Coping with COVID-19: Behind the headlines

Editor's Note

In order to keep Ottawa business leaders informed in this unprecedented health and economic crisis, OBJ publisher Michael Curran is conducting a series of video panel discussions over the coming weeks with members of Ottawa's business community.

In this Coping With COVID-19 podcast episode, OBJ publisher Michael Curran speaks with OBJ editors David Sali and Peter Kovessy about some of the week’s biggest stories and how Ottawa’s business community is adapting to the ongoing economic challenges.

This is an edited transcript of the panel discussion. To hear the full interview, please watch the video above. Prefer an audio version of this podcast? Listen to it on SoundCloud.

CURRAN: With the May long weekend coming up, the tradition of visiting the Tulip Festival will look a little different. Dave, you recently caught up with the festival’s organizers. How are they adapting?

SALI: This year the Tulip Festival’s organizers had to move the festival online. While that means people can’t be out walking around and sampling the usual site events, it does mean that the Tulip Festival has still been able to offer some virtual events such as music videos, photo exhibits, articles on its website and social media channels. The Tulip Festival says it’s doing quite well in terms of holding onto its corporate sponsors, and even reported that the festival is on track to surpass last year’s total sponsorship revenue. So from a financial perspective, the move online has not been the detriment you might think it would be. 

CURRAN: Peter, let’s go over to you. If there was a big theme for business news headlines this week it was certainly the reopening of various types of businesses. What did OBJ report on?

KOVESSY: We took a look at the health and safety side and what it’s going to take for employers to safely operate their offices in this new era. There are a whole bunch of new concerns that are starting to emerge. Let’s just take one: Can employers ask their employees to wear masks and take their temperatures before they can come into the office? We spoke to a few employment lawyers to explore these and some other issues. The answers that we heard was that it will really depend on what kind of workplace you’re in. Certainly places like seniors homes or child care centres would make a lot of sense to have these measures. Office space is more of a grey area, but the key takeaways we heard was that there needs to be consistency and that any policies need to be written down, and that we need to be monitoring the guidance from public health officials.

CURRAN: As you know, Dave, Ottawa has been working to try and get more business in film and TV production. You found a sector of the entertainment business that’s doing really well despite the pandemic. Tell us about that.

SALI: Studios are still working to supply content, and one way they are doing that is through animated features. Ottawa is quite a hotbed for animation. I talked to a number of businesses this week who said that business is really picking up since the pandemic because services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney are all clamouring for new content. Big Jump entertainment is a local company that recently got a call from a Toronto studio asking for help making an animated episode of a live-action show. Other companies in Ottawa are also seeing phones ringing off the hook, like Atomic Cartoons in Hintonburg.