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Restaurant and Grocery Store Workers Are the Subject of a New COVID-19 Study in Quebec

Plus, an Outremont councillor suspended over a conflict of interest involving Boucherie Provisions, and plans for Montreal’s summer bounce back

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PROVINCE-WIDE — Researchers from the Université Laval, Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec-Université Laval, and Université de Montréal will be keeping tabs on 450 grocery store, restaurant, and bar workers in the Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches regions over the next five months, as part of a study that considers the effects of coronavirus on the cohort. The research will include testing for COVID-19 antibodies to determine the rate of infection and the immune responses among food industry workers.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, food service employees have been at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to their close daily contact with a large number of people,” says Denis Boudreau, a Université Laval professor involved in the project, which is backed with $2.2 million from the Canadian government’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. Data on this particular workforce is limited despite its members being continuously at risk of being exposed to the virus, Boudreau says.

OUTREMONT — The Superior Court of Quebec has decided to uphold the 45-day suspension of Outremont city councillor Jean-Marc Corbeil, who’s been accused of placing himself in a conflict of interest involving a neighbourhood restaurant, Journal Métro reports.

In June 2019, Corbeil allegedly asked the borough to postpone the decision on a permit application for renovations at the Van Horne Avenue building housing Boucherie Provisions. Shortly after, Corbeil then voted against the restaurant’s application altogether. However, at the time, Provisions was suing the councillor to the tune of $14,600 for damages caused by his hindering of construction at the building over a year prior, in November 2018. In August 2020, the Commission municipale du Québec ruled in favour of Corbeil’s suspension, but the city councillor contested that decision.

DOWNTOWN — Montreal has earmarked $2 million of a $25-million downtown economic revival plan for the city’s floundering restaurant industry. Montreal mayor Valérie Plante outlined the plan on March 18, also announcing funds to support Chinatown merchants, free parking on weekends until Labour Day, more pedestrianization, and the city’s still uncertain summer festival lineup. The Quebec government is responsible for supplying 15 of the $25 million for the summer bounce back, news that comes days after Premier François Legault told Quebecers that anyone who wanted to be vaccinated would be able to get their first dose by June 24.

PROVINCE-WIDE — According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, thousands of Quebec businesses could see their taxes rise by 130 percent due to reduced employment. Restaurant owners are typically granted a tax break if they pay employees for 5,500 hours, or the equivalent to 2.5 full-time employees, but with restaurants and bars either entirely or partially closed for the better part of 2020, many will be ineligible.