A panel of local experts in finance, economy and urban planning has outlined 16 recommendations for the economic reopening of city of Montreal amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
One of those recommendations is for the provincial government to give the metropolis temporary powers to run a deficit.
“Right now, in the present situation we are already in a deficit. The help of both Quebec and Ottawa — we don’t know exactly how much it’s going to be. We’re still waiting for it,” Montreal mayor Valérie Plante said.
By law, the city must keep its books balanced. But this year, the city is anticipating an approximate loss of nine per cent of its annual revenue of $6.2 billion.
“Saying that we absolutely must re-balance the budget in the year, either by cutting in expenses or increasing the fiscal burden is not a good idea,” said Luc Godbout, the president of the committee and a researcher at the chair of fiscal and public finances research at the University of Sherbrooke.
The panel is also recommending all levels of government provide financial help in order to ease the city’s economic strain due to the relief measures it has put in place for businesses and the loss of revenue from public transit as ridership is on the decline amid the pandemic.
“As far as transportation, it’s major, we need the necessary resources to be able to have our transportation system keep going. The work of this committee is how to get the fiscal tools that are necessary,” Plante explained.
The experts also recommended local events such as festivals — a big source of income for the city — be moved online.
Companies should also be helped to develop the online side of their businesses and urban delivery.
“The idea of collectivization of businesses or this cooperative approach to business structure, that’s very much a short-term solution at best and it’s probably a very bad idea in the medium to long-term,” said economist Moshe Lander.
Lander says that asking people to buy local is indirectly putting a tax on consumers.
“You’re asking them to give up buying the higher quality or the same quality at a lower price that they would otherwise buy in exchange for favouring the local economy and that local taxation is not being done with the full support of the voter, it’s being done with the guilt of the voter,” Lander explained.
In addition, the panel says the city should have the possibility to inspect premises to check if they are “COVID-ready.”
The release of the report comes a few days after public health gave the green light to reopen some retail stores and businesses in the Greater Montreal area on May 25, as the province recorded its lowest number of deaths attributable to the novel coronavirus pandemic in over a month.
The report was commissioned by the city of Montreal.
— With files from Global News’ Kalina LaframboiseView link »