Ottawa Chamber marks 160th anniversary

While most of the talk of 2017 anniversaries in Ottawa has been around Canada 150, a local business organization has a decade on the competition.

The Ottawa Board of Trade, which became the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce in 2001, pre-dates Confederation by 10 years. Tomorrow, June 10, marks the chamber’s 160th anniversary.

“To think that the Ottawa Chamber existed long before Confederation, validates the visionary care to help shape our business destiny,” said Ian Sherman, acting chair of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “Though we continue to evolve with the changing corporate landscape, our commitment remains the same: to be the champion of our business community.”

On the occasion of the organization’s centennial in May 1957, a special supplement was published in the Ottawa Citizen that included a glimpse into the organization’s history.

One story in the supplement discusses the Board of Trade’s role in keeping the Rideau Canal open to boat traffic when, in 1910, the CPR proposed to close it from The Deep Cut (near Waverly Avenue) to the Ottawa River “so as to provide added ingress and egress of railways to the city.”

By the end of the year that plan had been dropped thanks in no small part to “civic opposition sparked by the Board of Trade.”

Another article notes that the board made a public statement in 1911 lamenting the “inefficient administration of city affairs for many years.” The discussion led to a referendum on whether or not to abandon the aldermanic system or to transform the capital region into a federal district that would include Hull. Citizens voted 7,335 to 2,942 against the proposal.

Some of the other projects that the Board of Trade was involved with include:

  • Establishing Ottawa’s first public abattoir;

  • Founding Ottawa’s first “proper” garbage system;

  • Opening Canada House in London;

  • Rallying public opinion in support of establishing the Lemieux Island water filtration plant; and

  • Conducting a successful campaign in 1950 that resulted in a reduction in the size of city council.

The chamber says it currently has approximately 700 members.