May 19, 2024

The Queens County Citizen

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Alarm cries from Desmarais about declining living standards

Alarm cries from Desmarais about declining living standards

Like Pierre Fitzgibbon two weeks ago, Board of Power Corporation Chairman Paul Desmarais Jr. believes the nation's decline in productivity has gone on too long and it's time for workers, governments and businesses to act together to correct it. situation

“Simply put, Canada lags significantly behind other developed nations in terms of economic growth and living standards. We must collectively recognize the need to do something about this.

Paul Desmarais Jr. spoke at Power's annual meeting on Thursday. A speech marked by concern about the country's economic future and its ability to continue providing the services its citizens expect.

Earlier in the day, Power Corp announced its net profit for the first quarter of 2024: $709 million, an increase of $313 million compared to the previous year.

Among the garbage

“In 1981, the standard of living in Canada was impressive, with our GDP growing at 3% above the OECD average at the outset. [Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques] And 8% less than the United States.

Today, our GDP per capita is 9% below the average of OECD countries and 27% below the United States. And, as of 2019, Canada's growth rate was “the fifth lowest among 38 OECD countries.”

The data seemed even more “amazing” to him because OECD projections suggest that Canada will rank last in terms of GDP per capita over the next four decades.

Financial emergency

“This situation is alarming. Some are talking“Financial Emergency”, said directly. It is the common people who suffer the most from this lack of growth. […] We are losing the Canadian standard of living that we adore. Quality of life began to decline for many. Our low productivity is hurting our ability to support an aging population.

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The latter affirms that better productivity is essential if the country is to financially sustain the social safety net it has acquired over the years. Stating that he has no intention of entering politics, he clarified that the issue of productivity is a collective issue and it is of interest to all.

The latter is careful not to offer ready-made solutions. However, he stressed the importance of continuing to invest in the latest digital technologies, especially those linked to artificial intelligence. A review of our immigration policies also seems necessary.

Diversity and language

During questioning, one shareholder pointed out that although 36% of the company's board of directors are women, there are still no representatives from visible minorities. Paul Desmarais responded that he understood the comment, but that greater racial diversity on the council could not be expected in the short term.

Another, this time representing the Movement for Education and Defense of Shareholders (MÉDAC), was surprised by Power's refusal to reveal the languages ​​its management members had mastered. In contrast, its general director, Willy Gagnon, said all seven major Canadian banks agreed to provide this information to MÉDAC without complaint.

Power Corporation shares closed at $40.40 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday, up 2.36% from the previous day. In the past year, its stock value has increased by 12.60%.

Power canceled his press briefing without warning

Only after observing it News magazine Having sent a journalist to cover its annual shareholder meeting, the power corporation's management decided to immediately cancel the planned press briefing.

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In recent days, the company controlled by the Desmarais family extended an invitation to the media to cover the event. After the annual meeting, which lasted about 90 minutes, Power invited the media to meet its president and CEO, Jeffrey Orr.

On site, a table with two microphones, a technician at a console and a dozen chairs intended for journalists awaited us in a room at the Intercontinental Hotel where the assembly was held. guest, News magazine He sat waiting for the CEO to arrive as planned. This is very hopeful.

Five minutes later, the Power Corporation's Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Stéphane Lemay, entered the room and announced to us – without embarrassment or apology – that the planned press briefing had been canceled immediately.

“Oh, why then?” We ask.

“Yes, we invited you. But since you are the only journalist present, there is no reason to hold this press briefing,” he replied without further explanation.

It is also impossible to conduct a personal interview with one or the other of the management members, he continues.

“They're already gone anyway. Send me your questions. I'll see if I can answer. But it has been decided that there will be no press briefing,” he said nonchalantly before promptly leaving the room.

loss This type of meeting, held in the wake of shareholders' meetings, is often the only opportunity journalists have to ask questions of public companies' senior management about their company's condition.

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