Ottawa’s local political and business leaders have done a more effective job at navigating the pandemic and positioning the economy for a stronger recovery than either the provincial or federal governments, respondents to the Welch LLP Ottawa Business Growth Survey say.
“One of the biggest lessons that we’ve learned over the past two years is how we work together. The competitive advantage in Ottawa could be radical collaboration,” says Sueline Ching, president of the Ottawa Board of Trade, referencing a method of working together that embraces diverse perspectives. Ching believes governments learned how to move more quickly during their response to the pandemic and should not lose that speed now.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Jim McConnery, managing partner at Welch LLP.
“The business community has experienced a wide range of challenges since the onset of COVID including numerous lockdowns and restrictions; last winter’s blockade experience; and a tight labor market in many sectors of the economy,” he says. “Effective collaboration between government and the business community is key to the resilience of our economy and will continue to be important as we navigate an uncertain business climate in 2023.”
At Regroupement des Gens d’Affaires de la Capitale Nationale (RGA), general director Marc Chenier agrees on the need for more interchange between government and business.
“Just imagine if we have to go back to lockdowns because of the new variants … What should we do?” Chenier asks. “Those discussions should happen between members of various boards of trade and chambers of commerce. They should get involved more in the lobbying process with governments … We should be more proactive in this case, there’s not enough proactivity.”
Of course, Chenier recognizes that governments can only do so much to manage macro forces such as inflation and unemployment. What they can do, he argues, is expedite processes for businesses, such as zoning and permitting, and not worry as much about subsidies or financial aid.
Tim Thomas of Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall agrees that it’s not about the money. “I can tell you the one big thing right now is that it takes forever to get stuff approved,” he says, citing months-long delays in getting site approvals from city hall. Unless processes are streamlined, conversion projects in the downtown could be delayed or not even started, he adds.
“It speaks to modernizing government,” adds Ching, citing digitization, smart city solutions and security as areas where the public sector must keep up.
Ching believes an environment of trust, predictability and confidence is necessary for businesses to excel and innovate. “What we know is that our economy is growing and our community thriving will be driven by the success of our businesses,” she says, adding that the municipal government has a huge opportunity to contribute to that success.
Visit https://www.ottawabusinesssurveyreport.ca to download your copy.