‘There’s no Dr. Paul for the economy’: Bergeron calls for economic recovery task force

Cornwall Coun. Eric Bergeron. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – Citing some fresh data from a local business survey, Cornwall Coun. Eric Bergeron has asked the city to strike an economic recovery task force.

Bergeron says the City of Cornwall is facing an “economic emergency.”

He made the request based on a recommendation from the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Improvement Area, contained in a report on closing Pitt Street. The city won’t be moving ahead with closing the street from First to Third.

Citing a Cornwall Economic Development survey he received Monday, Bergeron says of 200 local business asked, 15 per cent risk closely permanently in the next four to six months.

“That’s almost 30 local businesses already stating that they have to close in the coming months. That’s one in six. The conclusion for me is we’re in an economic emergency right now,” Bergeron told council Monday night.

He seemed to pat the municipality on the back for “mitigating the medical emergency in this region (but) there’s no Dr. Paul for the economy. We’re in a pandemic so speed and not perfection is the mantra.”

“We, as a council (need to) start treating the economic crisis that we’re in like the health pandemic. We don’t want to lose 15 per cent of our businesses,” Bergeron explained.

Coun. Claude McIntosh called the results of the business survey, which councillors received hours before Monday night’s meeting, “surprising” and “shocking.”

The survey was done between the City of Cornwall and the United Counties of SD&G.

Bergeron also tried to push a motion through to have free two-hour parking in municipal lots and one-hour free parking on the street in the downtown core – even though the city is already not charging for parking city-wide, likely until the pandemic is over. His motion will likely come at the June 8 meeting when a report on parking will be available.

Mayor Bernadette Clement says the task force “is a good one (idea).”

Clement will be meeting with CAO Maureen Adams this week to work at setting it up, establishing terms of reference and figuring out who should be on it. Adams told council, other task forces across the province have business representatives from different sectors, elected officials and city staff with a focus to brainstorm quick ideas to help the local economy.