Montreal mayor says city will need financial help from Ottawa, Quebec to recover from pandemic

Montreal will freeze hiring and new purchases as the Plante administration looks for ways to strengthen the city’s financial position without passing on to taxpayers the unexpected expenses incurred by the pandemic.

“The solution cannot rest solely on the back of Montreal taxpayers,” said Mayor Valérie Plante Thursday as she announced her plan to reduce city spending to prevent “too much” of a deficit.

“We will have to have to have the help of Quebec and Ottawa to get through this.”

The city is still in the throes of the COVID-19 crisis, but Plante said it’s time to look forward, to Montreal’s economic recovery.

Plante said the city had a $251 million surplus last year, and it has been financially prudent, which has prepared it to face some economic hardship.

Coun. Benoit Dorais, chair of the city’s executive committee, said some city projects in their early stages will be halted or delayed, but he named no specific projects that won’t go forward

“We are doing everything we can do to limit the impacts and come out stronger from this crisis,” he said.

Dorais said these first steps will help the city save $123.4 million.

The plan is to keep all employees on the job for now.

“It is not our plan right now to lay anybody off in any massive way,” he said.

Plante said the city had a $251 million surplus last year and has been prudent financially, which makes it better prepared for economic hardship.

The mayor has said in the past she wants the city to emerge from the pandemic “even stronger” than before, but she has acknowledged there is a difficult path ahead.

“The challenges in terms of public transit and the management of public spaces are the greatest,” she said recently.

As the Quebec government plans to gradually scale back confinement measures across the province, Plante has said the process may go a bit differently in Montreal, due to the dense urban environment.

“We really want to bring together the winning conditions so the deconfinement is safe,” Plante said.

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