In mid-April, the ground shook under the feet of street vendors when the city of Montreal announced that starting in May 2023, the Publisac would only be distributed to those who request it. The press spent a morning with delivery people who live in uncertainty about keeping their jobs.
Posted at 8:00 p.m
“It hurt me when Plante announced that,” says Steve Arsenault, patting his heart. With the other hand he holds about thirty bags of advertising flyers. “It’s been my job for 15 years, I’ve worked with other street vendors and we all need that to live. what will happen to us I do not know. »
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced on April 11 that residents who wish to receive the Publisac must obtain a sticker from the city. In Mirabel, the first municipality to adopt such a charter, Transcontinental announced in late April that it would stop distributing promotional bags altogether due to lack of profitability. Montreal argues that Publisac accounts for 10% of the materials processed at Lachine’s recycling facility.
“But she’s not complaining about Amazon causing pollution,” says Steve Arsenault, the sound of his voice mingling with the sound of his metal cart. “If you walk around and look at the bins on recycling day, it’s not true that Publisacs are 10% of the content. Amazon’s boxes take up a lot more space. »
Steve Arsenault began shipping the Publisac 15 years ago and has become a distributor over the years. He hired about fifteen street vendors to specifically cover the Rosemont, Villeray, Westmount, and Montreal North areas.
The machine has seen many students and retirees, but also homeless people, ex-convicts, illiterates and immigrants.
There are many street vendors who couldn’t work at Tim Hortons. That’s not what they’re made for. There are some that consume, so they don’t provide customer service.
Steve Arsenault, Publisac delivery man
“If the person is drunk but nice and self-reliant, I’ll give them a chance. Our society is sicker than we think,” says Steve Arsenault, himself a former alcoholic.
to work outside
A little further down the Côte-des-Neiges, Yves Perron paces up and down each of the steps on Mountain Sights Avenue at a brisk pace. “I’m a countryman! I like working outdoors,” says the man who started delivering the Publisac at the age of 20. He’s 55 now. “But sometimes I’ve stopped big ends. »
The man takes a break and speaks openly about his drinking problem. “I grew up in a family of alcoholics. My father is an alcoholic. My sisters are alcoholics. My uncles are alcoholics. I grew up there and I liked her,” he explains.
The peddler also managed to get out of homelessness last January. He found a studio on Plateau Mont-Royal and the first three months of his rent were paid thanks to a social reintegration program. 1ah In May he has to pay his first rent himself.
Yves Perron was not surprised by Valérie Plante’s announcement that she intends to limit Publisac’s distribution. “She had talked about it for a long time,” he says. If I lose my job, I will look for another job. Preferably outdoors. »
But he fears for other comrades like J.-F., who also left the street three months ago. “He’s about to fall,” he fears.
Closing at the end of the month
Chantale Santerre also does not take well to the announcement of the system of voluntary registration with the Publisac. “When I heard that, I said to myself, ‘I have to find another job.’ »
The 53-year-old already works as a bartender and in customer service at A&W and has been delivering the Publisac since October to make ends meet. She earns $200 for every 1000 Publisacs issued. She shares the sum with her friend who gives him a hand.
“If you’re fast, it can take two or three hours,” she says. In some parts of the city, however, it can take up to seven hours, she adds.
Chantale Santerre loves the freedom her job as a street vendor gives her. She starts when she wants, takes the breaks she wants. When she thinks about losing her job, her language changes. “Wait for the next elections, you! I’m not a girl who usually votes, but this time I’m going,” she said emphatically.
By the next elections, however, it may be too late.
- The number of Publisac distributed in Montreal each week