Montreal mayor demands Quebec government present reopening plan in aid of major event planning

Click to play video: 'Montreal mayor calls on Quebec government for a more solid reopening plan for the cultural sector' Montreal mayor calls on Quebec government for a more solid reopening plan for the cultural sector
Mayor Valerie Plante called on the provincial government to present a reopening plan for the cultural industry on Sunday, saying people who work in the sector need to plan ahead. As Dan Spector reports, many in the industry are pleading for more financial support to ensure small venues don't crumble – Feb 6, 2022

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is calling on the Quebec government to present a reopening plan so concert, festival, conference and other event organizers can start planning.

She said that without some clarity from the Legault government, events will soon need to be cancelled again with potentially devastating effects for Montreal’s economy.

“There has to be a plan,” she told a press conference on Sunday. “What is the plan for the (health) measures for the for the spring and for the summer? People are booking … flights right now.”

Plante, Glenn Castanheira of Montreal Centre-Ville and Yves Lalumière of Tourisme Montréal said they support public health measures, but are concerned about the events that help drive Montreal’s economy.

“We’re about to lose major conferences that we have worked on for many years, some that are international in nature. We can’t just accept week-to-week information about the future anymore,” said Lalumière.

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READ MORE: Long road to recovery for Quebec’s cultural sector after COVID-19 shutdowns

On January 20th, Ontario announced full capacity events will be allowed as of March 14th. Planners in Montreal have had no such indication, leaving hundreds of events and thousands of potential tourists twisting in the wind.

Lalumière and Castanheira said Montreal is on the brink of losing millions of dollars to other cities.

“I wouldn’t say that they’re eating our lunch, but very shortly that’s what will be happening,” said Lalumière.

If we were to lose them this summer, it’d be not only millions of dollars lost immediately, but millions in the long term,” said Castanheira, evoking the difficulty of getting events to return to Montreal.

Last year most North American cities were cancelling events, but this year Montreal is an outlier.

“The difference this time around is that we were the first to shut down and we are now the last ones to reopen,” said Castanheira.

The head of evenko’s booking department was thrilled to hear the mayor was advocating for the event business. He says international artists are losing their patience, choosing to replace tour dates in Montreal with American cities.

READ MORE: Omicron, new COVID restrictions mean tough times ahead for Montreal nightlife venues

“We’ve managed to postpone some of the stuff that we had booked for January, February and December, but we’ve lost a lot of shows straight up because artists are just fed up with rescheduling,” Farkas told Global News.

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Elton John’s farewell tour at the Bell Centre, for example, has just been postponed a fourth time. He said over 100 shows have been delayed or cancelled since Dec 18.

“We did a bunch of shows in October through early December, and to my knowledge, there was no outbreaks at any of them,” he said, adding that show promoters enforce masking rules and the vaccine passport.

In Quebec concerts and other events with a half-capacity crowd are allowed as of Monday, with a maximum of 500 attendees. But he says those rules make most shows not worth putting on.

Events like Osheaga and the Jazz Festival are just months away, and he has no idea if they’ll be allowed to happen.

“We’ve got five festivals coming up this summer that we need to plan for and we need to hire people,” he said. “When Broadway opens July 1st and we’re still not open, you know, eight months later, it’s kind of disconcerting.”

Quebec’s health and culture ministries did not not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

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