The new CHUM and MUHC: A $3.5 billion contribution to Greater Montreal's economy
Montreal, February 12, 2003 Concerned about the delay in breaking ground for the new university hospital centers (UHCs), the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal urges McGill University and Université de Montréal to present their final plans and the Quebec government to quickly render its decision to grant the necessary budgets and to begin work.
The Board of Trade fears this project will never see the light of day if decisions are not made quickly. Such an outcome would seriously handicap the competitiveness of the Montreal region, which is now gathering significant momentum.
A well-thought-out project
Assuming that each of these centers will cost $1 billion, the Board of Trade estimates that, in addition to the investment required for their construction, these projects would entail economic spin-offs totaling almost $1.5 billion for Greater Montreal. In other words, the construction of these two teaching hospitals would contribute some $3.5 billion to Quebec's economy, most of which would be in Greater Montreal. (Economic analysis of construction project of the UHCs) and (Letter to Quebec Premier)
It is true that, at first sight, $2 billion might seem like an enormous amount for the construction of teaching hospitals. But we must demonstrate transparency and place these figures in context. Such an investment would normally be amortized over forty years, reducing the taxpayers' investment to less than $200 million per year, or less than 1.2% of the $17 billion budget allocated by the Quebec government to health care each year. Viewed from this perspective, the situation seems far less alarming and, given the major benefits it will generate, the investment seems far more attractive, notes Benoit Labonté, permanent president of the Board of Trade.
The Board of Trade believes that investing in the CHUM and MUHC projects is all the more necessary and relevant given that biomedical research and biotechnology are among the sectors in which the region of Montreal excels. So investing $200 million annually in the competitiveness of sectors already known to be pillars of Greater Montreal's economy would seem to be just as valid as devoting the same amount to tax credits designed to create jobs in new-economy sectors through programs such as Multimedia City and E-commerce Place, he adds.
The high cost of waiting
Needlessly delaying these inevitable investments would just mean paying a higher price later on, eroding the attractiveness of the Montreal region in the field of biotechnology, and surrendering its leadership position in biomedical research. This would only encourage the exodus of physicians and reduce the availability of high-quality health care throughout Quebec, notes Labonté.
The construction of the UHCs could, on the other hand, generate additional investments. One such investment already anticipated is the $100 million the Shriners plan to invest in their Montreal hospital if the Quebec government goes ahead with this project. Moreover, 59% of jobs in the biotechnology sector depend on foreign companies that have invested in Greater Montreal.
These are weighty arguments for the government to invest in this domain and thus enable the Montreal region to remain competitive, to build on its strengths, and to attract strategic companies and specialized labour wishing to locate in a real center of excellence for biotechnology and medical research, he continues.
For the Board of Trade, the UHC projects are major investments in the development of Montreal and Quebec expertise in state-of-the-art health care. Major investments on the government's part, but critical for the economic development of the health and biotechnology sectors and the consistency and cohesiveness of actions taken in Greater Montreal. Investments, in short, that far exceed the $3.5 billion economic spin-offs we already anticipate, concludes Labonté.
The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal has more than 7,000 members. Its mission is to be the leading group representing the interests of the Greater Montreal business community. Its objectives are to maintain, at all times, relevance to its membership, credibility towards the public and influence towards government and decision-makers.