February was nothing short of a nightmare for the people of Ottawa, especially for those living, working and running businesses in the downtown core. I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their patience and resilience during that time. A special thanks also goes to the Ottawa Police Service and the officers from other law enforcement agencies from across the country that worked in lockstep to carry out a measured and effective plan to restore peace and reclaim our streets in Ottawa’s downtown following a weeks-long occupation. And to all the frontline workers, first responders and City staff who put in countless hours and tireless efforts during a long month – thank you. With that said, businesses in the downtown core were some of the hardest hit over the last few years, following several pandemic-related lockdowns in Ontario and then the many weeks of closure as a result of the occupation. While municipalities in Ontario do not have the ability to provide direct financial assistance to businesses, Council passed various motions at a meeting last month that will give them a leg up in the coming weeks and months. These include:

  • A deferral of interim 2022 property taxes for affected businesses in the areas impacted by the occupation;
  • Providing a total of $450,000 to affected Business Improvement Areas, Business Associations and the Ottawa Markets Corporation;
  • Approving a funding contribution of $50,000 to the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition to deliver an expanded City Sounds outdoor concert series in 2022;
  • Expanding no-charge transit to include service on O-Train Line 1 until March 27; and
  • Approving free parking at downtown City-owned surface lots and garages through March 31.

In addition, I want to thank the provincial and federal governments for their business relief funding to cover some costs incurred during the demonstration. While this is a good first step, I continue to urge both levels of government to also cover lost wages for employees who were significantly affected during this period. I know these measures are just a starting point to encourage residents and visitors to return to our downtown core to enjoy our vibrant neighbourhoods and experience the beauty of our nation’s capital. As we begin to see restrictions lifting across the province, I want to thank all those who continue to follow advice from our public health experts to keep ourselves and our neighbours safe. COVID-19 is still present in our community, and while we still need to be cautious, we must also find a way to learn to live with the virus. For details related to the business support package, please visit www.ottawa.ca