Does the federal government have a responsibility to help the economy of downtown Ottawa recover?

The issue was raised on Tuesday after a presentation by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce at a meeting of the city council’s finance and economic development committee.

Content of the article

Does the federal government have a responsibility to improve the economic health of downtown Ottawa by bringing public servants back to their offices?

Advertising

Content of the article

The issue was raised on Tuesday after a presentation by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce at a meeting of the city council’s finance and economic development committee.

Com. Mathieu Fleury asked Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sueling Ching if the organization had formalized a request to the federal government for more information on the return of employees to downtown offices after COVID- 19 forced thousands of officials to work from home.

But Ching said the unknowns applied to all workplaces, not just federal ones.

“What we are trying to get a handle on frankly, not only with the government as an employer, but with all employers, is what the appetite for a return to power is,” Ching said.

“Even the CEOs we’ve met who have a national mandate find it difficult to return to the office in a safe manner, in a way that supports what their workforce wants to do and that they can retain that workforce. “

Advertising

Content of the article

Ching said the chamber of commerce is working on ways to build “employee confidence” in returning to the office.

For months, the town hall has been trying to find out the federal government’s intentions regarding the return of civil servants to downtown offices.

The status of federal workers is particularly important as the city tries to project ridership levels for OC Transpo. When the 2022 municipal budget proposal is tabled on Wednesday, a lot of guesswork could be at stake regarding the revenue forecast for the public transport service.

The city also has an eye on the economic health of the retail and service sectors in the core as the traditional consumer base cleared up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are some positive signs, however.

Advertising

Content of the article

Cushman & Wakefield’s analysis of downtown Ottawa retail businesses found a vacancy rate of 1% in the second quarter of 2021, an improvement from 1.8% in the fourth quarter of 2020. In the fourth quarter of 2019, the downtown retail vacancy rate was 3.1 percent, according to research from Cushman & Wakefield.

During the committee meeting, the counselor. Eli El-Chantiry urged Mayor Jim Watson to work with the federal government to “promote and encourage people to return to work”.

A cabinet minister in downtown Ottawa now oversees the administration of the federal government, with Ottawa-Vanier MP Mona Fortier taking over as Treasury Board chair. The riding of Fortier includes part of downtown, east of the Rideau Canal, including the Byward Market and the Rideau Center.

Advertising

Content of the article

After the committee meeting, the board. Laura Dudas, who as vice-chair of the committee also worked closely with the business community during the pandemic, said work-from-home warrants issued by inner-city employers had generated activity economical for stores outside the city center.

Dudas said businesses on St. Joseph Boulevard were doing well during the pandemic, with residents working from home spending money in their local stores.

But the question of the city center occupies an important place.

“I think now is the time to have this conversation about how we can as a city but, even as residents, support the local downtown businesses which over time have become very dependent on day labor to support their businesses, ”Dudas said. in an interview.

Advertising

Content of the article

Downtown businesses will need to diversify their customer base and think about what services residents need, Dudas said. The city can do its part by promoting downtown events, she added.

The city has no control over when, or if, employers return workers to their offices.

Dudas agreed that the city can no longer count on the federal government to protect the economic health of the downtown area.

“There is an opportunity here to see how we can strengthen our downtown businesses in the long run (considering) that we don’t know what the future of work looks like,” Dudas said.

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling

Advertising

comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a vibrant but civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour of moderation before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications. You will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, if there is an update to a comment thread that you follow, or if a user that you follow comments. Check out our community guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Leave a Comment