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 or Spotify.

CURRAN: Housing has been a major story recently in this pandemic economy. There was a report released this week that gave some peace of mind to local homeowners. Peter, can you tell us about that? 

KOVESSY: A B.C.-based consultancy concluded that Ottawa is going to be the only one of five major Canadian markets that is going to avoid a housing slump in 2020. The big factor here is the stability that the federal government gives our local economy both in terms of jobs and continued economic output. 

CURRAN: On the real estate note, Dave, you had an opportunity to speak with Claridge Homes’ vice-president Neil Malhotra this week. What did he have to say? 

SALI: He feels pretty bullish about the housing market – as he should, seeing that Claridge has a number of multi-unit development projects underway. He recently announced plans for a new two-building project at 1705 Carling Ave., near the Carlingwood Shopping Centre, where Claridge also wants to build a nine-story retirement residence and a 21-storey rental apartment. 

They also have Ottawa’s marquee condo project, the 45-storey Icon tower that everyone can now see rising at the corner of Carling and Preston. The Icon should be done by early next spring as construction was delayed slightly by the pandemic, but units in the 250-suite highrise are selling quite well despite the downturn right now. 

CURRAN: Now back to you Peter. MNP, one of the big accounting names here in Ottawa, made an acquisition. Can you tell us about that?  

KOVESSY: MNP acquired a Toronto firm called T4G, a company that uses artificial intelligence to analyse sales data, inventory levels and other business indicators. What’s really interesting is that MNP is a national firm, but this Toronto-based company is actually going to be absorbed into MNP’s Ottawa-based digital solutions practice. What’s fascinating about this narrative is the evolution within the sector. Both MNP and the broader sector are evolving, and we saw that when MNP merged with A Hundred Answers a few years ago, which was a professional services firm offering digital and technology services. 

CURRAN: Dave, you wrote a piece on what’s going on behind the scenes in this sector. Can you give us an analysis of this?

SALI: This is part of a growing trend that professional services firms are moving into new service lines, with big data analytics being a key one. Clients today really want to dig deeper and find out the story behind their sales figures and find out how their cost of sales stack up against competitors. It’s really all about mining that data to get every advantage you can, especially coming out of the pandemic where every company will be looking to cut costs.