200 years of commerce in QC

As Quebec City celebrates its 400th anniversary, its Chamber of Commerce is about to turn 200 years old.

The Chamber of Commerce and the city have decided to collaborate in celebrating the two anniversaries. A book retracing the commercial history of Quebec City and the history of its Chamber of Commerce was just sent to press.

A historian, a writer and an iconographer worked for one year on the project. It tells of 400 years of commercial history in Quebec City. It also underlines the achievements of the entrepreneurs of the region and the projects that the members of the Chamber helped develop throughout the years.

“The Chamber is and has always been a centre of synergy, a place gathering businessmen and businesswomen who aimed at improving the economic activities of Quebec City,” said Christian Goulet, president of the Chamber.

It started at the beginning of the 19th century. Merchants then realized the advantages of uniting in what they first called a Committee of Trade – a committee devoted to economic protection and promotion.

They finally founded in February 1809 the first Chamber of Commerce of Quebec – and the second of
Canada, after the Chamber of Halifax.

Emilie Guilbeault-Cayer is the historian who researched the book. She explained that the founding members of the Chamber were mainly English-speaking merchants, as under British rule most businessmen were English and Scottish.

One major entrepreneur of that time was William Burns. He founded in 1792 the Burns and Woosley Company, a wholesale and retail business.

Businessmen like Burns had an infl uence on all the economic sectors of the city. They were in contact with importers and exporters and benefitted from British funding.

English-speaking businessmen gradually became more rare within the Chamber as the French-speaking population of Quebec City grew.

At the beginning of the 20th century, French-speaking entrepreneurs started representing a larger part of the Chamber. They now constitute the great majority of its members.

The book shows that, even if times have changed, entrepreneurs of the 19th century and of the 21st century share common interests.

One of the top priorities of the Chamber has always been the improvement of the transport network linking Quebec City to the rest of the country.

Businessmen of the second half of the 19th century saw the importance of joining the North American commercial and industrial network. Guilbeault-Cayer explained that they fought to get Quebec City connected to the railway – and finally succeeded in 1879.

As for the coming year, Goulet stated that the Chamber will fully support the establishment of highspeed rail in Quebec City.

Goulet will officially present the book on September 11. A summary is already available in Capital-Quebec, the Chamber’s magazine.

Celebrations such as the unveiling of an art exhibit and show at ExpoCité are also scheduled for the fall.