Technopole transfer to proceed despite pending law

By Robert Frank

The city plans to carry on with its plan to restructure its business development agency, regardless of a new law that is wending its way through the Quebec legislature.

“We’re moving forward with reorganizing Laval Technopole,” executive committee vice-chairman David de Cotis told The Suburban.

The Liberal government is pushing Bill 28 through the National Assembly to abolish regional governments and local business development agencies and fold their activities into regional municipalities.

Laval residents tend to be unaware that they have a regional level of government. It’s invisible because of geography and political structure: the city is among the only in Quebec whose municipal and regional boundaries are identical; and citizens don’t vote directly for their regional representatives, who instead are designated by city council.

“Technopole has important legal obligations,” emphasized de Cotis, who also serves as chairman of the board of directors of the municipal parapublic agency, which has helped bring billions of dollars of business investments to Laval during the past decade.

As reported in The Suburban last year, the city intends to integrate half of Technopole’s staff into a new business development directorate at city hall, where they will become municipal civil servants. “That also entails determining how the city will take legal responsibility for Technopole’s short- and long-term contracts,” de Cotis explained in an interview.

“Then there’s the whole question of human resources,” he continued. “We have to ensure that employees are transferred from one entity to the other in a responsible, logical and efficient way.”

“On that side, we’re moving forward,” de Cotis declared.

Last week, Laval filed a brief with the Quebec legislature’s public finance committee that gave qualified support for Bill 28.

“We’re in the midst of a complete overhaul of our business development mission,” Mayor Marc Demers said in a statement. “We see the [provincial] government’s plan…as an opportunity to accomplish this mission even better than before.”

While the city finds the opportunity to start with a blank slate appealing, it fretted that the new law will needlessly restrict its ability run its investment portfolio and limit municipal support for local businesses. It is also concerned that it will lose its margin for maneuver on the international scene.

Technopole has helped Laval to chalk up several economic coups, attracting scores of companies in a variety of advanced industries to locate their head offices here.

As a result, foreign direct investment has accounted for a significant portion of the more than $6 billion in capital injected into Laval’s economy during the past seven years. That has helped the city outpace the province during that period, boosting employment and attracting new residents who have swollen Laval’s population. Consequently, Laval is projected to surpass Quebec City as the province’s third-largest city during the next decade or so.

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