Conservatives to withdraw Montreal International Funding

Written by  //  June 14, 2008  //  Canada, Economy, Local news & events, Politics  //  No comments

We are particularly incensed by this utterly myopic move, yet another indication of the Conservative government’s lack of understanding, if not antipathy towards almost anything of an international nature. We have had the pleasure and privilege of working over several years with MI’s extremely competent staff and can attest to the relevance of Montreal International in furthering the image of Montreal, Québec and Canada amongst the international community. The guidance and services rendered promptly and tactfully by a highly professional team are indispensable in smoothing over issues, arranging tri-partite consultations and generally facilitating the lives of our international colleagues, whose contributions to the economy are not to be underestimated.
It occurs to us that there is an undercurrent here of the competition between the regional interests, which Mr. Blackburn represents, and those of the Métropole (former Mayor Peter Trent’s ‘tyranny of the rurality’ theory).
The idea that one can get a bigger bang for the buck from one-off investments is ridiculous. As we all know, synergy is the key to success and MI’s acquired experience enables its people to fit projects – and people – together.
In other words, MI is the glue that holds together the cooperation between the three levels of government, all components of the Montreal community and the international organizations and businesses that are so important to the metropolis.

June 14
Ottawa upsets Quebec
Grants cut. Non-profit groups hurt
MARIANNE WHITE, Canwest News Service
The Quebec government is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to overturn a controversial decision made by federal minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn to cut funding to dozens of non-profit organizations involved in economic development across the province.
Blackburn, minister for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for Quebec’s regions, is under attack for eliminating operating grants over three years to non-profit organizations. Some 60 organizations will be affected by cuts amounting to between $20 million and $30 million by 2010.
Instead, Blackburn wants to use the money to directly subsidize local businesses.
Quebec politicians and business leaders unanimously condemned the decision and accused Ottawa of meddling in the province’s affairs and hurting its economy.
“It’s a personal decision by a minister that is totally dismantling the way we do economic development in Quebec,” said Quebec Economic Development Minister Raymond Bachand.
Premier Jean Charest, along with the mayors of Quebec City and Montreal and the president of the provincial union of municipalities, sent a letter to Harper six weeks ago to ask him to reconsider his minister’s decision. But the federal side didn’t follow suit.
June 4
Bachand attacks Feds over funding cut
Don Macdonald, The Gazette
Quebec’s economic development minister is on the warpath over federal funding cuts to about 60 non-profit organizations involved in economic development across the province.
Raymond Bachand said he’s been unable to persuade federal minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn to reconsider the cuts so now he’s taking the battle public.
In an interview, an “angry” Bachand charged the reductions reflect the personal ideology of Blackburn, minister for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for Quebec’s regions.
The federal agency is eliminating operating grants over three years to non-profit organizations across a wide swath of sectors including such groups as Montréal International, the Quebec Film and Television Council, Aéro Montreal, Institut National d’Optique and Fur Council of Canada, according to a list provided by Bachand’s office.
Bachand said the organizations play an important role in developing the economy. They bring companies, government and research centres around the same table and work together on common initiatives such as marketing campaigns and making international contacts, he said. The mininster calculated the cuts will total between $20 million and $30 million by the third year.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Bachand said. “You need people do that job. It’s part of the infrastructure…How do you make progress without having the specific players of an industry around the table and developing business plans?”
A Blackburn aide said the economic development agency is eliminating its funding for operating budgets to redirect the money to assisting small and medium-sized businesses “that are in a position to actually create jobs.”
Pierre Miquelon, a senior adviser to Blackburn, said about 70 per cent of the agency’s budget has been going to the non-profits and it’s time for the companies in the different sectors to pony up more money to support the groups if they believe it’s deserved.
He added the agency will continue to subsidize organizations for individual projects with “a beginning, a middle and an end.”
May 6
Conservative Cuts to Montreal International Show Lack of Vision
OTTAWA – The decision by Quebec Regional Economic Development Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn to cut Montreal International’s funding demonstrate his profound lack of understanding about Quebec’s economy, say Bourassa Liberal MP Denis Coderre, and the Liberal Regional Economic Development critic Pablo Rodriguez, MP for Honoré-Mercier.
“With a relatively modest federal financial investment of $2 million a year, Montreal International generates billions of dollars in spinoffs for Quebec’s economy,” said Mr. Rodriguez. “This contributed to attract world-class institutions such as the World Anti-Doping Agency, or the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.”
Mr. Rodriguez is not moved by Minister Blackburn’s attempts to justify his decision not to continue financially supporting Montreal International, in order to concentrate efforts on one-off projects whose “concrete” results are more easily “measurable.”
“Maybe he should get a new measuring tape. In 2007 alone, Montreal International’s efforts contributed to attracting investments of $ 670 million,” said Mr. Rodriguez. “Half of those investments launched new establishments. The vast majority of these investments were made in cutting-edge sectors, such as information technology, life sciences, aerospace. They led to the creation or consolidation of 3,500 jobs.”
Blackburn wants to wean development agency
Montreal International. Too dependent on Ottawa, minister says
ELIZABETH THOMPSON, The Gazette
The federal government hasn’t renewed funding for an agency that does international economic development for Montreal because it doesn’t want to encourage economic dependency, says Quebec economic development minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn.
“We are not an economic dependence organization, we are an economic development organization,” Blackburn told reporters yesterday.
Blackburn said Montreal International has been getting federal funding for years and now it is time for it to work toward surviving without cash from Ottawa. “When you always have recurring costs, always the same organizations, it becomes an unhealthy situation,” he said. “We think that an organization, above all, if it is a legitimate organization … it should at least pay its own operating costs.”
Blackburn said the government has asked Montreal International to come up with a two-year transition plan. However, its existing federal funding expired Dec. 31 and it still has not submitted a transition plan.
Blackburn said there is a lot of competition for the economic development cash it has available and the government prefers to fund projects that have “a beginning, a middle and an end.”
If Montreal International wants funding from the Canadian economic development agency for Quebec, it should come up with specific projects, Blackburn suggested, pointing out that the agency got $66 million from Ottawa over the past 10 years.
Montreal International is an agency created to coordinate Montreal’s international economic development efforts and avoid the problems of the past when different parts of the region battled each other for international investment. Financed by grants from Ottawa, Quebec, the city of Montreal and private industry, the agency boasts it has attracted $5 billion in direct foreign investment since 2000.
Blackburn spoke only three days after Quebec economic development minister Raymond Bachand announced a $6 million grant for Montreal International over the next three years and urged Ottawa to renew its $2 million annual contribution.
Yesterday, opposition parties accused the Conservative government of neglecting Montreal.
Bloc Québécois MP Réal Ménard called on Blackburn to reconsider, pointing out Bachand described the decision to stop routinely funding operating costs as “purely ideological.”

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