Montreal could do a lot to keep businesses in the city and make their owners happy, according to the findings in a study mandated by the city to determine how best to attract and maintain business.

The working group was charged with finding out why for decades, Montreal has lost businesses to other cities and other nearby municipalities.

Issued in February, the results of the study were made public Monday, with 17 recommendations to address high taxes, red tape, and a lack of service.

The recommendations include:

  • Easing the tax burden on non-residential sector, which paid 56.1 per cent of the city's taxes in 2015, but made up only 26 per cent of the tax base.
  • Slowing overall municipal costs, which have risen almost a full point above inflation since 2002.
  • Creating a better culture of customer service across all boroughs, not just some.
  • Compensating businesses when construction and other work cost them 15 per cent and more of their revenues, an initiative that has had success elsewhere.
  • Consider charging commercial and residential properties for their water use, an idea that is already working in Toronto, but would require residential water meters. (When Montreal considered water meters in the past, it led to corruption charges.)

Mayor Denis Coderre said his administration has begun work on some of these measures, but that water meters for homes are not on the agenda just yet.

"We're planting a seed. We need to think about eco-fiscality," he said.

 Some measures will require permission from Quebec, impossible without special status for Montreal.

“There are some issues that will not be in the budget for 2017, might be for the next one, because we're negotiating the status for the metropolis. The National Assembly will table the legislation this fall,” said Coderre.

Opposition party Projet Montreal said special status for Montreal won't help, that small and medium businesses really need, they argue, is a fairer tax system that doesn't allow big box stores to pay less than small ‘mom and pop’ businesses by using only property values as a metric for tax evaluation.

"No matter how successful a small store downtown is, it will pay tremendously more than a big box store on the edge of town that pays very little," said Projet Montreal city councillor Guillaume Lavoie.