A city that lives up to our aspirations

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Added on 1 April 2010 in Viewpoints

Text signed by Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and published in the Métro.

April 1, 2010

A city that lives up to our aspirations

We all share the dream of Montréal as an influential city, admired for its quality of life and economic success. Our dream is that it be dynamic, entrepreneurial, creative, inspirational and prosperous. We want it to be an international city of culture; a pole of higher learning; a capital of design, a leader in the aerospace, interactive entertainment and life sciences industries, a centre of creativity and innovation: in short, a city that lives up to grand aspirations.

These aspirations are based on very real strengths. We have made progress over the past fifty years, particularly in the rate of general and university education. We also went through the sometimes-painful but successful transition from a largely manufacturing-based economy to one based on knowledge and the high-value-added segments of traditional economic sectors.

But this progress is not producing good enough results. Montréal is one of the 30 largest agglomerations in the United States and Canada, but ranks last in terms of personal income per capita. This last-place position also applies to almost all economic indicators that compare major cities in North America. This is why we are trying to understand what needs to be improved and to identify the obstacles that prevent the city from developing in a way that lives up to and keeps pace with our expectations.

To take stock and serve as a catalyst for certain crucial decisions, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal asked a group of experts to study the city’s governance and taxation issues.

The task force, co-chaired by Marcel Côté and Claude Séguin, made its report public yesterday before members of the business community. This report addresses governance of the City of Montréal, ties between the city and the Government of Quebec, municipal taxation, financing public transportation and the organization of economic development.

It proposes 33 concrete measures that will help Montréal become more dynamic and successful. It recommends improvements at a number of levels, including the following priorities for the future of our city.

Approval of major economic development projects
Montréal needs to simplify the approval process for major economic development projects. The City needs to strengthen its internal capacities and support services for developers. As well, the public consultation process for major projects needs to be reviewed so that certain phases occur earlier on in the project development process.

Creation of a Secretariat for the metropolitan region
The Government of Quebec needs to reinforce its authorities and be better equipped to support the city’s development. It needs to put in place a committee of ministers concerned with Montréal’s development and create a Secretariat that, like the Bureau de la Capitale-Nationale, facilitates coordinating activities of departments involved in city projects.

Consolidation of economic development organizations
The city’s economic development rests on a fragmentation of public and quasi public agencies with similar missions that act locally. This inevitably leads to duplicated efforts and reduced efficiency. Elected officials have to make choices to consolidate agencies and their budgets.

Municipal taxation and financing public transportation
We need to make massive investments in public transportation in the coming years. Montréal and surrounding cities obviously need to look at rationalizing expenses before considering developing new taxes. But elected officials also need to look at other tax instruments specifically to finance major infrastructure and public transportation projects.

Putting in place a Council of leaders
Montréal needs a strong regional committee that brings together major players from the business world and other community leaders to better support region-wide actions. This would be a strong voice to represent Montréal to external actors and government decision-makers.

And, finally, show determination
We know that the proposed changes are exacting. Determination is what’s needed to create a city that lives up to our ambitions. The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal is committed to supporting our elected officials who will have the courage to make these tough choices.