Thursday, 17 January 2013

Quebec’s Economic and Financial Future; View from Alliance Quebec II

Presents on Radio Shalom CJRS 1650 AM in Montreal
Mr Ian Stone President of Alliance Quebec 2
Topic; Quebec’s economic and financial future
January 16th 2013

Listen to archive show

The question today is… Quebec’s economic and financial future and I’m joined in the studio by a very sharp young man, who is President of the new Alliance Quebec 2, Mr. Ian Stone. Just to give you a little background on him, has worked in multiple businesses and economic sectors in both Canada and the United States and he’s got a whole NEW take on what’s going on here, what needs to be going on here, and not surprisingly, he’s encountering a load of resistance, even from his own! 

Also listen at the end of the show to Robert Libman endorsing Mr Ian Stone President of Alliance Quebec II.

My name is Samuel Ezerzer, your host to the Money & Business show on Radio Shalom, CJRS 1650 AM. Thank you for tuning in live on the Money & Business show, with our studio and headquarters in Montreal, the financial capital and the home to the greatest hockey team, the Montreal Canadians. We have another great show for you today and as always, you can call if you have any questions, comments, or criticisms on today's topic. Please call us direct at 514 738 4100 ext 200 or email me at,  if you have any inquiries. You can also visit our website at – all our shows are archived there.

So Ian you are encountering resistance in Quebec right about your views and movement IAN: Change sometimes scares people.

                                                Quebec’s economic and financial future Part 1

SAM: Congratulations on your promotion too – when we spoke in December you were still the Alliance Quebec2 spokesman, now you’re President, Mazel Tov. 

IAN: Thank you. I wish I could say I won out over a slew of other candidates, but it was just me, so I stepped up to the plate. No big deal, but thank you just the same. 

SAM: And you’ve got quite the background here, it says here you worked at Nortel during its heyday as a Junior Communications person, you’ve worked in public and private schools in both Los Angeles and here in Montreal; You’ve worked in the film industry, in publishing, you’re published all over the place under a variety of pseudonyms and you have a background in public and media relations? And you speak six languages? 

IAN: Oui Oui. And um apologies in advance if any Yiddish-isms slip into our interview, I’ve incorporated a lot of Yiddish into my daily vernacular -it differentiates me and helps people remember who I am – I’m the yold that schleps in with a cold type-thing. Very few things give me greater satisfaction than cultural interchange… teaching French Canadians Yiddish… it’s a blast and a blessing, no? I love ALL languages. 

SAM: Cool, no problem. Tell me about Alliance Quebec2 – what are you all about? Are you another English Language Rights group throwing your name into the fray or what?! 

IAN: No, we are not an English Language Rights group - I’d like to stress that emphatically. In fact, it might surprise your listeners to hear me say this, but I truly believe that the English-language rights fight in Quebec is basically dead. It has nowhere to go but down. We’ve been fighting this noble fight for more than thirty years and we have little if anything to show for it, mostly diminished numbers. No, Alliance Quebec2 believes we can win the language debate here in Quebec by veering the discussion into the realm of international geopolitics and the global economy. Through this prism, EVEN the majority of French Canadian Quebecers would have no choice but to agree that dropping Bill 101, opening ourselves up to the world is the only pathway that assures a successful financial future for Quebec. So to answer your question, Alliance Quebec2 comes into this discussion as a political organization with a business and social emphasis – I hope to be able to grow the movement into some kind of new political party, for all Quebecers.

SAM:  And this is really cool, I have to ask, you told me just before that you spent the holidays this season up in the Saguenay region of Quebec. What brought you to the Saguenay, what is that three hours north of Montreal or something? 

