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Quebec must have a modern, efficient and flexible government that draws on all areas of expertise, says L. Jacques Ménard, President, BMO Financial Group, Quebec  


“We have arrived at a turning point where the government can no longer do everything by itself. Crucial choices have to be made—not to jettison whole pieces of society but to improve the number and quality of services offered and to provide them more affordably.” That was the message delivered today by L. Jacques Ménard, President of BMO Financial Group, Quebec, during a speech before members of the Canadian Club of Montreal.

After reviewing the current situation regarding Quebec’s public service and major infrastructures, in particular education and health care, the two largest sectors under government control, Mr. Ménard stressed the need to take inspiration from the successful public-private partnership experiences in other countries and draw on the skills and talents of all parties to correct a situation that is penalizing Quebecers more and more.

“Our per capita debt—$12,000 per Quebecer—is the highest of all the Canadian provinces,” Mr. Ménard explained. “The interest on this debt is equivalent to approximately 16 per cent of the Quebec government’s own-source revenue. That means that, despite all the budget cuts and belt tightening, despite the sacrifices made necessary by the zero deficit strategy, Quebec’s debt continues to grow.”

The speaker reminded his audience that, although Quebec spends more of its GDP on education than the average of all OCED countries, its secondary school graduation rate is an anemic 73 per cent, seven percentage points below the OCED mean. At both the college and university levels, one in three students drops out before obtaining a diploma.

Mr. Ménard is also concerned that the Université de Montréal spends under $20,000 a year to educate medical students, while UBC spends $53,000 and the University of Toronto $42,000. “Is there anyone who still claims that the overall quality of the university system is not being affected,” Mr. Ménard asked, after pointing out that Quebec’s universities are underfunded by $375 million a year.

In health care, Quebec spends a larger percentage of its GDP than the OCED average but produces fewer practising physicians and nurses per 1,000 inhabitants. Moreover, the waiting time to see a medical specialist in Quebec has tripled in the last decade.

Beyond the province’s crumbling infrastructures and the underequipping of the hospitals, the President of BMO Financial Group in Quebec also noted that online government remains firmly ensconced in the conceptual stage. Having attempted to do more with less, Mr. Ménard argued, Quebec must now do things differently by drawing on the full range of expertise at it’s disposal, in particular by exploring public private partnerships, as many countries around the globe have successfully done in a multitude of fields.

According to Mr. Ménard, although significant changes are required and the approaches negotiable, Quebec’s basic values are sacrosanct. “Values like solidarity, sharing and social fairness are the pillars on which we have built the type of society in which we want to live.”

“As a businessman, citizen and parent, I believe it is our duty to think about the state of the society that the members of my generation will soon be leaving to their children and descendants. In view of the portrait I have just drawn, it is clear we have serious work to do before leaving the house to succeeding generations,” Mr. Ménard concluded.

BMO Financial Group  (TSX, NYSE: BMO) is one of the largest financial services providers in North America. BMO Financial Group serves clients across Canada and in the United States through its Canadian retail arm, BMO Bank of Montreal, through its Chicago-based Harris Bank, a major midwest financial services organization, and through BMO Nesbitt Burns, one of Canada's largest full-service investment firms.


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