Montreal to inject $22M into 'unprecedented' economic recovery plan
Mayor Valérie Plante unveils her strategy to restart Montreal engine after pandemic shutdown
Three months after Quebec ordered schools and all non-essential businesses closed to stem the spread of COVID-19, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante plans to invest in infrastructure, transportation and local businesses to help rebuild the city's hard-hit economy.
"It's been a rough ride for the last few months," said Plante. "It's also been hard for the economy of our metropolis."
Though it is too early to predict how far-reaching the pandemic's repercussions will be, Plante said at a news conference Thursday, her administration will "review the way we do things and rethink the city."
Plante said the city will inject $22 million into the economy over a six-month period, taking a range of steps aimed at helping companies — especially small businesses — adjust to the new world of physical distancing and plexiglass shields.
"It is quite unprecedented for a city to invest so much money in a recovery plan," said Plante.
While Montreal itself is losing a half-billion dollars to the pandemic, businesses across the city are also struggling to stay afloat. Many businesses are still under orders to remain closed, and others will never reopen.
Key points of the recovery plan include:
$5.55 million to stimulate commercial arteries and support merchants.
$4.8 million to help companies do business differently, including the transformation of business models, support for startups and for the social economy.
$10.5 million to "reinvent" Montreal's economic development, including leveraging strategic assets and creating new programs to support sustainable investment.
$1.1 million to support and co-ordinate research, data and training initiatives.
Montreal will also invest more in public and active transportation, housing and the treated water network, the city said in a statement.
City to adopt 'buy local' strategy
The city will also focus on responsible sourcing, procuring from local service providers as much as possible, Plante said. Her administration also plans to modify tax regulations, to make them more flexible, adapting to "new realities," she said.
Luc Rabouin, the city's executive committee member in charge of economic development, said Montreal will be particularly focused on reviving the downtown economy and investing in the east end of the city.
It will support projects to temporarily occupy vacant lots for pop-up businesses, cultural projects and other community initiatives, Rabouin said.
Helping merchants to redevelop their business model is also a key component of the economic recovery strategy, he said.
The city will be offering financial incentives to support new startups and encourage larger businesses to get behind new local businesses, he said.
The Plante administration has launched a series of initiatives aimed at helping businesses weather the storm, ranging from low-interest loans and subsidies to the delay of property tax payments.
Plante has said Montreal will still need substantial help from Ottawa and the provincial government in order to balance its budget.
Business groups support plan
The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal supports the city's plan, saying only the provincial and federal governments have the funds to help hard-hit sectors such as aerospace, tourism and culture.
Gopinath Jeyabalaratnam, the Quebec policy analyst for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said Plante's strategy will help some businesses get through the crisis, but others won't survive.
He said that's why the city is focusing on supporting small businesses and startups.
"It is a robust first phase that sets the table for the challenges Montreal will have to face in the next couple of months," Jeyabalaratnam said.
With files from Steve Rukavina