IAN: More like five and a half, seven with inclement weather. Actually, I have family and friends there – it’s a really great place. I was about forty minutes north of Chicoutimi. Real People.
SAM: But something very curious happened while you were up there visiting I’d like you to tell my listeners about.
IAN: Well, I had occasion to be speaking with some lifelong hardcore pq-istes while I was there, and much to my own surprise as well, I was able to win many of them over on Bill 101 and Bill 14, effectively making them realize how toxic these laws are and have been for business and for Quebec’s overall future in the international economy. It was most fascinating – watching that transition of opinion occur before my eyes… seeing them see the light and hearing them admit that we need to DO AWAY with these old-skool laws, sent shivers down my spine. What it told me is that my argument about OPENING UP QUEBEC to the business world has resonance, even among die-hard, life-long separatists.

SAM: Well so tell me, what arguments were you using to win them over to your camp? This sounds like an exercise in futility to me. I mean, nobody up there speaks English or cares about English language rights in Montreal, correct?

IAN: That is true. Very few people in the Saguenay care about English language rights in Montreal and that is a fact. They don’t have to. Nobody there speaks English. And that is in part why I am saying that the English language rights movement here in Quebec needs to expand its tent, and the only way to do so is to reframe this language issue into a business, moreover a bread and butter, dinner-table issue, for all Quebecers. And in terms of it being an exercise in futility, I agree with you… at least, I did agree with you prior to December 21st, 2012. But then they heard me speaking in THEIR French and they heard me announce how proud I was to be a Quebecer and how all I wanted was what was best for Quebec citizens in both the short and long term and I saw the tears forming in their eyes as I spoke. I explained to them how the international global economy works and how Quebec needs to be asserting itself onto this stage with a business plan, a game plan if you will. We need to promote Quebec to the outside world, we need to court international business to our shores, we need trade ambassadors assigned to every emergent market and to existing western ones. We’ve had zero percent private sector growth for well more than a decade and our language laws are directly to blame for this. Surprisingly, many of these lifelong PQ supporters agreed with me on this!
I spoke to them about fiscal prioritization and gave them facts like if Quebec were to become a country tomorrow, we’d have the world’s highest child-poverty rate amongst all developed nations and I linked this statistic to our language laws which are toxic for business and for growth. I also reminded these hard-core separatists that it costs the province of Quebec nearly a billion dollars per year to administrate its language laws – that’s a billion dollars being taken out of children’s mouths! We have no money to feed the children, but at least we know what language they’ll be begging for food in! When I framed the discussion this way, about the goals and aspirations of Quebecers, and the prospects of their establishing a nation being entirely incompatible with the laws we currently have on our books, vis-à-vis courting international business here, economic growth and new revenue streams, I was greeted with more tears and wide open arms. And Sam, let me just say this, as President of the new Alliance Quebec2, I officially have no problem with a future independent Quebec, but our independence needs to be birthed from our surplus provincial revenues and not financed off the back of Albertan oil and Federal transfer payments.  
And this is what I don’t understand… MADAME MAROIS knows all this. She does. She had the finance portfolio in the 90’s so she knows what Quebec’s books look like. She has no plan to fix any of the economic impediments facing Quebec so she’s increased taxes, freezes infrastructure projects and targets the Anglos and Montreal as “part of the problem”. Among Bill 14’s latest accoutrements, the mandate forcing municipalities like Cote Saint Luc to provide services to citizens in French only. I mean, Madame Marois is so cut off from the reality of the business world she wants to mandate French only-workplaces where English is only used on the telephone or video-conferencing! 

SAM: Just to tell our listeners that was Sun Media Host Ezra Levant on his show The Source with Ezra Levant talking about what Madame Marois was planning to do if elected, and I guess she didn’t lie, did she Ian?

IAN: Not on that point, no. She’s serious. She views English and by extension the world at large as a personal threat to her culture. I truly believe she feels that way – her legislation direction is all that of fear.

SAM: You brought up several interesting points there at the end and that is Federal transfer payments and Albertan oil… do we have numbers on exactly what we, Quebec, is getting and what percentage of that is coming from Alberta? 

IAN: In terms of what percentage of our Federal transfer payment are coming from Alberta, I’d wager to say at least half to most of it. Per capita, only Prince Edward Island tends to do “better than Quebec” as a result of transfer payments. Do we have the exact numbers? The answer is sadly no. Transfer payments come in so many forms and are used for so many different provincial programs and departments, it is impossible to put an exact number on it. However, as the richest province in the Federation, Alberta is the “disher-outer” of cash and I believe Albertans should be watching what’s going on here in Quebec and deciding if they want their hard-earned cash financing unconstitutional laws and legislation designed to make English just another “foreign language” in the province. Albertans need to be asked, do you believe your provincial OIL monies should be going to pay for Language Police in the city of Montreal, because whether it is directly going into language protection or it’s going into some other till, the results are the same. We have language police because we choose to prioritize this in our provincial budgetary spending.
To scratch the surface of your question, some in Alberta claim that the province is sending Ottawa as much as $700/second, while a more modest estimation has it at closer to $450/second. Anyone can do the math, if we’re getting half of that, take 225 x 60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 365 and you get a number that slightly passes 7 billion dollars. There’s another 7 billion in transfer payments going out to the other have-not provinces and when you consider that Alberta is funding most of these costs, this brings their total contribution to the Federal redistribution transfer program to a whopping $450-$500 per second!
But why split hairs?! The trouble too with transfer payments is that “have-not” provinces receiving their BONUS checks from Ottawa are far less motivated to finding new and creative business formulas for growth and expansion. Quebec politicians are happy if everything zeroes off, there is no striving for better. Madame Marois may talk about making the financial situation better for all Quebecers but then she goes ahead and introduces legislation that puts more of a language and cultural iron-hold on the economy. Some 8000 students from outside Quebec will now need to study in French-only Cegeps; how many of these will not come here as a result or leave, if they are here on an interim visa? Again, rather than looking for ways to get more students to come here, spend their parents’ money here as they get their McGill educations, we’ve just made it harder and there will be drop-off. We do the same in terms of international business – we tell them, you want to come here, this is what you have to do, rather than saying to them, please come here, this is what we will do for you. It’s that basic and fundamental a dichotomy.. 

SAM: So how much transfer payments does Quebec receive from Ottawa, do we have a final number we can work with?
IAN: We’re getting about half of the estimated 14.4 billion dollars in transfer payments, but let me just say… that is the acknowledged number, in fact, Quebec receives more than 7.4 Billion dollars per year from the Federal purse, it’s just cached in other ways. For instance, every single Quebec-based French television show is co-funded jointly and in part by both Quebec and the Federal governments. Federal funds are coming into Quebec for highway maintenance, for all sorts of things. Cut the strings on this Federal apron and Quebec spirals into immediate fiscal crisis. In short, we cannot take care of ourselves financially yet. It’s sad too, that even with all this help we still have the poverty numbers that we do… how and when will this change? In my opinion, it will change when we get a Premier(e) in Quebec that is intent on showing a profit for the province. In very simple, elemental terms, we need to generate revenue through more creative means than taxation and by the way, you are aware that Quebec is the most taxed domicile in all of North America, correct? 

SAM: I know our taxes are high, are we really the highest in all of North America though? 

IAN: Yes and think about what we are also getting for our taxes… and I don’t mean the corruption which is another topic altogether. I mean, we have broken streets, we have literal bridges to nowhere in the west-island, we have construction and traffic nightmares, we have students holding our educational system hostage and rule of law out the window, we have a broken education system (and don’t tell me it’s not broken, we can spend an entire segment on this if you’d like). We have ridiculously unsustainable waits in hospital emergency rooms and a chronic shortage of doctors and medical personnel. We have THE MOST fluctuating gasoline prices in all of North America. We are paying ridiculously high taxes and receiving the least bang for our tax-payer buck per capita, North America over. To be honest, I am shocked that we are not in the midst of a full-blown tax revolution here in the province. 

