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COVID-19: Summer could be the start of economic rebound for Montreal

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WATCH: With COVID-19 vaccination ramping up and the start of a gradual lifting of restrictions underway, business experts believe this summer could be the start of an energetic rebound for Montreal’s economy. Global’s Phil Carpenter reports. – May 21, 2021

With COVID-19 vaccinations continuing to ramp up and the start of a gradual lifting of restrictions underway, business experts believe this summer could be the start of an energetic rebound for Montreal’s economy.

“As a whole, the city, I’m very, very confident will fully rebound,” said Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Montreal Chamber of Commerce.

Challenges do remain.

The city’s downtown economy has taken a beating because of the pandemic. Bars and restaurants have been closed for months and the Formula One Grand Prix was cancelled this year for the second consecutive summer.

Read more: Downtown of the future: What Montreal’s city centre might look like when COVID passes

On top of that, most office workers are still working from home and Leblanc believes that will take some time to change.

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“The return to the office will probably be a six-month-to-a-year process,” he told Global News.

He estimates that about 25 per cent will return this summer and by the fall, just half of the pre-pandemic number.

Leblanc also noted that the tourism sector has faced challenges, since the border with the U.S. remains closed to non-essential travel.

“This summer we will be mostly among ourselves,” he said.

Still, experts and government officials insist the summer could provide the jolt the city needs to bounce back.

“The key during the summer will be to reactivate the cultural side of Montreal and the restaurants,” said Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec minister of economy and innovation.

Read more: City, provincial government invest in efforts to draw people back to Montreal

He believes the gastronomy sector will help boost the economy.

“In Montreal, it is one of the attractions of the city,” he pointed out.

With the low number of tourists visiting in the short term, Fitzgibbon stressed that it’ll be up to workers to support restaurants.

“We want the workers to be back in the offices,” he said, “and you want them to eat at lunch and at dinner and it creates a momentum.”

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Restaurant terraces reopen May 28 and indoor dining is allowed to resume two weeks after that.

Read more: COVID-19 — Montreal wants to help restaurants compete with food delivery giants

How quickly workers return downtown remains to be seen and that worries restaurant owners who say summer and fall 2021 will be crucial.

“Because winter is more difficult for the restaurant business than summertime,” Normand Laprise, chef owner of Toqué! Restaurant, said.

Nevertheless, those watching the economy, like Leblanc, are seeing great momentum in certain sectors

“If you’re in the construction business, if you’re in finance, if you’re in IT of course, if you’re in a life science economy, well, you’re just booming right now,” he said.

With the gradual lifting of restrictions, he’s expecting that the weather won’t be the only thing heating up this summer.

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