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Quebec is lagging and needs new strategies and a concrete plan to compete and prosper in the global knowledge society, McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum told an audience at the Montreal Board of Trade, Nov. 21.
"We are in the most intense competition ever known around the world - competition for talent, for investment, for knowledge and for jobs," Munroe-Blum said in a speech titled For a New Quiet Revolution. "And there are signs that Quebec is beginning to slide backward."
She cited the province's declining investment in university research at a time when cities such as Toronto, Boston, San Diego and Singapore have effective city-region strategies to support graduate education and advanced research.
"Quebec investments in education, research and innovation have not kept pace with the competition and as a result Quebec's ability to compete for top talent and investment in the knowledge society is undermined," she said.
Quebec must aim much higher for its universities and rise above the type of political squabbling that has delayed construction of the new McGill and Université de Montréal teaching hospitals, a situation Munroe-Blum decried as "a scandal."
"Many among us have become so addicted to petty politics and hurtful and regressive positioning that Montreal for over a decade has deprived its citizenry of the cuttingedge academic hospitals that it requires to serve our health needs," she said. One of the top magnets that attract new international business is the quality of health care, she said, suggesting the construction delay is a symptom of Quebec's "almost suicidal" capacity to undermine its competitive assets.
"We urgently need a new game plan that builds prosperity alongside social development, one that will have as much of an impact on the realities of today's Quebec as the Quiet Revolution had for the Quebec of Jean Lesage and René Lévesque," Munroe-Blum said.
During the Quiet Revolution's first phase in the early 1960s, a new visionary generation of leaders, including Lesage, built the basis for a new society centred on a system of secular education that would prepare Quebecers to succeed in North America and internationally, she noted. The Lévesque government subsequently initiated a second Quiet Revolution with pioneering programs to support excellence in industry and industrial research. Quebec emerged as a key player in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, aerospace, telecommunications, and information technology and software.
"But make no mistake," Munroe- Blum said. "The first two eras of Quiet Revolution are over. Quebec has come to an economic and demographic moment of decision. For all the progress we have made, we are now stalled as we enter the third period."
Quebec and Montreal must immediately aim to increase productivity and to reinforce existing regional economic clusters by adopting policies that support education, innovation and strategic cross-sector partnerships, she said. By doing so, the region will be better able to attract and retain the best talent, position Montreal as a true world city and make Quebec a place where people from around the world want to live and invest.
"To move ahead, we must embrace this next phase of development - now fully completing the dream of Quebec's Quiet Revolution for the coming generation. The world is not slowing down. It's speeding up. We cannot afford to let it pass us by," Munroe-Blum said.
To read the full text please visit www.mcgill. ca/principal/speeches/new-quiet-revolution.