SAM: A tax revolution? That sounds extreme. Is the tax situation really that bad here in Quebec?
IAN: If you’ve lived elsewhere, as I have, you come to see Quebec taxation as a money-grabbing scheme. Seriously, they have no ideas for how to generate surplus revenue, so they tax us. It takes absolutely zero creativity to come up with that kind of formula. This isn’t leadership, this is a lack of leadership.

SAM: So let me ask, what is Alliance Quebec2’s formula to increase Quebec revenues?
IAN: Well, we need to open ourselves up to international markets, that means getting rid of laws that make Quebec in any way inaccessible and recognizing that the future of the planet is going in this particular direction. We can either get on the boat or we can miss it and at present we’re missing it big time! Second, we need to create new revenue streams from out of nowhere and THE most logical one, albeit an admittedly controversial one, is, the province-wide legalization of marijuana and hashish and the creation of “Hash and Marijuana-Café’s and eateries” (similar to those found in Amsterdam and highly regulated) and taxed by the province. 

SAM: Wait a minute, wait a minute, you want to make drugs legal?
IAN: Cigarettes are more lethal than marijuana and yet they are legal. Alcohol was once illegal in the United States… Many US states have legalized pot in the last few years.  Look, you can agree with me or not, but just know, I’m also the author of a 323-page workbook and owner of a company that promotes substance awareness from cradle to grave, though specifically, from elementary school through high-school. My company’s motto is “The War on Drugs’ New Battlefront: At-Home and Classroom Strategies for Substance Awareness”. I don’t want to add another drug to the list of legals but at the moment it is estimated that such a move would render onto Quebec coffers something to the tune of 3 to 5 billion a year, in tax revenue and police savings alone. It would also increase tourism.  We need to start thinking out of the box if we are going to rise above the fiscal crisis we are in. We need to truly make ours a DISTINCT society, but not via Machiavellian language laws, through the exploration of alternative revenue streams, new business plans and formulas… Seriously, at this point, we should be willing to try next to anything to jumpstart Quebec’s entrance into the global economic web. Hash cafés are just one of these out of the box ideas that introduce entirely new revenue streams, business models and new jobs into the mix, something we need to be doing tenfold comparative to present. 

SAM: So specifically, what other NEW revenue streams would you be willing to promote?
IAN: Well, new revenue streams can be found in many ways – trade ambassadors to key markets is one way, mandating English and Mandarin into all Quebec education streams from pre-k thru secondary five, creates a hiring need of thousands and thousands of Mandarin and English speaking teachers. It also opens up a brand new relationship with China that could immediately be exploited. And as crazy as it sounds, another new revenue stream would and could be achieved if we had NEW PROVINCIAL Anti-Corruption laws on our books that were highly punitive and thus deterrent in nature. With such laws in place, a whole lot of cash would suddenly free up in the system.
I mean, think about it, we have a corruption commission charged with investigating corruption who, in two month’s time spent more than half of their 14 million dollar budget – the commission is expected to be at this for the next 12 to 18 months by the way and in just 10 weeks they’ve spent nearly 8 million dollars?! On what?! What costs one million dollars per week? As a shareholder in the Quebec brand, I demand to know how this money was spent. Seriously and no joke here, I believe a portion of these funds have gone to pay off “snitchers”, but even if that proves untrue, I still want to know how an inquiry into fraud and corruption costs one million dollars per week to administrate and operate. I predict we are going to need another corruption commission to investigate this corruption commission.  Ours is truly a systemic and chronic problem. I could have solved the whole thing in less than a $1000.00 a week. 

