Francophonie entrepreneurs from all over the world have had a new voice for three years now that unites them under the aegis of the Alliance des patronats francophones, an international organization whose president of the Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), Karl Blackburn, is one of the founding members. The CEO of the CPQ wants this new economic platform to become the springboard for Quebec companies to access new markets.

The Alliance des patronats francophones held a large gathering two weeks ago at the Quebec City Convention Center during La Rencontre des entrepreneurs francophones 2023, which brought together some 850 delegates from 29 countries.

“This was our third meeting after those in Tunis and Abidjan, and the next one will take place in 2024 in Morocco. We have a new member country that was added this year with Cambodia.

“Our organization wants to make the economic Francophonie a leader in the energy transition,” explains Karl Blackburn, who has been president of the CPQ for three years now and board member, vice-president and treasurer of the Alliance des patronats francophones.

It was at the instigation of the CPQ and the Mouvement des entreprises de France (MEDEF) that this new employers’ group was born, on the sidelines of the International Organization of La Francophonie, which was created in 1970.

“It is entrepreneurs who are at the base of this movement, whether it is MEDEF or the employers of Congo or Burkina Faso, there was a desire to come together to better face the new challenges that arise, particularly in environmental matters with the adoption of international standards. »

If the Alliance des patronats francophones can become a springboard for Quebec companies wishing to diversify their markets, it can also make Quebec the gateway for companies from the international Francophonie to conquer the American market.

Entrepreneurs from the 29 member countries of the Alliance des patronats francophones are active in a market of 321 million French-speakers on all continents. In the next 40 years, this clientele will triple to represent 1 billion French speakers in the world, mainly due to the African demographic explosion, of which the continent alone should bring together more than 80% of the French-speaking world in 2060.

“There were discussions in Quebec between Quebec entrepreneurs and certain African states which will soon result in announcements of cooperation. We can bring economic value to the work done by the International Organization of La Francophonie,” said Karl Blackburn.

We have heard a lot from Karl Blackburn over the past two years on the issue of the labor shortage that afflicts the 70,000 private and public sector employers represented by the CPQ in Quebec.

The former deputy and organizer of the Quebec Liberal Party and former director of public affairs and government relations at Resolute Forest Products became CEO of the CPQ in June 2020, in the midst of a pandemic.

After being involved in the management of the many business support programs, Karl Blackburn quickly came to grips with the problem of labor shortages.

“Replacement workers were going to come to 50% of students entering the labor market, 25% of experienced people and underutilized groups, 3% of new technologies and 22% of immigration, which made 64,000 new immigrants per year, these are the figures of the Ministry of Labor”, specifies Karl Blackburn.

The CEO of the CPQ also congratulated the government for having revised the permanent immigration thresholds which should be officially increased to 60,000 per year by the end of 2023.

The situation in 2020-2021 was critical, he recalls, when one in two business leaders claimed to refuse contracts because they did not have the necessary staff to carry them out and that a out of two companies simply canceled investment projects for the same reason.

That being said, the CPQ has been a staunch defender of the Ministry of Labor’s decision to set 14 as the minimum legal age to start working, despite the seriousness of the employment situation.

“We are not going to solve the labor problem by sacrificing our young people. Their place is to be in school. There is a significant delay with Ontario on school graduation. Education is also the priority of our economic platform for the next three years, we must discourage dropping out and promote academic excellence.

“There are worrying literacy challenges in Quebec when we know that one in two adults does not understand what they read,” laments the CEO of the CPQ.