MONTREAL -- Projet Montreal's 2021 budget plan, announced on Thursday, focuses on helping Montrealers survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante. 

The budget "is being presented during the worst crisis in our recent history," Plante said at a news conference. "We had to ensure that we could support our merchants and entrepreneurs, middle class families and the most vulnerable so that they could get through this difficult time.”

Plante announced her administration is freezing property taxes for the year 2021 for both residential and non-residential properties under city council jurisdiction, which means $56 million will stay in Montrealers' pockets. 

"We hope this tax freeze will give families and businesses a welcomed break since 2020 has been so rough of them," she said. 

The administration also said it will be rolling out part two of its economic recovery plan, worth $50 million, to further meet the needs of Montreal businesses -- in addition to adding better measures for differentiated rates for small, non-residential property owners. 

"Today, more than ever, as our local businesses are shaken by the health crisis, this measure is necessary," Plante said. 

The city will also be cutting senior fares on public transit by 50 per cent, which will allow them to save about $320 per year, Plante said. Children below the age of 12 will have access to the entire Montreal transit network for free. 

“I’m very proud of this budget, I think it fits the needs of Montrealers," Plante said.  

Thursday's meeting was delayed by a group of protesters calling on the city to defund its police force (SPVM). 

A group of individuals representing several organizations across the city called for the defunding of the SPVM just a few weeks after another Black man was killed by officers in the Notre-Dame-de-Grace borough. 

Asked to leave, the group refused, saying they have a right to be present to hear the city's plans. 

The group drew attention to the amount of funding the SPVM gets every year -- saying it should be cut in half and that the money should be reinvested into the community. 

When the conference began, the group's chants of "No justice, no peace, defund the police," could be heard from nearby. 

"I think it’s important to start by mentioning the particular situation we’ve found ourselves in to present the budget," Plante said at the start of the conference. "There’s a protest outside." 

"These are subjects that we’re not only comfortable with, but that we believe," she continued. "Our exchanges will continue, we will discuss with this group as well as others." 

Just over 17.5 per cent of the city's 2021 budget -- worth $6.17 billion -- is reserved for public safety. It's the sector receiving the largest distribution of funds, followed by debt servicing, at 17.2 per cent, and public transit at 10.4 per cent. 

View a PDF summar of Montreal's 2021 budget plan below.