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Montreal opposition wants money to support city's public markets

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Montreal's public markets are world-renowned, and the city's official opposition wants to keep it that way. Ensemble Montreal is submitting a motion to city council to revitalize the sites and their aging infrastructure, as many merchants say they need an upgrade.

Guy Desgroseilliers's family stall - Farm JP Desgroseilliers - has been at the Jean Talon Market since 1964.

The second-generation farmer said, like other buildings, the market is aging, and it needs a lot of maintenance.

Ensemble Montreal is asking the city to invest $20 million to revitalize all three public markets - Jean Talon, Atwater and Maisonneuve.

"For us to step away as a city and not come and take our responsibility, it's a little alarming for the future of our public markets in the city," said Cote-des-Neiges--Notre-Dame-de-Grace (CDN-NDG) city councillor Stephanie Valenzuela.

Various vegetables are on display for sale at the Jean Talon Market in Montreal on January 11, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

The public markets are a mixed responsibility. The non-profit Montreal Public Market runs them, but the city owns them and is responsible for major repairs.

Montreal Public Market general manager Nicolas Fabien-Ouellet claims the last major investment at Jean Talon was at least a decade ago, and Maisonneuve Market in the mid-90s.

"These are all infrastructures, to put in perspective, they are almost 100 years old, and so maintaining those types of infrastructures needs to be done," said Fabien-Ouellet.

He said there are leaks and that Atwater and Jean Talon need to be better insulated for the winter.

The main hall of the Atwater Market is seen in Montreal, Thursday, July 21, 2016. As health and environmental concerns have fuelled Canadians' appetite for locally sourced and organic food, Montreal's public markets have been quietly reaping the benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

"More and more, I hear vendors saying it is getting harder and harder to get into the market with all the infrastructure challenges that are there," said Fabien-Ouellet.

Montreal's opposition would also like to see the network grow.

"It just makes sense at this moment in 2023 how we're emphasizing supporting local, how we're emphasizing protecting the environment, to integrate public markets in our city and in the new areas that we're developing," said Valenzuela.

For now, the non-profit wants more money for existing markets, but it is not ruling out future expansion.

"We're part of the discussion, and we're taking some leadership," said Fabien-Ouellet.

The Plante administration refused to comment on the proposal and will, instead, debate the motion when it is presented to the city council on Oct. 16.  

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