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BMO Bank of Montreal

October 21, 2013 13:00 ET

It Is Time to Stand Up for Montreal Because We Are All Montrealers: L. Jacques Menard

- The President of BMO Financial Group, Quebec, unveils the highlights of a study to revitalize Montreal

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwired - Oct. 21, 2013) - "Our newly elected officials will have to work together. They will have to speak with a single voice to generate the attention and respect of the higher levels of government. And to speak with a single voice, they will need the support of the community, including the business community," said L. Jacques Ménard, President of BMO Financial Group, Quebec, at a lunchtime address today before the Canadian Club of Montreal.

Unveiling highlights of a study carried out by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Mr. Ménard noted that, in the past 15 years, Greater Montreal's economic development has been less dynamic than that of the five other largest Canadian cities:

  • GDP growth was the lowest: 37 per cent in Montreal versus an average 59 per cent in the other major Canadian cities;
  • Unemployment was the highest: for 15 years now, unemployment has hovered around 8.5 per cent in Greater Montreal, compared with an average of 6.3 per cent for the five other major Canadian cities;
  • Disposable income has risen more slowly: 51 per cent in Montreal as opposed to 87 per cent in the rest of Canada;
  • And Montreal's demographic growth was less than half of the country's other major cities, i.e., 16 per cent versus 33 per cent.

The BCG-BMO study examined 78 metropolises around the globe to identify cities that were comparable in size and prosperity to Montreal and that had completed a turnaround after going through more challenging times. Seven cities met the criteria: Manchester in England, Melbourne in Australia and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania - all of which have rejoined the ranks of the most dynamic cities in their respective countries - as well as Boston, San Diego and Seattle in the United States, which have become model cities.

Looking at the experience of these cities and the lessons they might hold for Montreal, Mr. Ménard pointed to various similarities, including:

  • Strong and clear leadership at the metropolitan level, leadership supported by the higher levels of government;
  • Centres of excellence that favoured growth;
  • Private and public sector funding around a limited number of initiatives;
  • The upgrading of transportation and telecommunications infrastructures with an eye to sustainable development and improving citizens' quality of life;
  • The importance of human capital and institutions of higher learning, colleges and universities;
  • Actions branded with a single signature in all the cities of the metropolis and, under this single brand, the development of a marketing and promotion strategy.
  • Perseverance, because turning around a slow decline is a long-term effort that transcends individuals and elections.

Some 50 leaders in Greater Montreal were also interviewed for the study. According to Mr. Ménard, they clearly feel that Greater Montreal can count on advantages such as its centres of excellence in the aerospace, high technology, multimedia and medical research sectors, as well as proportionally more university students than Boston, an abundance of major cultural and sports events and a multilingual workforce.

But despite Montreal's many advantages, the issue of leadership remains key. "Leadership means mayors and ours have not always been up to the task. Leadership also means higher levels of government that need to pay more attention to Montreal and have the metropolis's best interests at heart," said Mr. Ménard, who also stressed that the business community shares in the responsibility.

Noting that Greater Montreal generates more than half of all Quebec's wealth, the president of BMO Financial Group, Quebec, concluded by saying: "It is time we stood up for Montreal. Because standing up for Montreal is standing up for all of Quebec. In the end, we are all Montrealers."

The full BCG-BMO report will be unveiled in early 2014.

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