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Subsidy program to fill empty storefronts would distort competition, Montreal merchants say

 


An opposition motion to subsidize new retail businesses that open in areas with elevated vacancy rates could end up distorting competition, merchant groups say.


City councillor Julien Hénault-Ratelle, Ensemble Montréal’s economic development spokesperson, says the party plans to introduce a motion calling for the financial assistance at the next municipal council meeting June 12. The subsidies could cost the city as much as $34 million in total over three years, with aid for each storefront capped at $30,000 a year, he said.


“To help merchants face the lingering effects of the pandemic, we think it’s the right time to move forward with a subsidy program,” Hénault-Ratelle said Thursday in an interview.


City councillor Julien Hénault-Ratelle, Ensemble Montréal’s economic development spokesperson, says the party plans to introduce a motion calling for the financial assistance at the next municipal council meeting June 12. The subsidies could cost the city as much as $34 million in total over three years, with aid for each storefront capped at $30,000 a year, he said.


“To help merchants face the lingering effects of the pandemic, we think it’s the right time to move forward with a subsidy program,” Hénault-Ratelle said Thursday in an interview.


Areas with relatively high retail vacancies include the Latin Quarter near the Berri-UQAM métro station, Ste-Catherine St. E. in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, St-Denis St. and the Village, Hénault-Ratelle said.


Although storefront vacancies downtown continue to hover around the 20 per cent mark, retail activity in the area is picking up — as evidenced by the fact store openings in 2023 have outnumbered closings by four to one, Castanheira said. Through May 1, some 46 stores have opened their doors downtown this year, compared with 13 that shut down, he said.


Subsidizing new retailers “is a good idea, but subsidies always create a form of inequity,” Julien Vaillancourt Laliberté, head of the St-Denis St. business development agency, said Thursday. “It’s a little bit like when mobile phone companies give new customers rebates that aren’t offered to longtime customers. There needs to be a balance. Perhaps existing merchants could get financial help for things like freshening up their facade.”


https://montrealgazette.com/business/local-business/real-estate/subsidy-program-to-fill-empty-storefronts-could-distort-competition-montreal-merchants-say

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