Death from taxes: business owners urge city to lower rates in next budget

The COVID-19 pandemic has had more than its share of death, but as the saying goes, there's still taxes as well and Montreal businesses say they need relief.

Danielle Russell, who sells hand-crafted soaps out of her St-Henri shop Botania said the pandemic has hit her business hard and she may not be able to remain open. Bad enough that many shoppers have turned to online stores, but she said the city has not done enough to help.

“We have street closures everywhere,” she said. “It's very difficult to get out of town and even people from town to come by public transport to our business locations.”

Russell head joined forces with bar and restaurant owner Peter Sergakis to lobby the city for help. Sergakis said the biggest problem is business taxes.

He pointed to a recent study claiming Montreal business taxes are the highest in Canada and called for a decrease of 40 to 50 per cent.

“We want big numbers. We want big changes,” he said.

Sergakis wouldn't say how much the pandemic has cost his businesses, other than to say the decrease in revenue has been major. But Montreal executive committee member Luc Rabouin said the decreases he wants are out of the question.

“Of course it won't be a reduction of 40 per cent, it's not possible,” he said.

Rabouin said two-thirds of Montreal's revenue comes from residential and business taxes. He said the city is looking at freezing business taxes in its next budget.

That's not enough for Sergakis, who said he's trying to meet with city officials before the next budget is presented.

“The city and those politicians, sitting in their offices, they don't care,” said Sergakis. “They don't care about us. Pay your bills or we're going to sell your building.” 

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