‘Everyone is in crisis mode’: Calls increase for government to support downtown businesses

BIA association sees more businesses opting to close their doors due to the unrest

Downtown Ottawa
Downtown Ottawa

With the trucker convoy and protests continuing in Ottawa for a second week, downtown business owners and employees are calling on various levels of government for support.

The Ottawa Board of Trade is drafting a letter today calling on every level of government to immediately support businesses impacted by the demonstration.

Sueling Ching, the board’s president and CEO, says the uncertainty being created shakes not only customer confidence, but the confidence between employers and employees.

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“These people are losing business hand over fist every day that this goes on and there’s no certainty of when it will end,” she said. “We need to support them until there’s a peaceful end to the demonstration.”

Businesses located in the core have lost revenue as customers avoid visiting downtown. Many have reported employees feeling unsafe at work. A large number of businesses have closed their doors completely as a direct result of the protests, including Ottawa’s Rideau Centre, which remained closed Monday.

“We live in Ottawa and have seen so many protests. Nobody has a problem with a protest,” said Michael Wood, a small business advocate and commentator. “But it has morphed into a different ecosystem and the participants have changed.

“Small businesses are hoping for some sort of financial support,” said Wood. “It’s important for those in power to understand how this is truly affecting people. Until it happens to you and you’re affected by it, you can only sympathize and empathize.” 

The Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Associations (OCOBIA) has drafted letters to various members of government requesting immediate support.

“No one sees that things are ending and there’s no timeline,” said Michelle Groulx, executive director of OCOBIA. “Everyone is in crisis mode at this point, so businesses need to be able to assess the damage and recover what they’ve lost.”  

An ongoing survey by OCOBIA of downtown businesses has shown a rise in the number of respondents forced to close their doors from 75 to 76 per cent in the last week, due to what Groulx calls an “occupation” of downtown Ottawa.

“The levels of government are listening and have acknowledged our requests,” said Groulx. “But the funds need to flow to businesses as soon as possible. It’s critical.”

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