MONTREAL — Quebec’s proposed values charter is not having an impact on foreign investment in Montreal, says the head of the agency charged with attracting business to the city.
“Nobody asks about the charter when we go abroad. It’s not on their radar,” Dominique Anglade, chief executive officer and president of Montréal International, said in response to a question at a meeting of Jewish and other business people.
However, if the Parti Québécois gains a majority government in the next election and there is talk of a referendum, “it will rapidly become a question. That will have an impact. Let’s not kid ourselves. Even the sovereigntists say that,” she said.
The Albert Einstein Business Forum was sponsored by the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University (CFHU) and hosted by the accounting firm Richter.
If Bill 60, the legislation establishing the charter, becomes law, Anglade said, “we have three options: pack up and leave, stay home and cry, make the best of a situation we don’t like and try to focus on what matters, and make sure the mayor gets lots of attention.”
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has spoken out against the charter, something she said not many business leaders have done.
More than politics, Anglade believes “the elephant in the room is the current economic situation.”
But, she later said, “No matter how bad we are, we are doing better than Europe.”
Anglade, an engineer by profession who most recently worked as a corporate consultant at McKinsey & Company, was appointed head of Montréal International last year. She is a past president of Coalition Avenir Québec and was a candidate in the 2012 provincial election. She is also a leader of Montreal’s Haitian community.
Montréal International is a non-profit organization and public-private partnership that aims to contribute to the economic development and enhance the international status of the greater Montreal area, which encompasses 82 municipalities.
Although founded in 1996, the organization remains not well known as was evident when Anglade asked the audience how many had heard of it.
Anglade said a visit to Israel last year persuaded her to take on the challenge of trying to sell foreign businesses and international bodies on setting up in the Montreal area.
Anglade was invited last June by the CFHU to participate in Hebrew University’s annual board of governors meeting and the President’s Conference convened by Shimon Peres.
In April, she had declined a headhunter’s invitation that she apply for the Montréal International post. But in Israel, she was so impressed by the world leaders she met that she realized she really would like to be involved in international affairs.
Anglade expects to accept Israeli Consul General Joel Lion’s invitation to return to Israel this year. Montréal International works mainly in the United States, Europe and some of Asia, she said, but it is considering reaching out to the Middle East.
She said Montreal lags well behind Toronto and Vancouver as the economic engines of their respective provinces.
Montreal’s economic growth between 1998 and 2013 has been about on par with the rest of the province, while Toronto and Vancouver have pulled well ahead of Ontario and British Columbia as a whole, she said.
Anglade faulted successive Quebec governments for not making the strengthening of Montreal a priority.
With Quebec’s very low birth rate, Montreal needs more immigrants to allow it to compete demographically, although she says a better job could be done in integrating them.
There are currently about 2,400 foreign companies in the Montreal area, she said, and it needs many more.
The city does do well in attracting and maintaining international organizations, like the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Anti-Doping Agency, she noted. Montreal has a total of 63, while Toronto has 36, she said.
Anglade urged Montrealers to be more proud of their city and to talk it up when they are abroad, as well as be greater risk takers.
The Business Forum was chaired by entrepreneur Matthew Price-Gallagher, who has business interests in Israel.