January 29, 2013
MONTREAL, QC, Jan. 29, 2013/ Troy Media/ – I was born and raised in Montreal. I consider myself lucky to live in such a vibrant and safe city where cultures intertwine in mutual respect.
Through the years, I have observed my city evolve and tackle many problems, some inherent to a metropolis, others created by Montreal’s unique position as Quebec’s economical, intellectual and cultural centre.
My fellow Eye on Quebec columnist, Sandy White, lamented in his January 22 column (Read Montreal: The city the world forgot) that for the past 20 years Montreal has been heading towards “economic wasteland” and was declining into global irrelevance. Although I agree the city faces important challenges in the years to come, I do not share Sandy’s pessimistic point of view. Montreal is much more than the sum of its negative parts.
Despite a clear lack of leadership from the mayor’s office, things are moving in Montreal and it’s exciting to be a part of it. Currently, the skyline of Montreal is obtruded by more than 75 construction cranes, the most since the 1976 Olympic Games, stemming from 188 major construction projects that are under way. Those projects bring investments of $16.2 billion in the heart of downtown Montreal, an area that will be revitalized over the next few years.
Over the past 10 years, Montreal has seen its infamous and sometimes shameful “red light” district transform into the “Quartier des Spectacles”, a square mile that is home to one of the most advance symphonic music halls in the world and to a magnificent esplanade where each summer international festivals, like the Montreal Jazz Festival, take place. This transformation was acclaimed by the Society of American Travel Writers, which awarded Montreal with the 2011 Phoenix, recognizing conservation, preservation, beautification and anti-pollution accomplishments. This helped consolidate Montreal’s status as a cultural hub and Montrealers are proud of that.
Montrealers also have access to a remarkable public transportation system. It was named best public transit system in North America in 2010 by the American Public Transportation Association.
Furthermore, our ingenious bicycle sharing system, Bixi, offers 5,000 bicycles to its users in exchange for a minimal fee and has been exported to London, Washington, Toronto, Boston and Melbourne.
And there’s still more to Montreal.
Montreal is the second largest francophone city in the world. It boats a robust financial sector, which employs nearly 100,000 workers, including 25,000 finance specialists, in more than 3,700 firms. The Global Financial Centres Index ranks Montreal as the 17th most important financial centre in the world, before Shanghai, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Munich, Stockholm and oh, Calgary.
Since 2009, Montreal has risen nine ranks and, in 2012, Montreal garnered the largest rise in the ratings of all the Americas. This index shows that the financial sector is more dynamic in Montreal than in Toronto or Vancouver and that Montreal is less financially unpredictable than Calgary. I am proud to be a member of Montreal’s professional service industry, which ranks in the top 10 worldwide according to the index.
In addition, the Greater Montreal area is also one of world’s three major aerospace centres. This sector employs some 42,000 specialized workers and generates annual sales of more than $12 billion (2008) and, unlike Ontario’s automotive industry, it did not require billions dollars in federal bailouts in spite of the economic downturn. Au contraire, Montreal-based Bombardier Aerospace, the world’s third largest commercial jet plane manufacturer recently saw its order book increase significantly and growth in the aerospace sector is expected over the new few years.
Our life sciences industry is host to world leaders in the life sciences sectors (40,000 jobs) and our film and television industry (35,000 jobs) is of international calibre as it appears from the fact that movies from the Montreal film industry have been nominated to the Oscars for a third consecutive year.
So much for the “almost non-existent” high level jobs.
According to a 2008 study by KPMG, Montreal offers a business environment that is among the most competitive and cost-effective in North America. In fact, Montreal ranks first among the 20 largest urban centres of Canada and the United States for lowest total operating costs, taking into account labour costs, industrial and office space costs and energy costs. Additionally, Quebec offers generous tax credits for R&D and it is a mining-friendly jurisdiction, as its Fraser Institute ranking as the world’s top mining jurisdiction for three years runningbears witness. Quebec’s “business-killing tax regime” is a myth entertained by Quebec bashers.
Montreal is by no mean declining into global irrelevance nor is it stagnating as some might want you to believe. Montreal faces major challenges over the next 12 months, as a municipal election will be called this year. The on-going Charbonneau Commission is revealing daily more examples of the endemic problem of corruption in municipal offices. Montrealers will be demanding integrity out of their new mayor, to say the least.
Over the past 10 years, Montreal has been able to continue growing despite a lack of strong leadership on the municipal and provincial levels. I am optimistic that Montrealers will be able to find a new mayor with unifying leadership and vision that will give Montreal the means to continue competing on the world stage.
Troy Media Eye on Quebec columnist Pierre Fournier-Simard is a enthusiastic festival-goer in the summer who enjoys playing hockey in Montreal’s numerous outdoor rinks during the winter. The rest of the time, he practices corporate law.
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