My first contact with North America was Montreal. It was the takeover of a Canadian Company, Genstar, that was acquiring another one, Miron, in the cement businesses. I immediately fell in love.
When I joined the New York Stock Exchange, I thought that Canada would fall under my constituency. I was surprised to find out that it was treated as the 51st state of the US. I eventually was given Canada as part of my responsibility and have, since then, been a fervent support of this unique country.
Canada suffers an unjustifiable complex of inferiority vis-à-vis the United States. The size does not explain everything. Canada is not imperialistic and does not work as a dominant country like the US. Dealing with Canadians is similar to Americans without the brutality of the Yankees. Natural resources, nature, respect of the environment, non-aggressive foreign policy are some of the strengths of the country.
Canada is way ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to managing public finance, and in particular funding its pension system and other social programs. A bit like the Belgians, they do not take themselves as seriously as the French, the British and the Americans who built the country. On its West Coast it is becoming overwhelmingly Asian as well.
There are a number of values and qualities that other countries would be well inspired to emulate.
I have, of course, a natural connection and tenderness for Quebec. La belle province is beautiful and welcoming, but lags behind the English speaking majority of Canada because of its obsession with separatism: ever since Charles de Gaulle, the French President, launched to the Quebec crowd Vive le Quebec Libre too many resources and energy has been used to cultivate a particularism that they inherited from France.
Today, Quebec is a stronger defender of the francophonie than France itself. I attended a Sommet de la Francophonie only to find that French President Nicolas Sarkozy,had decided to shorten his trip to Quebec to meet almost-retired President Bush.
There is something genuine and candid in the Quebecois who produce marvelous singers and writers and continue to stimulate all French speakers. I am pleased to be a member of the Board of Directors of Polyfinances, an initiative of polytechnique Montreal. My relationship with the Quebec media is fruitful and friendly. I am a regular contributor RDI-economie, on Canadian TV, a vibrant program managed by Gerard Fillion.