SAM: Seriously? (Chuckling)
IAN: Well maybe not that little but here’s what I would do immediately. I’d introduce a member’s bill in the national assembly, it changes nothing other than the criminal code which defines government corruption, theft, nepotism as a crime against all Quebecers and is thus punishable by an extreme sentence like life in prison. I make the legislation five years retroactive and that solves that problem… next!
Like many other Quebecer’s, I’m fed up with hearing about this corruption nonsense. And just to show you how our system is all about creating new branches, new departments, Mayor Applebaum introduced his new police corruption squad – an independent body, a new department to investigate fraud and corruption in Montreal, RATHER than introduce NEW and POWERFUL legislation that would ultimately prove to curve the need for this new bureaucratic entity in the first place? It’s easy when it’s not your money that you are spending to just keep creating departments. You mentioned in my intro that I worked for Nortel Networks in the 1990’s? Do you know that the writing was on the wall in terms of that company’s demise, years before it went down? I sank my shares at the 110 dollar point, so I came out a comparative winner in the deal, despite being laid off in the late 90’s. Still, I can tell you, as a Nortel employee during this time, I had about eight or nine levels of management over me and that my particular project/department needed to clear through each of these layers of management before we could do anything of substantive value. This often meant three hour lunches, half-day work days… what should have taken eight weeks to accomplish took eight months. We were, effectively, over-managed to the point of operational paralysis. How can you compete with a business model like this? We might ask the same of the Hydro Quebec monopoly today, as their business model has not changed since the late 1990’s either. In fact, what I said earlier about an overly subsidized public sector applies to provincial crown corporations like Hydro Quebec as well – the Jewel in the crown so to speak. It is through Hydro Quebec that the province caches much of its true unemployment numbers. 

SAM: Really? What do you mean?! You alluded to this before… the fact that the province is playing games with its unemployment numbers…? Tell me more. 

IAN: Again, think about it… the New York state power authority has 1600 people under its employ; it governs the power distribution and allocation of more than 19,378,102 residents. Quebec’s population of roughly 8 million, to be generous, has 22,000 of its citizens working for Hydro-Quebec. We are propping up and playing with numbers and we’re trying to keep ourselves in a protective Canadian bubble as we do so? Hey listen, if I was Madame Marois, I’d be worried too – our population of nearly 8 million now represents less than 23.65 of the country’s population – down from 23.9% in 2006, according to the Federal Government Census of 2011. In 1951, Quebec represented 28.9% of Canada’s population. In the same time referential, Ontario has seen its share of the Canadian population rise from 32.8% to 38.4%.
Quebec’s gross domestic product is approximately US $32,000 PER CAPITA at purchasing power parity. This rating puts Quebec at par with Japan, Italy and Spain, though just below Greece? I think that is a dated reference given all of Greece’s internal troubles of late, but Quebec is a fiscal nightmare if we examine ourselves from an international economic standpoint.  Another credit downgrade, could put us truly below Greece and that is potentially on the horizon.
SAM: You think Quebec is heading for an international credit downgrade?
IAN: I think we are past the point of that eventuality and that unless something “special” happens, we will be looking at a likely downgrade in 2013. Montreal’s real-estate is expected to take a hit this year… We are spending like there is some kind of infinite fountain of cash and we are allowing our politicians to get away with MURDER. By not asking them the fundamental question, “What are your plans to increase Quebec’s external/private sector growth and tax base, we are fooling ourselves, English-language rights advocate and nationalist alike. IT IS BEYOND TIME that we start framing ALL OF THIS, Bill 101/Bill 14 as economic issues, nay, economic impediments to Quebec’s fiscal growth. The policies we have in place are those driven by fear – worry, that we will be culturally assimilated. This fear, is utterly unfounded if we apply an international business model to our plans. 

SAM: What else can or should we be doing to promote Quebec business abroad?
IAN:  Well, we talked about this before… and by the way, it’s not only Quebec business we should be promoting abroad, but also Quebec culture. First, we should be appointing Quebec trade ambassadors to all emerging/emergent and established markets, doing whatever we can to bring business and investment to Quebec. That’s a first. We’re not doing that now directly, no. But from the business standpoint, we cannot have someone who doesn’t speak or understand English representing us on the world stage. Her English is deplorable and you know what? Even the French media has picked up on this and is pointing to it as another Quebec impediment to business growth. 

