Friday, April 12, 2013

Montreal Street Vendors -Then and Now.

Montreal in 1910. In 1910 Tainted Water and Tainted Milk were issues of concern. See my Milk and Water e-book.

I see that Montreal is going to allow food to be sold on the streets. According to a CTV article, this has been illegal since 1947.

While researching my Threshold Girl e-book, about a college girl in 1910 Montreal, I learned a little bit about the politics around this issue in the era of mass immigration:

According to one era article most of the vendors in the 1900-1910 era in Montreal were Greeks, Italians and Syrians. And the Food Inspector was kept busy handing out handbills showing how to keep their food clean. Indeed, "Dr Dagenais favours a ban on the foreign push-cart dealers," reads one headline. 

They were a big nuisance, too, so noisy, shouting all the time. The fire department was also concerned: "Along certain parts of St. Lawrence and Ontario Streets wooden shanties have been erected without permits, frequented by street vendors of fruit, candles and candy. Some shanties are used as barber shops."

And then, in 1909, a new by-law was proposed, that street vendors be taxed 200 dollars a year, up from 50 dollars, the same amount corner grocers are taxed. Grocers, of course, were most interested in this by-law, as street vendors were cutting into their business. 

One alderman, Fraser, voted against it saying "We are imposing an impossible tax on a class of men who do a little business. We should not forget we all have a small beginning at one time. You are trying to tax a class of traders out of business."

The by-law passed, on the second reading. Street vendors were to be taxed 200 dollars and 5 dollars for each employee.
 Do Montrealers really need to eat more tasty, salt-laced carcinogen-filled fare? Hot dogs are the easiest most cost-effective food to sell from a cart. Although I wouldn't mind having Amir selling their falafels on the street. Yum.

I must admit, when I first heard about this new policy, I thought this meant food 'entrepreneurs' could find a cheap way to get into the business, but just like  in 1910, this new policy isn't for entrepreneurs, exactly,  new Canadians, for example, hoping to bring a bit of home to the Montreal streets with little investment or over-head.

Of course, my son, who works in the biz, said "What's to stop me from going up to a restaurant and using their name on my truck?"