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Montreal to invest $22M to revive local economy hurt by COVID-19 crisis

Montreal mayor Valerie Plante responds to questions during a news conference at City Hall in Montreal. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The City of Montreal is investing $22 million as part of a sweeping plan to stimulate the local economy weakened by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The recovery plan consists of 20 measures which will be implemented over the next six months to give businesses a helping hand as lockdown restrictions continue to be lifted. Shopping malls and restaurants’ dining rooms will open in the coming days.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante told reporters on Wednesday that the crisis has been hard for residents and merchants, but the new measures will help revitalize the city.

“This is an opportunity to seize and we will do so,” she said.

READ MORE: Montreal mainstay Bar-B Barn shutters after 53 years due to COVID-19 pandemic

The investment comes two weeks after a panel of local experts in finance, economy and urban planning outlined 16 recommendations for the economic reopening of Montreal. The city had commissioned the report.

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As part of the plan, the city will put $5.6 million toward boosting commercial arteries and merchants. Counc. Luc Rabouin, the executive committee member in charge of economic development, said there will be a special focus on the downtown core.

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Montreal is also setting aside $4.8 million to support businesses to adopt new models and to encourage startups. An additional $10.5 million will be used to “reinvent” the city’s economic development by creating new programs to support sustainable investments.

READ MORE: Montreal to convert some streets to help pedestrians, cyclists get around amid coronavirus lockdown

The city is injecting $1.1 million to support and coordinate initiatives in terms of international influence, research, data and training. This includes putting Montreal back on the international map, according to Rabouin.

“Our companies have to be visible, they have to be known,” said Rabouin.

Montreal has been the epicentre of the virus’s outbreak in Canada. There are more than 26,000 cases of COVID-19 on the island.

Lockdown measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 have been tough on small businesses, many of which were forced to close for more than two months.

When asked if $22 million would be enough, Plante said the city has done what it can with its means but that the measures are only complimentary to actions taken by the provincial and federal governments — which have far larger budgets.

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“We want this to work,” she said.

The Montreal Chamber of Commerce, which provided recommendations to the city, welcomed the plan. President Michel Leblanc said in a statement it is an “important step” when it comes to reviving Montreal.

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With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez

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