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A very promising future, according to Lucien Bouchard

“Be confident.” That’s the message of hope that Lucien Bouchard recently shared with business people attending an online meeting hosted by our firm.

Acknowledging that these are very difficult and uncertain times, the former Quebec Premier said he believes that entrepreneurs and the general public have every reason to be optimistic.

“The potential is there for a truly extraordinary economic reopening. If we create the right conditions, we’ll enjoy a full recovery,” said Mr. Bouchard during an exclusive conversation with Emilio B. Imbriglio, President and CEO of our Firm.

Without going so far as making predictions, Mr. Bouchard remains convinced that “a surge of enthusiasm” will occur once people are able to start socializing, going to work in-person, travelling, enjoying cultural activities and dining in restaurants. “This individual enthusiasm will be matched with an economic boom,” said Mr. Bouchard, who is a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, a law firm.

He offered a clear message to entrepreneurs and young people: be confident, be prepared and be ready to adapt. Emilio B. Imbriglio agreed that these qualities are key for overcoming the challenges that inevitably occur at some point in a business’ lifecycle.

Quebec and Canada are wealthy and full of promise, stressed Mr. Bouchard. “Things are looking very good for the future of our younger generations,” he said.

Even though both the provincial and federal economies are in a good position to bounce back, he acknowledges that the public finance situation is currently raising a lot of questions. The situation has changed due to the pandemic and achieving a balanced budget is no longer the top priority.

“As it stands, governments can’t predict when we’ll be able to return to balanced budgets. This means public finances will need to be managed differently. It is sure to be a delicate matter,” explained Mr. Bouchard.

“However, we should be confident knowing that, since 2008, the international financial community has learned to work together.”

At the same time, he’s urging governments not to jeopardize the economic recovery by increasing the tax burden on businesses and individuals.

A lesson in leadership

According to Mr. Bouchard, the COVID-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity to learn a lot about ourselves. It has also reminded us how important interpersonal relationships are. That’s why nurturing connections with family, friends and colleagues is essential. “Having good team chemistry is fundamental.”

The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of strong leadership. Mr. Bouchard praised Premier François Legault for confidently handling the crisis, which he describes as very different from the ice storm that occurred in January 1998, when he headed the Quebec government.

In his view, François Legault is “the man of the hour,” who was ready and able to lead through the current crisis thanks to his experience in the private sector and in politics. The former Premier believes that having a solid background, a strong work ethic and a practical approach are what made Mr. Legault an exemplary leader.

“The most important qualities for a business leader to have are to be very well prepared, to have outstanding communication and listening skills, and to be able to keep a cool head,” said Emilio B. Imbriglio, adding that using a strategic approach to overcoming difficulties is also important.

The convergence of several critical issues

The pandemic accelerated a number of trends that were already emerging within the business world, such as the transition to e-commerce.

“We’re going to see an increased reliance on digital technologies; it’s inevitable. But does that mean traditional sales will disappear completely? Not necessarily. We mustn’t overlook the importance of human interactions,” said Mr. Bouchard, who believes that consumers will always want to be advised in person and to view certain items with their own eyes before making a purchase.

During the webinar, Mr. Bouchard also discussed several other important issues, including Canada-U.S. relations. “We need to restore a friendly relationship [with the United States], and let that translate into economic benefits,” he said, recalling the good working relations that existed between Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the Republican presidents in the 1980s.

Mr. Bouchard also confirmed that the environment is another critical issue. “We’ll need to make sizeable investments if we want to address environmental concerns.” However, there’s no easy way to meaningfully tackle climate change while pursuing economic growth at the same time. “We need to rely more heavily on science, because that’s the only way to develop truly renewable and economic energy.”

Diversity is another key issue. “We need immigrants. We need to accept interculturalism and manage it effectively,” he said.

With regard to women in decision-making positions, he sees progress being made and a real desire to give more opportunities to female leaders. That said, he’s not convinced that implementing coercive measures (such as quotas) is the most effective way to increase female representation. He believes that “the main driver behind gender balance will be the achievement of a critical mass of qualified women, a phenomenon that is undeniably occurring and extremely positive.”

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