Notes for a speech by Yvan Gauthier, Before the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal
October 6, 2015
Madam Minister, we are delighted to have you here with us, especially since not so long ago, in 2006, it was you who launched the first edition of Greater Montréal’s Vital Signs at the FGM.
Mr. President of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and Madam Chairwoman, I wish to congratulate you for the Board’s commitment to the Greater Montréal community: you have been the launching pad for je vois mtl, you are a member of the movement to end homelessness, and you have agreed to join our strategic committee in reflecting on these Vital Signs all of that is to your great credit.
Distinguished head-table guests, Mr. Rozon of the 375th anniversary celebrations,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
What we are doing here this morning is also going on all over Canada and even in Europe.
Across Canada today October 6 29 community foundations like the Foundation of Greater Montréal, and 14 similar British foundations, are presenting the vital signs of their respective communities.
You will therefore understand that the fact that this presentation is taking place in the home stretch of an electoral campaign is purely a coincidence. We will not apologize for it. If what we are going to say happens to find some attentive ears among the different parties’ candidates, we would be quite happy.
What I am proposing today is to take the pulse of Greater Montréal.
But first a few more words of introduction…
These periodic publications, like the one we are launching today, are part of the initiatives put forward by the broad international movement of community foundations that is active in more than 60 countries.
It originated in Cleveland, in 1914. Today, the movement comprises 1,830 foundations like ours throughout the world. The first one in Canada started up in 1921 in Winnipeg. And the first one here in Québec began in Québec City in 1993.
All these foundations share a common mission and a common way of going about it.
• We hand out grants to community organizations that help citizens in need.
• We inform and advise philanthropists, businesses and organizations that want to play a part in the improved well-being of their fellow citizens, by showing them how they can make a difference to the causes that matter to them.
• And we manage the monies that these businesses and partners dedicate to philanthropic initiatives. In that way, we are like a small holding fund of generosity, mutual assistance and compassion.
With the publication of Greater Montréal’s Vital Signs, we are providing an overall picture of the social reality of our city.
Our focus encompasses the 82 municipalities in the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal, which comprises the Island of Montréal, Laval and Longueuil, as well as the North and South shores.
That gives you an idea of who we are.
Now let’s get to the heart of the matter.
How is Greater Montréal doing?
Let us say right off, even proudly, that Greater Montréal is doing well. Yes, Montréal is doing better.
Since we last published Greater Montréal’s Vital Signs, in 2012, Montréal has taken some giant steps forward.
Crises of governance and ethics, along with uncertainty, have given way to renewed and shared leadership.
Greater Montréal is becoming less and less an administrative abstraction and more a coherent metropolitan entity.
We have seen its citizens make a fresh commitment to the life of their city.
We have also seen progress made in certain areas of social development.
Generally speaking, we can say that the skies over Montréal have cleared and we are seeing signs of renewed confidence.
So much the better, because there are still many challenges and needs.
We are living in a city that is in transition, that is undergoing massive change. That’s the central theme of Greater Montréal’s Vital Signs 2015.
These are changes of all kinds: demographic, economic, social, environmental, and cultural change, as well as changes in education.
Together, these changes have meant overall progress, but uneven progress that perpetuates gaps, inequalities and, sometimes, setbacks.
Let’s go into that in more detail.
To begin with, let’s look at the changes in demographics and identity.
Over the 10-year period from 2004 to 2014, the population of Greater Montréal grew by 11%; this must be compared with that of Toronto and Vancouver, where growth was stronger more than 15% in both cases.
Two features of this population growth since the end of the first decade of the 2000s should be noted. The Island of Montréal has Québec’s highest birth rate: in 2014, it was 11.8 per thousand inhabitants, compared with 10.7 for Québec as a whole. But despite this higher birth rate, most of the region’s population growth took place away from the centre.
That is, more than 80% of Greater Montréal’s demographic growth came from people living off the Island of Montréal.
In this trend, we also see growth in the sense of belonging to the metropolitan region. This impression of greater cohesiveness in the Greater Montréal region is confirmed among the ever increasing numbers of citizens in suburban and North and South Shore communities that identify with Greater Montréal. Significantly, Laval and Longueuil are no longer seen as suburbs, but as hubs that contribute to our city’s development.
This is a highly positive factor, one that supports our capacity to meet our challenges.
While our population is growing vigorously throughout the region, we are also seeing that it is aging. In this regard, Greater Montréal is one of the oldest large cities in North America.
Between 2001 and 2014, the proportion of youth aged 15 and under fell from 18% to 16% of the population. During the same period, the proportion of seniors aged 65 and over rose from 12.6% to 15.4%.
To sum up this trend, we can say that Montréal now has about as many seniors as young people.
One of the consequences of this aging of the population is an increase in the number of people living alone. Single-person households make up nearly a third of households in Greater Montréal.
