Michel Leblanc was 45 years old when he was appointed President and CEO of the Metropolitan Montreal Chamber of Commerce. He was never afraid to stand up for his ideas and overcome the obstacles that confronted him, including his young age in the role that he was to take.
His meeting with President Barack Obama helped him better understand the reality of some of the values in his work. President Obama told him about various aspects of his work and, finally, about the importance of his wife and children in his life.
You are from Montreal.
My father, myself, Claude Leblanc, and my mother, Monique Leblanc, lived at 3 1/2 on Boule. Henri-Bourassa Located under a mini-mall next to Mont-Saint-Louis College.
A few months later, this is the start of many removals.
Three months after I was born, we moved two blocks from where we lived in the 4 1/2 house. When my brother Christian was born, I was five years old, and we settled in house number 5 1/2 near the Academy Boulevard, and a few years later we moved to Laval.
Your father changed your date of birth at baptism.
It was important for my father to finish my studies as soon as possible, so he made me two years younger.
Did you go on vacation with your parents?
We spent the holidays only with my mother and brother. My father gave my mother a fabulous $100 to pay for our weekly expenses. However, I was in a hotel in Old Orchard in front of a black and white TV when I saw the American Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.
There were always conflicts with your father.
If I wanted to express my opinion, I had to defend it before my father during our daily clashes. Our confrontations allowed me not to be afraid to defend my decision and accept the consequences.
How was your relationship with your mother?
My mother is a woman who loves relationships very much and she taught me to trust her with my feelings. It was important to her that I express myself, because she told me that it was through self-expression that I would overcome my problems.
The divorce of your parents has affected your life.
Let’s not forget that this was in the early 1970s and I was barely nine years old. Moreover, after the divorce, I asked for boarding for the first two years of my studies at Laval College in order to escape from the not too easy world.
You have become a famous street vendor at Domaine Bellerive in Laval.
I became a street vendor par excellence because my clientele consisted of the inhabitants of the three towers.
You were a delivery man in a store.
The supplies were simple: beer and cigarettes.
You have described yourself as a rebellious child.
I wasn’t afraid to express myself and challenge people. At school, I was two years younger and was the shortest of my peers. Consequently, I formed a group in which I was the leader in order to prevent the persecution.
You became a school dropout at 17.
After my first year at Cégep Bois de Boulogne, I decided to drop out and travel around Europe.
You made $3.54 an hour and raised $9,000.
I started at Garda, which later became ADT, for a modest $3.54 an hour. At 19, after raising $9,000, I went to Europe with two friends.
Your signature dish was pasta with butter.
Before leaving for Europe, my roommate and I did not have enough money to buy groceries. It was the “publications” that allowed us both to eat well. Every week we collect Metro and Provigo coupons for our products.
After returning from Europe, you signed up for adult courses at the university.
Finally, my real age caught up with me because you had to be 21 to register for adult education at the University of Montreal. The two years that my father hid for my baptism, I had to justify them before I was accepted.
Professor François Vallancourt played an important role.
First, he asked me why I chose courses that would have led me to a bachelor’s degree. I tell him that it was my intention to do this. He looks at me and says: “You’re not the only one who wants to do this, but not many people succeed.”
You have completed your studies with a master’s degree.
You would like to know how Professor Vallancourt was able to help me. He motivated me and at the end of my master’s degree I had 4 job offers thanks to him, including my first job at the Treasury Department in Ottawa.
You have two children.
My eldest son, Manuel Gobay-Leblanc, is pursuing an MBA in France. My youngest, Maximilien Leblanc, aged 11, works for the family as a public relations specialist. We recently traveled together, and at the end of the trip, the parents of his friends became mine.
What legacy do you want to leave for your children?
I would so much like to leave them a legacy of perseverance; never give up in life despite obstacles. I wanted to be Indiana Jones and a history teacher. My perseverance led me to become President and CEO of the Metropolitan Montreal Chamber of Commerce.