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Ottawa Business Growth Survey: Businesses look for stronger partnership as mayoral election looms

Skyline of the city of Ottawa from across the Ottawa river

While the annual Welch LLP Ottawa Business Growth Survey provides a snapshot of business confidence and trends in the capital, we’d be remiss not to have asked business leaders how they are feeling about the upcoming mayoral election, which will inevitably see a new Mayor in Ottawa for the first time in over a decade.

Looking ahead to the fall election, Jim McConnery, managing partner at Welch LLP advises the new municipal government needs to properly manage its financial affairs and contain tax increases, provide effective management for large projects, and play an active role in shaping the downtown. This mirrors the priorities of survey respondents, who cited LRT phase 3 and improving the transit system overall as their top concern.

“I think the election marks quite a transition, given that Mayor (Jim) Watson has been in place for so many years and, to a certain extent, he’s provided an amount of ongoing stability,” McConnery says.

Tim Thomas, of Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall is keen to see a new administration. “It’s been the same vision for 15 years, I think it’s time for a change. I think in any municipal or federal or provincial government, it’s never healthy to have the same administration for too long a period.”

At the Ottawa Board of Trade, Sueling Ching has three priorities on the election wishlist: strong leadership that chooses “progress over perfection”; ongoing collaboration between business and government; and a commitment to innovation and investment. “We have to ensure that the council moving forward understands what the levers are that we need to pull today to keep the economy growing and also looks at what the long-term objectives are,” she says.

With so many unknowns, Carleton University’s Dean of Sprott Dana Brown warns against complacency. “If anyone thinks (the pandemic) is the last black swan, uh-uh,” she says. “We’re not going back, we’re going forward, how are you going to remain an adaptable organization in the future?”

She warns, “Now is the moment and it could be a moment lost.”

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