The battery industry is a "generational opportunity," according to BMO.

The battery industry is a “generational opportunity,” according to BMO.

BMO Quebec President Grégoire Baillargeon (Photo: The Canadian Press/Christinne Muschi)

Quebec needs to seize the economic opportunities its electricity provides before other countries catch up, says BMO Quebec president Grégoire Baillargeon. Unlike the big head of the National Bank, the banker takes a much more favorable view of the billions of dollars in government support for the battery sector.

“I don’t want us to wake up in Quebec ten years from now and say, ‘we had an opportunity, we missed it,'” Grégoire Baillargeon said in an interview before Monday’s speech. from the Canadian club Montreal.

“Renewable energy will be everywhere on the planet,” he warns. Right now we have it in Quebec, but in ten years most places in the world will get there. This benefit is temporary. (…) Quebec must seize the opportunity.”

After decades of abundance, electricity is already scarcer in Quebec, while Hydro-Québec predicts an end to surpluses around 2027. Quebec hydroelectricity is benefiting from renewed interest as industrialists look to decarbonize their activities, not to mention the electrification of transportation, which will lead to increased consumption.

Hydro-Québec also plans to invest nearly $100 billion by 2035 to increase its generation capacity and nearly $50 billion to ensure infrastructure reliability.

Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon has repeatedly reiterated that industrial demand exceeds supply and that the government should select the most promising sectors and new projects.

However, Grégoire Baillargeon does not believe that the opportunity he is inviting her to seize has already passed. “We lack it (production capacity), but everyone lacks it, so there is nothing special about it,” explains the banker. We leave with an advantage.”

In this context, the businessman supports the development of the battery sector, which is supported by Quebec and the federal government. The electrification of transportation gives Quebec the opportunity to participate in the automotive industry, “one of the largest industries in the world,” he says. “It’s an opportunity that will last for generations.”

The support for the government policy contrasts with the criticism of the great boss of the National Bank, Laurent Ferreira. He said in a speech in September that he was “not a big fan of subsidies to attract foreign companies to the country”.

In an interview on the sidelines of the event, he clarified that the comments were related to the billion-dollar aid to the battery sector in Quebec and Ontario. “My point is that when we provide subsidies to foreign companies, they go directly into the pockets of foreign shareholders, who are mostly not Canadians. In the long run, I doubt this wealth creation model.

Grégoire Baillargeon specifies that his views are not so far from those of Laurent Ferreira. “I don’t have a view diametrically opposed to the comments (that) we need to support our local ecosystems, but I certainly have a view that is very supportive of all our governments and the private sector on the battery sector. I think it’s an extraordinary opportunity for Quebec.”

While championing the sector, the businessman believes the concerns of environmental groups need to be heard at a time when several are concerned about the impact of the development of the Northvolt plant in Saint-Basile-le-Grand. on fauna and flora. The Swedish company, in turn, promises mitigating and compensatory measures.

The time when we ignored the sustainability of economic projects is “over”, believes the banker, who defends “that we are looking at these questions much better”.

“These debates are intense, it’s very healthy, it’s right, but we have to be able to find compromises to allow this economic growth that comes to feed our state, that comes to feed our society, while doing things in a very responsible way.”

BMO is “not in cut mode” for Quebec jobs

Regarding the impact of rising interest rates on BMO’s activities in Quebec, Grégoire Baillargeon is reassuring in the interview. The nation’s fourth-largest bank has approximately 5,000 employees in the province.

With rising interest rates and a slowing economy, the job market in Canada’s banking sector is facing tough times. Layoff announcements have been piling up in recent months.

To control inflation, the Bank of Canada wants to slow down the economy, which inevitably affects the results of the banks, which are correlated with economic activity, explains Grégoire Baillargeon, who judges that the announcement of layoffs in the sector “is out of the question. norms’ compared to previous downturn cycles.

“Banks are a little less in growth mode than they have been in recent years, and that, well, often comes with downsizing,” explains the manager.

BMO did not disclose any major layoffs in the fourth quarter, but said its total workforce fell by 1,600 people.

“There is still a lot of stability for us here in Quebec. (…) We see the future of our banking services here in Quebec very, very, positively. We’re not really in reduction mode, not at all.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *