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Everyone is aware that Montreal has been performing at an unacceptable level according to virtually every measure. The challenges that lay ahead are not simple, or easy, but they can be pursued successfully. Significant change appears to have commenced, and may be gathering strength. At the outset, let’s be clear about something. If Montreal is to become a great city again, it will either need to get some sort of real “special status” within Quebec, become a special economic zone or, later, a city state. As we see it, the fundamental question we face is: Can Montreal become a city of global importance, or is it destined to be a provincial metropolis? We are currently a provincial metropolis not much higher in status than other important provincial metropolises, such as Halifax or Winnipeg. We need to become more important, like Toronto or Barcelona. Under existing constitutional arrangements, municipalities are controlled largely by the provinces. Provincial governments pass most of the enabling legislation that affects the powers cities have. Mayor Denis Coderre has entered into talks with two provincial cabinet ministers, Pierre Moreau and Robert Poëti, regarding some kind of special status for Montreal that would see the city get more responsibilities and funding — but for small things like transport and services for the homeless. Bravo and kudos, but is that enough? No. A recent Bank of Montreal/Boston Consulting Group analysis of Montreal outlined 10 distinct proposals to turnaround the city’s sagging fortunes. If these 10 propositions were to become actionable, they would be implemented within one of the two broader contexts we see for Montreal: evolving provincial metropolis or evolving global city. First of all, Montreal needs to be able to attract and retain the best talent. That is a clearly defined goal to which to aspire. To do this, Montreal must control its own destiny, and that means it must be open to diversity and become a beacon of opportunity. In order to reconnect with the larger North American and offshore business world, Quebec’s restrictive language laws need to be reviewed, and reworked to fit with Montreal’s global ambitions and identity. The thinking should be as follows: Montreal is a French city, first of all. It is also a North American city. It should become a global city. Global cities are defined by their openness to diversity and creativity. And so all students, regardless of ancestry or origin, need to be bilingual at the end of primary school, and trilingual at the end of secondary school. Anglophones and allophones (including immigrants) should be free to choose any school they want, as long as those schools offer a bilingual or trilingual education. Businesses and institutions should be able to use their language of choice. The public should have access to all services in either official language: anywhere, anytime. All of this is possible; we just have to do it. The time is now. Michel David is a business strategist and author of The Genius Is Inside. He is also a director of Fondation Montréal: City-State. He lives in Westmount. Morton Grostern is a consultant to small- and medium-sized businesses in Montreal. He is also a director of Fondation Montreal: City-State. He lives in Hampstead. Michel Lozeau, a strategic consultant and executive coach in Paris, contributed to this commentary. He lives in Montreal and Paris. © Copyright © The Montreal Gazette