Greater Montréal thus has a population that is growing, especially off the Island, that is aging, and that is increasingly living alone, with the attendant risk of isolation.
Let’s move on from these demographic changes to the economic changes.
More than ever, Greater Montréal is Québec’s engine.
Its GDP accounts for 53.4% of that of Québec, while the Greater Toronto Area represents 30% of that of Ontario.
We’re also talking about 49% of Québec’s population, over 50% of its tax revenues, and 75% of new patents.
As well, Montréal is a well-diversified economy with areas of excellence that are the envy of North America.
Information technology (IT): 93,000 jobs
Life sciences: 45,000 jobs
Logistics and transportation: 43,700 jobs
Financial services: 100,000 jobs
Aerospace industry: 60% of the Canadian industry is concentrated in Montréal.
Our city has extraordinary economic potential.
Greater Montréal is competitive on many different levels of economic life. For example, it ranks first among large North American cities in terms of operating costs and tax burden for businesses.
Montréal is also rising steadily among the world’s major financial centres: it now ranks 18th out of the world’s 81 main financial centres.
A word about corporate headquarters. It’s true that Montréal has lost a number of headquarters in recent years. But the city still wields considerable influence on the economic scene. Montréal has 400 head offices; of these, 75 are the headquarters of companies listed among Canada’s 500 largest.
We are also seeing new phenomena in our economy.
The vibrant social economy, for example, generates 60,000 jobs and over $2 billion in revenue.
What we call the sharing economy including Airbnb and others that are shaking up traditional sectors has also come to Montréal. This economy did not exist three years ago.
Montréal can therefore boast some tremendous economic assets… for which I congratulate you. You are making Montréal this success story.
But while Montréal is something like a small economic giant, it is also a giant with feet of clay.
You know about our economy’s fragility.
Growth in Montréal’s GDP is lower than that of other major Canadian cities.
Unemployment is continually higher.
Citizens’ available income is lower, but economic inequalities are also less than elsewhere in Canada and North America.
Our businesses’ fragility index is higher. The failure rate in Montréal was 3.4 bankruptcies per 1,000 businesses in 2013 a significant difference of 2.2 points compared with the Canadian average.
Montréal’s economic success is naturally a direct product of its citizens’ knowledge.
From this perspective, change has been slow.
Montréal is the second-largest university city in North America, behind Boston, and the first in Canada, with 170,000 students, 20,000 of whom are from abroad.
Nevertheless, Montréal the university city still has a relatively small proportion of university graduates in its population.
This proportion is growing, though. The number of university graduates has doubled since 1990.
Progress is slower in terms of scholastic success, however. The high school graduation rate on the Island of Montréal remains below the Québec average. Laval performs better than Montréal, and the Québec City (Capitale-Nationale) region, better still.
Dropping out of school remains a major issue on the Island of Montréal, even though the rate is falling as more and more young people are staying in school.
We should also do more to promote the trades on the Island of Montréal. That’s the best way to open up doors to the future for young people who aren’t so interested in school. Only 14.4% of young people were enrolled in high-school level vocational training, compared with 24% for Québec as a whole.
Our schools also continue to be affected by issues of poverty, health and integration. Did you know that, in our schools today, more than 50% of students were either born abroad or born here to parents who have come from abroad?
To link these demographic and economic changes, I’ll talk a little more about immigration.
Montréal’s diversity is one of its strengths, one of its assets, the best way to counterbalance the aging of the population. We need it.
And immigration is primarily a Montréal phenomenon.
In 2011, 86.8% of immigrants to Québec chose Montréal. In comparison, 70.3% of new arrivals to Ontario settled in Toronto.
It is therefore not just an impression: cosmopolitan Québec essentially boils down to Montréal.
However, the unemployment rate among immigrants remains higher in Québec (11.6%) than Ontario (8.2%) and British Columbia (6.8%). This is partly explained by the fact that Québec has a higher proportion of recent immigrants, who have been here for five years or less.
As well, of all Canada’s provinces and territories, Québec is the place where immigrants land the most new jobs.
We have a situation that consequently seems to be progressing favourably, but that remains a challenge. Our economic and social success demands that we successfully integrate immigrants into the job market.
In our fast-evolving city, poverty and hardship are taking on different and changing faces.
In 2011, on the Island of Montréal, 40% of renters or 210,000 households spent more than 30% of their income on rent.
In 2014, for 50,000 households, the burden of paying rent meant that they went without food.
In Greater Montréal, in 2010, more than 145,000 people made use of food banks.
This great vulnerability is experienced by a growing number of immigrants. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of immigrants turning to food banks rose by 11.8%.
Despite these troubling statistics, poverty is on the decline.
But we must remember that for those suffering from it, it’s still just as cruel.
Overall, our city is a peaceful one. It ranks 36th out of 38 North American cities in terms of the number of homicides.
However, violence is present here and is taking an absolutely alarming form.
In 2013, the rate of family violence per 100,000 inhabitants in Montréal was 281.5.
This represents a huge gap compared to Toronto and Vancouver: 174.8 in Toronto; 159.6 in Toronto. In Montréal, I repeat, 281.5.
Let’s not beat around the bush: Montréal has a serious problem with family violence.
And this problem knows no age. Family violence also affected 57.7 seniors per 100,000.
There again, Montréal compares unfavourably with other major Canadian cities.
We must make it a social-intervention priority.
And we can act.
Take homelessness, for instance.
Montréal has laid out a plan to eliminate homelessness. This is an extraordinary collaborative effort between the city, community organizations and the government. It is also a partnership of mutual assistance philosophies between Francophones and Anglophones.
We are also taking action on the ground. The problem persists and is even becoming more complicated in one, very particular aspect. While Aboriginal people form a small proportion of Montréal’s population, they account for 10% of its homeless population.
However, we have mobilized to solve this problem, and we may hope that soon no one will sleep on the street in Montréal.
If we put our minds to it, we can act on hardship in all its forms.
One of the ways of achieving this goal is to facilitate access to a doctor.
At present, this is difficult. And it’s been difficult for a long time.
On the Island of Montréal, between 2003 and 2014, the situation remained hopelessly stable: one in three Montrealers under the age of 12 did not have a family doctor.
Let’s shift our focus.
Our city, as we say often and proudly, is a city of culture and creativity. Five of the world’s 10 top-selling video games were designed in Montréal. In this area as well, there have been tremendous changes in digital technologies, which have become an essential worldwide issue and are transforming the creation and consumption of culture, for citizens, organizations and governments. Over the past 10 years, the share of digital sales of retail audio recordings rose from 1% to 35%.
Culture is of growing importance. In 2013, the arts and culture generated economic benefits of $7.4 billion for the city. That’s a 12% increase over 2008.
Another noteworthy phenomenon related to culture is the growing attraction of entertainment venues off the Island of Montréal. This is a situation observed in all performance categories. In 2013, for example, off-island venues drew 142,000 more spectators for shows by English-language singers.
Downtown Montréal remains the city’s cultural epicentre, but the arts and culture are becoming more widely spread throughout Greater Montréal.
I’ll close with one last change. And when we talk about change here, it’s to say that this is a change that should not be happening.
I’m talking about the environment.
From 2008 to 2013, the number of cars in Greater Montréal grew twice as fast as the population: 11.4% more automobiles, 5.1% more citizens.
This means that, in spite of the publicity hype about public transit, in spite of the ever worsening road congestion, which costs us collectively $1.4 billion a year at the lowest estimate there continue to be more and more cars in Montréal.
This tells us two things: first, that Greater Montrealers are strongly attached to their cars as a way of life, but also that the public transit offered does not always constitute a viable alternative.
From this we can see the extent of the challenge posed by managing transportation in Montréal, and of the effort that must be made, both in improving public transit services and in citizens’ lifestyle habits.
Moreover, year after year, the air quality situation in Montréal remains problematic. In 2014, there were more than 64 days of poor air quality on the Island of Montréal a 20% increase over the previous year.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am well aware that, in the last few minutes, I have thrown out an avalanche of statistics.
Under the circumstances, this was unavoidable.
If some of them have managed to hold your attention or capture your imagination, I’ll be happy.
In reviewing these Greater Montréal’s Vital Signs, I have mainly attempted to describe succinctly the complex reality of our great metropolis, which combines both strengths and weaknesses, and which is making progress through its victories and its challenges.
Together, we make up Canada’s second-largest city; we have managed to build a well-diversified economy, whose shortcomings are familiar to us all. Our city is a world-class cultural force, and it draws its sustenance first and foremost from the energy of its people, more and more of whom identify with Montréal.
All this plays a part in our city’s renewed sense of confidence.
But while the trend is favourable, we mustn’t close our eyes, because an enormous amount of work remains ahead of us.
As far as I’m concerned, the important thing is not that you retain one statistic or another, since you can read our report at your leisure.
The important thing is for you to realize the power you hold.
You can change things.
Our governments have their hands full. With limited means and variable skill, they are doing what they can.
We have a major step to take, as a society, as citizens. We must renounce this habit that has led us to delegate solidarity to the various governments.
This habit is more and more a thing of the past. Quebecers, Montrealers, are increasingly active on a social level, increasingly involved in the community. Philanthropy is on the rise. The notion of corporate social responsibility is making headway.
The solution to the great challenges of our city and our time lies in the triumph of an idea that of shared responsibility. Governments, citizens, businesses, community organizations.
We are all part of the solution.
We are living in the age of partnerships and helping hands.
While a city’s success can be measured by its ability to grow something we totally agree with it is also, and perhaps above all, measured by its ability to reduce hardship and inspire hope.
That’s the ambition that must bring us together.
Montréal is doing well. Montréal is doing better. But with your involvement, Montréal do better yet.