THREE NEW IDEAS TO BOOST MONTREAL’S MORALE AND REVIVE ITS FLAGGING ECONOMY
ALLAN J. GOLD
The most important cause of the decline of Montreal is the bankruptcy of spirit of its people. A huge percentage, by no fault of their own, have been forced into a situation requiring public assistance. Without work, many despair that there is no way out.
Others, struggling in the work force, see their disposable income reduced and are suffering from their incapacity to earn more.
If we become passionate about the prospects of Montreal, then we as a city will again overcome our troubles. By contrast, if we remain in the present city-wide comatose state, we are doomed.
To put people back to work, we should turn to industry, trade and commerce. From business, especially small business, comes employment and long-term strength in our economy. As a Montreal lawyer in private practice in the corporate and commercial field, and having experienced many start ups, I understand the novice entrepreneur and in his name, submit three modest proposals.
The government of Quebec should rework a part of its welfare budget and issue coupons, not legal tender. These would be distributed equally among the population filing tax returns. The coupons would be in denominations of $100 each and a total of $500 Quebec coupon dollars would be given to each taxpayer. These would be valid at the start of the government’s fiscal year and expire at the end of the fiscal year, after which, if not used, they would be worthless. The coupon holders must use them as only part-payment for the purchase of goods and services from newly established businesses founded by a person previously unemployed, on welfare, and/or with a revenue in the prior year of less than the poverty threshold.
Montreal should invite these people to a convention-style expo, where they may get information and business counseling.
Emphasis should be given to the building trades and the renovation of homes or apartments. The public interest would also be well-served, as the Quebec infrastructure would be improved. Furthermore, with these Quebec coupons being valid only within a limited time, taxpayers would be anxious to spend them. While the black market would not be eradicated, there would be pressure for workmen to register and declare income to share in this mini-boom. These new businesses receiving coupons in payment would be permitted to use the same in order to pay Québec taxes/charges. The remainder would be exchangeable for certain goods and services in need of promotion and distribution by the province.
Finally, there should be a computer bank, listing these new entrepreneurs by trades so that Montrealers may be able to find out about them.
These new businesses wouldn’t get a government-backed loan or subsidy, but rather a sales-enhancement program because they will learn business survival skills.
Cité-Centre de l’Industrie, Montreal needs to do more for small industry. At present, there is a great cash outlay at start-up and there is a time delay before a new business can commence production. Accordingly, my second suggestion is a micro-factory centre. Simply put, this would be a publicly-owned development in several phases, comprising various mini-factories, each for a designated industry. These factories would be fully equipped and ready to use. The centre would operate similarly as do the furnished executive office firms, on a “pay-as-you-use” basis. They would be available for short-term rentals, and the tenant would bring his own merchandise/supplies.
As an example, phase one might contain an industrial kitchen for novice caterers, a metal-stamping room, a wood-working shop, an auto-garage, a sewing-machine room for clothing, and so on. Price would be on a sliding scale, and these target businesses would get the best discount.
The second phase could be for women and minorities. The third could be related to new inventions. The fourth could be for existing businesses ready to hire more people. Thus, the means of production would be put at the disposal of enterprising people and they would be able to start up quickly and without first seeking major funding.
Montreal has empty industrial buildings, many of which are already partly or wholly owned, directly and/or indirectly. The selection of the site is itself an instrument of revitalization of a community. This investment by Montreal would be a magnet attracting people and businesses. The project would also give a boost to the construction and renovation trades and create work for dealers and installers of machinery.
Street vendors. As well, our newly minted entrepreneurs need places to sell their wares. Businesses long for proximity to major flows of people. Hence, there are many untapped locations on our sidewalks and squares. Montreal should designate certain areas as “street-vendor malls.” These sites would be chosen with convenience in mind, but at a preset distance from any current store-front seller.
These areas would not have the appearance of flea-markets; rather, vendors would sell their goods from pleasing hand-carts. We already have seen ice cream and newpaper street sellers and these items were still sold through store-front outlets. The municipality would be entitled to determine which products might be legally sold from the sidewalks and squares.
The city and the Montreal Urban Community would also need to fix the conditions under which these products are to be sold. As a starting point, I suggest local items, promoting our distinctive culture and heritage, for example tortière, maple syrup, poutine, bagels, ethnic foods plus the basics, such as hot dogs and ice cream. Respecting non-food items, I propose native art, rain goods, souvenirs, crafts and so on.
Montreal is the small island settlement with the mountain, whose people overcame disease, natural disasters, wars, and other adversity. With hope, ambition and hard work, they prospered and Montreal became an economic capital. We even survived the differences among our cultures. It is a fact that many Montrealers want to work, but can’t find a job. There is a paralysis of the unemployed and the disadvantaged. There is a need for new ideas. There is a need for government to act.
The foregoing proposals won’t cost money, but, rather, they will make money for our people. I challenge other citizens to come up with suggestions of their own.
CAUTION/DISCLAIMER: The foregoing article is only for informational purposes and is not meant as legal advice. Seek out legal counsel for your particular needs.
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