Montreal Chamber of Commerce wants employees to ‘love working downtown’ once again

Downtown Montreal was deserted when the pandemic first hit. Since then, workers have slowly returned to office buildings. CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

In another attempt to revitalize Montreal’s economy, the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is launching a major campaign to convince workers to say, “I love working downtown,” which is also the name of the initiative.

The initiative aims to create a positive buzz around the core of the city so businesses can thrive once again. But when it comes to imagining the future, the group says it’s time to rethink what was previously thought.

“Anyone that thinks that (we) will go back to exactly what was before is wrong, in our view. Clearly, it will be a hybrid. It will be more flexible as well,” said Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal President and CEO Michel Leblanc.

In the latest study from the Montreal City Centre report, 47 per cent of employees surveyed continue to work from home. That’s down five per cent from the previous study. But 50 per cent of workers say they want to continue working from home, including Bruno Simon.

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“The difference in quality of life is absolutely amazing,” said the Blue Cross employee.

Simon, a Pointe-Claire resident, said he now saves two hours everyday by not having to commute to his downtown office. Blue Cross will only require its employees to be at the office once a week.

“We can be just as productive working from home,” he said.

Leblanc realizes this is the new reality. But he says attracting people downtown in the short term is vital for stores and restaurants.

“It’s time to come back. It’s time to come back for the fun of it. But also it’ll have an impact if we succeed,” he said.

Downtown Business Association Executive Director Glenn Castanheira told Global News, “What we need to continue doing is continue doing better what we already did well and maybe leave behind what we don’t do so well.”

Castanheira says it’s important to better coordinate construction projects so downtown is more accessible for pedestrians and drivers.

Starting Dec. 1, the  Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM) is offering new fares to reflect the new hybrid approach to working, including offering 10 tickets for $45.

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Leblanc says due to the fourth wave, businesses are slow to return to the office and there are not as many tourists.  He doesn’t expect the recovery to be quick.

“I suspect that in September next year, we will have largely succeeded,” said Leblanc.

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