Focusing on prosperity

Text signed by Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and published in Web site

September 3, 2009

Focusing on prosperity

In the weeks ahead, as the municipal election campaign gets underway (September 12), I will be asking Montréal's mayoral candidates two questions on issues the Board of Trade considers a priority. The first will be the following:

“What concrete economic development measures will you propose to encourage business growth and creation?”

This question is at the top of the list for a reason. It's pretty clear to me that the city's number one priority right now is economic development. We have too many projects and dreams that we can't turn into reality because we just don't have the collective means.

Yes, it's true that Montréal – and Quebec – have emerged relatively unscathed from the recession sweeping the globe. The employment figures are encouraging, the city's housing market is buoyant, and our banking system has held up. Moreover, our economic foundation is solid, largely thanks to strong sectors such as aeronautics, life sciences and IT.

But we can't afford to become complacent. While it may have withstood the economic crisis, Montréal must absolutely capitalize on the recovery to bounce back.

Still one of the poorest metropolises on the continent, Montréal has to do better.

While some maintain that it's up to the private sector or provincial and federal governments to create wealth, I think they're wrong. Municipalities also have a vital role to play.

Montréal needs an ambitious, clear and coherent economic strategy. In terms of supporting entrepreneurship, our elected officials must make it a priority to back the growth of existing businesses and encourage start-ups. To do this, the City can – and must – act on several fronts.

I would very much like to hear how our mayoral candidates plan to stimulate economic development, and more specifically, to support business.

For example, how will they bolster our commercial arteries, and what are they prepared to do to make Greater Montréal the location of choice for business?

Entrepreneurship policies are obviously just one aspect affecting Montréal's economic development. That's why my next four questions, which we will explore in the coming weeks, will address essential components of the metropolis economic strategy: talent, transportation, governance and key projects.

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