Alexandre Taillefer sees a brilliant future on Montreal’s horizon.
“We’re a bit too pessimistic about our city,” Taillefer told senior anchor Jamie Orchard from the new observation deck at the top of Place Ville-Marie. “I think we need to be much more optimistic.”
Taillefer invested $20 million dollars to create the new deck that offers stunning views of the city below.
As a venture capitalist, Taillefer strives to invest money in promising businesses. Something he believes the province needs.
“I think we need to create 10 to 15 large corporations – unicorns as they say in the States – billion-dollar companies, that will be able to replace the Ronas, the St-Huberts, the companies that we’ve lost. ”
His latest venture is Téo Taxi, an electric taxi service which provides free Wi-Fi to customers and a $15 hourly wage to its drivers.
The taxi industry has experienced serious upheaval in the province recently but Taillefer says he thought long and hard about what needed fixing.
“I decided to look at every model that could make the taxi industry work by correcting one main issue… the salary of drivers,” he said. “In Montreal they’re going to work 80 to 90 [hours] a week and they’re going to make $23,000 a year. That doesn’t make sense.”
Taillefer’s vision for Téo goes far beyond taxis.
“We will be in the delivery biz, the truck biz, the bus biz our intention is to build the equivalent of a Transdev here in Quebec.”
But building at any cost is not in this multi-millionaire’s plan. Taillefer insists that all of his businesses also have a social conscience.
“I think we need to make sure that everyone can make a decent living working 40 hours a week, it’s our responsibility to bridge the gap between the poorer and the richer.”
Taillefer was front-and-centre at Montreal’s World Social Forum in August, fighting for a $15-an-hour minimum wage for everyone.
“He’s a really good example of what Montreal wants to promote: social entrepreneurship,” Annie, a volunteer at the forum, said. “So having him here is incredible.”
Taillefer is clearly a visionary but his optimistic view of the world was seriously tested last year, when he lost his 14-year-old son, Thomas, to suicide. He broke the news of his son’s death in a heartbreaking Facebook post and realized he wasn’t alone.
“It was important because it’s such a terrible event and since my son has died, I’ve received, and I’m not joking, at least 5000 letters from parents who’ve been in similar situations.”
Dealing with his son’s death hasn’t been easy.
“My son had sent a few messages out saying he was unhappy but he never told us, never told his friends, never told anyone around him,” he said. “We need to understand all the issues.”
Although it’s been a struggle, Taillefer decided to turn part of his focus toward investing in prevention.
“There’s probably 150 different associations in Quebec working on prevention but that’s not enough,” he said. “We need to make sure that they work together, that we assemble a very solid network to address these issues and funnel the people into the system.”
That’s partly why this business visionary is also pushing his political friends to find new ways to track progress.
“I don’t think economy should be the only criteria we’re looking at…I think happiness has to be the number one factor for Montrealers, for Canadians, for Quebecers.”
Taillefer goes even further, arguing that the role of politicians should be to ensure the happiness of the population it serves.
“We need to understand happiness, we need to track happiness and the role of the politician should be to make sure our population is as happy as possible.”
And in Taillefer’s view of Montreal, English and French need to unite to achieve that vision.
“I think we’ve come a long way and we need to get rid of the two solitudes. We need to come together as a society.”
There are so many Great Montrealers around us. If you know someone who should be profiled as part of Global News’ Greater Montreal campaign, don’t forget to nominate them!