IAN: OK? Now add to this the fact that anywhere Madame Marois goes, her legislative/political record and comments follow her like a shadow. If she goes to meet with NY governor Cuomo, you think he won’t know before the meeting what she stands for and how she is conducting the business of governance? Of course he will and as a result, he will be less likely to want to make a deal with her that would/could benefit the citizenry of Quebec. Seriously, she is CEO of Quebec – was this the best we could do?
And what’s really interesting about all of this is the duplicity – on one hand, she speaks about how she wants to work with Anglophones and minorities while with the other hand she is signing legislation that diminishes their linguistic and cultural rights. It reminds me of the GOP – the Republican ticket this past election cycle, where Mitt Romney would say one thing to a group of tea-partiers and something completely different to another group of gatherers – and he’d get away with it! Obviously, the media bears some responsibility in all of this but so too do the people. Quebecers need to understand the issues – they need to know the numbers, be given the data – this is what the system is currently screaming for OPERATIONAL TRANSPARENCY though interestingly not one of the provincial leaders and not one of our municipal leaders are stepping forward calling for this. Given all the shmootz we’ve seen, all the greed, theft, favoritism and shady deals, I think we have a right as a population to DEMAND that our cities and province’s books be totally opened up and scrutinized. But then, we have the whole referendum question lingering over our heads for the duration of this mandate on top of this daily corruption crap.

SAM:  Do you believe we are heading in the direction of another referendum on sovereignty?
IAN: No, but some 33% of Quebec residents not only believe that, they need to believe it – it’s as much a part of their cultural identity, this desire for nationhood as anything else and we need to address this more in depth because these people have been lied to. Plain and simple. They’ve been sold a bill of goods, made to believe their leaders had the economic wherewithal to deliver onto them a nation. In fact, what’s happened these last three decades in Quebec is that the province has gotten fiscally farther and farther away from being able to realize and actualize on this dream of nationhood. Those are the facts.  

SAM: I don’t see how opening up the province’s books, operational transparency would be a bad idea, but would it be difficult or costly to implement? 

IAN:  I don’t believe so. I’m from the generation that envisions and expects to see elections go online and digital. In fact, when you calculate how much it costs for Federal and Provincial elections at present, the need for a changeover to digital becomes all the more clear. $450 MILLION dollars for a Federal election! That’s what it costs the Canadian taxpayer to vote. Does anyone remember how many elections we had in the late 1990’s and 2000’s – at one point we were having Federal elections every 18 months or so. This is nuts. Provincial elections are not as costly obviously, but still, a fair amount of expenditure occurs here as well. So, moving to a digital, online, open system of governance cost a relative pittance comparatively to what we are spending now on elections. We have serious societal issues here – Canada’s child poverty numbers are like Quebec’s a source of international shame and yet for nearly a decade we were spending $450 million dollars every 18 months for nothing to change in the end? I mean, who are the idiots now? 

