership in recent years. He pointed out that Montréal recently beat records for foreign investment and that local businesses are thriving at home and abroad.
Finally, the Premier focused on the Réseau express métropolitain (REM), a project that he believes is generating curiosity and interest across Canada and around the world. He sees sustainable mobility as the James Bay of our times and wants Québec to become a North American leader in the development of modern transportation solutions. He took the opportunity of the forum to report that CDPQ Infra, which designed the REM and its financing model, may develop other transportation infrastructure projects in the future if profitable.
The importance of immigration
Premier Couillard speech was followed by a discussion period with the president and CEO of the CCMM, Michel Leblanc. In response to a question about immigration and the integration of immigrants, Mr. Couillard said that the negative discourse about immigration and calls to reduce immigration to Québec constitutes anti-economic speech.
Looking ahead to the upcoming elections, he said that his party does not intend to lower immigration thresholds – currently 50,000 immigrants a year – and that he would continue efforts to promote the integration and francization of immigrants, to address the labour shortage.