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Marvin Rotrand is partially right (“City responsible for ‘declined airport’ “ Montreal Gazette, Sept. 19): Montreal’s airport is on the decline and serves mostly tourist destinations. What he is incorrect about is his thinking that Montreal’s elected officials can effect change. If there were business activity, the airlines would be capitalizing on the opportunity to service the demand and create non-stop routes.

Montreal is a city experiencing a steady decline in international business. Last year, Mayor Denis Coderre refreshed Montreal International and positioned Jacques Ménard at the helm. Their websiteis active with many stories, but the unemployment figures in Montreal portray a much more stagnant reality.

What Rotrand and all the city councillors should be doing is clamouring for special status for Montreal. It is the best and only solution for distancing Montreal from the ongoing separation and language debates.

Special status would enable Montreal to take charge of its economic destiny. The powers Montreal needs include the ability to reduce taxes in certain areas of the city to attract and retain businesses, in particular, the manufacturing sector; a say in the distribution of the tax dollars that are earned and collected in Montreal; and an ability to tweak the language laws to attract top talent to Montreal, without being obliged to send their children to a French-only school.

As well, decision-making for infrastructure and development should no longer go through Quebec but be given to Montreal. We cannot continue to be slowed down by bureaucrats who have little knowledge or interest in Montreal.

Input on immigration would enable Montreal to attract the professionals and the skill sets that Montreal needs, not what others want to allocate to us.

Montreal should have to power to create a sales-tax-free zone (PST) in Old Montreal for tourists.

It also should have a say in the allocation of funds to universities. This is a sector that cannot be ignored as the economic spinoffs are excellent; housing, food, and entertainment, ideal for our local economy.

Our city has evolved into a village. Increasingly, it seems, Montrealers cannot fly direct anywhere without going through Toronto.

Montreal is an event town, a festival town and a very seasonal town. Four months a year we seem to thrive, party and are distracted by good weather. But once autumn sets in, we struggle to survive. We have become a service economy, providing only essential services for each other.

We must attract investment, we must create new jobs and we must tweak our language laws to allow for economic growth. Special status would provide Montreal with the social, cultural and economic protection it needs to protect itself from policies that are more relevant for the rural communities in our province.

Rotrand is on the right track. He has bravely revealed the elephant in the room. Trudeau airport serves Montreal’s tourism industry, bringing us visitors looking for a quaint, European-style vacation without the complications of the euro, and Americans who are taking advantage of our weak dollar and getting a “bang for their buck.”

And then there’s the curious ritual of our own population doing the great escape in the winter months. From snowbirds heading to Florida or families off to an all-inclusive in Cuba or Dominican Republic, our airport experiences that seasonal surge to a limited selection of destinations. But don’t try flying to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or Dusseldorf non-stop — it’s not happening.

So let’s have a frank discussion with our politicians and share with them the virtues of special status for Montreal. It’s the only way to get the economy of our city thriving again. It’s the answer to our prayers.

Gary D. Shapiro is a Montreal businessman and chairman of Canadian Rights in Quebec (CRITIQ).