SAM: Are you bashing the Federal system as well?
IAN: Just pointing out some of its structural weaknesses and elections, not to mention the entirety of Canada’s electoral and parliamentary system does need an overhaul – and that’s not just my opinion. Most westerners, in fact, most Canadians believe we can DO AWAY with the Senate altogether unless we transform it into another elected body. It costs too much to keep up and does nothing.  And while we’re on topic of the Federal system, I’d like to remind everyone that 2012 was the year we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms;  we celebrated this day in Quebec with student protests and the Charest government’s pre-election constituent grab/stunt of hiring some 70 new language police to patrol the streets of Montreal. So while, I’m watching Canadian commercials on TV telling me to CELEBRATE the 30th anniversary of this most important document, it’s like rubbing salt on an open wound. Seriously, how can I, as an Anglophone Quebecer truly celebrate the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, when quite clearly, it doesn’t apply to me?! Has the Federal government done anything to fight for the guarantee of my fundamental human rights and freedoms? Have they tried to strong-arm Quebec into complying with the Canadian Charter? Nope. So my feelings for Ottawa and the Federalist system here in Canada are indeed mixed. On one hand we need them, but on the other they do very little for us the way things are set up now other than send us monthly checks. I don’t feel represented to be perfectly honest with you and in terms of elections, back to that one for just a sec – have you ever seen an election ballot in the U.S., particularly in big states like California? It’s a book. Talk about populist governance and nobody votes for every “proposition” that is on the ballot, but you could. I find it personally offensive and utterly objectionable that in this day and age all I’m being asked by my province and country every four years on average, is to mark a single x on a piece of paper and consider that a true representation of my political wants/desires/dreams/issues etc… I want to be asked more. I want to be more involved in the political process and I want ALL QUEBECERS and CANADIANS more politically engaged. I truly believe this will happen if the system opens up and becomes more accessible to all. In my humble opinion, marking a single x on a piece of paper and considering that a modern-day democracy… its more of a semblance of one, an outward façade. 

SAM: Definitely some food for thought Mr. Stone as we go to our break.

SAM:  We are joined via phone by someone who is known by most everyone here in Quebec. He was the Mayor of Cote Saint Luc before he went on to lead the Equality Party in Quebec’s national assembly. He is known as a vociferous, outspoken individual when it comes to English language Rights, and it is my great pleasure to welcome Mr. Robert Libman into the discussion here today.

SAM: Thank you again for joining in here. I have to ask you this… does Mr. Stone have it right? Is the ultimate solution to the English language fight here in Quebec… can it be won by the business, social and cultural case that Ian is making here.

SAM: Ian, would you like to ask Mr. Libman a follow-up?

IAN: Thanks Sam. Actually, hearing Mr. Libman agree with my tactic and line of reasoning here is refreshing. There are some in the English Language fight circles who view my views as dangerous, ultimately to the future of their existence. I guess my question to Mr. Libman would be this: How did you do it? How did you finance and birth a party that took you and I believe it was two or three others to the National Assembly? I mean, I’ve always had the utmost of respect for you, and when you were my MNA, I was never more proud, so thank you for your service and for representing me unlike any other politician has in the past.

Robert Libman on the show endorses the new President of Alliance quebec 2 Mr. Ian Stone

SAM:  That must be quite something talking to one of your political heroes?
IAN. Indeed. He is a very smart man and just hearing him say that my arguments have legs or steam if you will, is very humbling. Thank you Mr. Libman.

SAM: I’m curious too Ian, with all the time you spent living and working in the U.S., what differences have you seen between both country’s business practices, norms and can we learn from some of these differences in terms of improving our own system? 

IAN: Well, if you’re anything like me, there’s always room for improvement and there’s always something new to learn, so yes, we can learn from some of what I’ve observed in terms of differences between the American and Canadian business psyche, in general. First, Canadians are much more conservative and risk-averse in business than Americans. That’s a big difference. Another huge difference immediately apparent to me upon my return from the U.S. was work ethic. Americans work hard and office environments are extremely competitive. You work your butt off and maybe you’ll catch someone’s eye who will give you a leg up. That is how I had to operate in the American business stream. When I returned to CANADA and applied this same working modality here, I experienced a phenomenon I’d never thought I’d see. Well, it first happened in Calgary… I was called into my manager’s office and told to be “less productive”. When I tried to explain that this wasn’t in my nature, she proceeded to give me tips how to be less productive and I’m not kidding here – I could daydream out the window, I could make personal calls, I could go for walks, come in late, leave early, take longer lunches… Seriously, I thought I was on candid camera.
When I returned to Quebec I saw the exact same phenomenon in the workplace only magnified and again, I was routinely getting called into my manager’s office and told to not work as hard and as much. I was showing results, surpassing my mandate’s benchmarks, doing everything in such a way that perhaps a promotion should have been on the natural event horizon, right? When push came to shove, I was let go from two such places of employment here in Montreal because of this incompatible work ethic I bring to the table here. My sensibilities in business and otherwise are largely influenced by my time spent abroad, there is no question about that – by definition I have multiple comparatives that I can draw between all the places where I’ve lived. And to be clear, I’m not saying all of Canada or all of Montreal is like this, however our business culture and the American business culture are two very different entities and trying to work backward into ours (Canada’s) having worked in theirs, is exceptionally challenging. 

SAM: We’re almost out of time for today and I would very much like to invite you back to the show – your knowledge base on so many topics is impressive and we covered so much that in our next show I’d like to take a theme, perhaps the business of Health Care in this province or Quebec’s unsustainable det to gdp ratio and what’s being done about it to avoid our own fiscal cliff in terms of a credit downgrade. But for now, I’d like to talk to you about the business of language….

IAN: In terms of Alliance Quebec’s official stand on this – commercial signs do not a culture make. I’ve travelled all over the world and all major cities have signs in all languages period. I don’t want mandated bilingual signs – I want the government of Quebec to stay out of business’ way. In fact, it is the government’s job to create favorable conditions for economic growth and by extension, for business. My vision of Montreal is a city with signs in every language conceivable and in terms of how we make this work for us – we market our city outward to the world as the city of languages – ok? If you’re an Iranian shoe manufacturer and you want to open up a branch office here in Quebec, we have plenty of Iranian Montrealers who could work for you and that same claim can be made over 100 times in over 100 different global languages and dialects represented here in our mutli-cultural city. 

SAM: Is there a brain drain occurring in Quebec… I hear a lot about that and what does it mean for the province?
IAN: Yes, there is a brain-drain in Quebec and its particularly evident in and among the Anglophone community who graduate from University only to find themselves unemployable here in large part thanks to their English-last name. The brain drain phenomenon is very real in Quebec, just as most parents of West-Island University graduates who have had no choice but to see their child to the airport or to the border and say adieu. And don’t tell me this isn’t part of some larger plan – because it is. Get more Anglos out, bring in more immigrants who will “play by Quebec rules” and you’ve got a society that is more likely to vote for independence the next time a referendum is held. 

SAM: Speaking of Referenda, you had an excellent idea I read about in one of your blogs – you’re on Wordpress correct, under AllianceQuebec2 – one word? 

IAN: Yes, and I guess you mean AQ2’s call on interim-mayor Applebaum to hold a city-wide referendum on Bill-101 this spring? It’s not going to happen. But it should. People in my camp should be given the opportunity to make our case for the future economic viability of Montreal as an international, multicultural business hub sans language protection laws –we NEED to abandon cultural and linguistic protection in this city. If the majority of Montrealers feel as I do, and this is registered in the form of a city-wide referendum, there is no precedent for this, but then our city could say to Quebec City, thanks, but notwithstanding, we’re going in another direction… But at least give us a chance to get our message, the real data, the facts… out there. 

SAM: I love your ideas Ian. Let me ask you this, how is your French? Do you speak fluently?
IAN: French Answer about language and cultural pride and that it means to be a Quebecer etc.
SAM: Well it’s been a pleasure Mr. Stone, Ian, I look forward to speaking with you more and wish you and Alliance Quebec2 all the success in the world. By the way, I notice your website is still not up  - have you officially launched yet? 

IAN: No, the changeover, that is my taking the reigns as President has put a few snags in our original timetable, but we expect to be up and running on the inside of a couple of weeks. For now, people can follow me on Twitter and Facebook, under the AllianceQuebec2 name, all one word, or you can email me at – also all one word. Thanks for having me Sam, I hope I didn’t talk your ear off.
SAM: MY pleasure Ian, and thanks again. 

IAN: Thank you Sam, and to all your listeners, Shalom Lachem, v todah rabah!  

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