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Montreal slowly begins road to economic recovery as infrastructure work resumes

Road construction booming in downtown Montreal
Everywhere you turn, construction is in full force, whether it be by the Bell Centre, Peel Street or Ste-Catherine Street. As Global's Tim Sargeant explains, if you've been working from home for the last few months, you're in for a surprise when you do finally come downtown.

Road work has resumed throughout the city.

And shoppers are returning to the iconic Sainte-Catherine Street.

This is the start of Montreal’s comeback. The business slowdown that has lasted since mid-March wasn’t due to any economic or financial calamity but rather a global pandemic that forced the government to shut down almost all businesses, sporting events, tourist attractions and cultural destinations.

Essentially, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the entire city to its knees. But unfortunately, Montreal is still not standing.

READ MORE: Bill 61, to fast-track infrastructure projects in Quebec, raises red flags with opposition parties

Close to 98 per cent of all office towers are vacant, meaning close to 310,000 office workers are staying at home, according the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.

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“When I asked the large employers their vision of the summer and the fall, they’re saying a maximum of 20 per cent will come back,” Michel Leblanc told Global News in a Skype interview.

City of Montreal announces help for businesses as local economy starts to slowly reopen
City of Montreal announces help for businesses as local economy starts to slowly reopen

Miranda Ciavaglia is one of the few office workers still commuting downtown to her job in a bank.

“At the beginning I felt like I was in an episode of The Walking Dead. You know, there was nobody around,” she told Global News.

And less than half of all retail workers in Montreal are back on the job, according to Marc Fortin, president of the Retail Council of Canada (Quebec division).

READ MORE: City of Montreal publishes economic recovery recommendations issued by panel amid coronavirus crisis

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City officials are trying to take advantage of the slow growth by moving construction projects into full gear.

Four hundred public works projects are currently underway with 40 of them described as major, involving the repairing or replacing of aging water pipes and sewage lines.

“We will work faster because there is less traffic, there’s less events, there’s less tourists and there’s less workers in downtown Montreal,” Philippe Sabourin, a spokesperson for the city of Montreal, told Global News.

Hopefully, some of that work can get done by the time Montreal gets back into full economic swing.