Cirque du Soleil's Mitch Garber speaks to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. Dave Sidaway / Montreal Gazette
Mitch Garber, the Montreal businessman who chairs Cirque du Soleil’s board of directors, is backing incumbent Denis Coderre in the upcoming municipal election, he told the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal in an address on Tuesday.
Four years ago, Montreal had a bad reputation, particularly when it came to corruption at city hall, but Coderre has changed that, he told the audience.
After the address, Garber told reporters: “I support Denis Coderre because I think he’s done a terrific job. I think that his track record over the last four years is better than anyone could have imagined.”
Coderre has “brought international positive attention here. We’ve got 150 cranes in downtown Montreal, 14 new hotels being built,” Garber said. “His list is long, so I think it would be very difficult to make an argument that after that four-year performance, he should be replaced.”
But as a resident of Westmount, Garber won’t have the opportunity to vote for his pick.
“It’s frustrating. I’m a Montrealer,” he said. “I work downtown. I pay half my municipal taxes to Montreal, and it doesn’t make sense to me that I can’t vote for the mayor in my municipality and for the mayor of Montreal.”
In his speech, Garber criticized Bill 62, the so-called “religious neutrality” bill that would bar people from giving or receiving public services with their faces covered, describing it as a watered-down version of the Parti Québécois’ charter of values.
“Call it what it is — a bill to ban Arab women’s face coverings. It’s wrong, and as a Jewish Quebecer, I’m embarrassed. We are not a racist province, but this is a racist bill,” he said.
Garber also spoke about his support for the federal government’s deal with Netflix, which has faced criticism in Quebec.
Getting a company like Netflix, which could make programs anywhere, to make a significant commitment to Canada was worthwhile, he said.
“Is the Netflix deal perfect? No, but large deals rarely are,” he said.
Incentives play an important role in attracting investment to Canada and more specifically to Montreal, he said.
“With anchors like Netflix and Facebook, we will make better deals with the next companies,” he said
While Garber said Montreal and Quebec are in the midst of a period of unprecedented growth, there are still big challenges.
The province still has the lowest median household income in the country as well as one of the highest high-school dropout rates in Canada.
“This must be fixed. Better and higher levels of education equal higher household income and equals a better life. It all starts with the dropout rate,” he said.
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