Activists have launched a new movement to turn Montreal into a “city-state,” allowing it to govern itself, and distancing itself from the series of interesting and laughable steps taken by the Parti Québécois (PQ) government in their quest to preserve and protect the French language and culture in Quebec.
Michel David, president of the Montréal: City-State Movement and co-founder of David Landry Young Consulting Group, has watched the downward spiral that Montreal has been going through and proposed the idea of turning it into a city-state. “The Quebec approach and rules are toxic to Montreal and the result is obvious, Montreal is dying. If Montreal is to live, it has to be out of the toxic Quebec rules,” he explained.
Once granted the city-state status, Montreal has the potential to be the entrepreneurial hub of Canada. “Our traditional sources of wealth have taken a real dive. So you have to replace that with something,” said David. “The only thing I can see is entrepreneurship, a bootstrap approach where you get people who have a high desire, high capacity for work, high resistance for risk, and they come and start companies.”
Once granted the city-state status, Montreal has the potential to be the entrepreneurial hub of Canada.
Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver have historically attracted the most immigrants to Canada, with Montreal being the second largest immigrant city. However, since the 1980s, Vancouver eclipsed Montreal, attracted 16 to 18 per cent of immigrants while Montreal attracted between 11 to 12 per cent.
David said his ideas would help restore Montreal as a major immigrant city. “The most likely person to want to start a business is someone who comes from the other side of the world, with ten dollars in his or her pocket and the only way to go is up and they are going to do whatever it takes,” he said. “Educated immigrants are a critical variable for Montreal’s city-state success.”
While Montreal would become its own independent entity, it would still be a part of the province of Quebec and would, in turn, be of great benefit to it by becoming its economic engine. The organizers say the city of Montreal has great potential but is currently being tied down with bogus bills and laws that are written for areas in Quebec (such as language laws limiting English in certain places and the new Quebec Charter of Values that bans all ostentatious religious symbols from public service offices) that are nothing like the unique environment in Montreal. The city is at particular risk, if Quebec Premier Pauline Marois wins a majority government in the upcoming April 7 elections.
A distinct society
Montreal boasts a multicultural citizenry, a bilingual twist, along with a huge potential to become a major cosmopolitan city. Some, like David, think of it as a “distinct society” within Canada that needs to be preserved.
In recent surveys of Canadian cities, Montreal has shown lackluster performance in terms of where it could be based on its size and number of residents, considering it has 50 per cent of Quebec’s total population. A study by the Bank of Montreal and the Boston Consulting Group reported that Montreal had a higher unemployment rate than many other areas in Canada, as well as the lowest GDP when compared to other Canadian cities of comparable size.
Based on the 2011 census, the third most spoken language in Montreal is Arabic (108,000 speakers) followed by Spanish and Chinese. Bilingualism is also on the rise with over three million Quebec residents who speak both official languages.
Based on the 2011 census, the third most spoken language in Montreal is Arabic (108,000 speakers) followed by Spanish and Chinese.
At a crossroads
Montreal is now at a crossroads, with the upcoming elections and the plans that the PQ has for it, a strategy needs to be put in place in order to turn this city around. Based on a recent survey by Montréal: City-State and IPSOS, 74 per cent of Montrealers feel that the city needs to be granted special status. Ninety per cent of Montrealers feel that Montreal is different than the rest of Quebec while 91 per cent feel that in order to stop the city from declining further, drastic measures need to be taken. As a society, Montreal’s needs differ a great deal than those of predominantly French cities and yet the PQ comes in with bills and laws that affect Montreal as well and will only cripple the city and lead to its eventual demise.
Right now, the city is far from attractive for both local and international business owners. The long list of laws and bills that you need to consider when starting your company in Montreal will turn anyone off from the idea. “A lot of people are very quietly just leaving and making alternate arrangements,” said Gary Shapiro, President of the Canadian Rights in Quebec (CRITIQ) movement, which wants to prevent government encroachment of the civil liberties of Quebec’s French and English populations. “It’s not whether they will separate or not, the fact is that no one is coming here to start businesses, to expand their business or to grow their business here, so the economy is grinding to a halt, investment grinds to a halt and the quality of life keeps deteriorating.”
Without the PQ looming over the prosperity of the city, Montreal could become a city similar to Silicon Valley, opening doors to immigrants who wish to come and start a business in Canada. “The most important source of new entrepreneurs is educated immigrants, that is the key,” explains David. “If you need entrepreneurs, you have to become a friendly environment for them.”
Without the PQ looming over the prosperity of the city, Montreal could become a city similar to Silicon Valley, opening doors to immigrants who wish to come and start a business in Canada.
The Montréal city-state movement has garnered a great deal of interest among residents looking to change the course of their city. And with the upcoming elections, what better time to discuss the idea and potentially bring it to life, for the sake of Montreal and Montrealers alike?