Province supports Ottawa’s downtown revitalization efforts; Ford calls on federal government to ‘do its part’

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe (left) and premier Doug Ford at the Mayor's Breakfast on Thursday.
Mayor Mark Sutcliffe (left) and premier Doug Ford at the Mayor's Breakfast on Thursday.

A “new deal” between Ottawa and the provincial government will support the city’s ongoing efforts to revitalize its struggling downtown core. 

The funding announcement was made at the Mayor’s Breakfast event Thursday, where Premier Doug Ford was the guest speaker. 

The wide-ranging $543-million deal includes a $20-million investment toward economic recovery and downtown revitalization efforts. As part of that, Invest Ottawa will receive dedicated support to attract new investments to the nation’s capital in order to create more jobs. 

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“It is a truly incredible day for Team Ottawa,” Sonya Shorey, interim president and CEO of Invest Ottawa, told OBJ in a statement. 

According to Shorey, the deal highlights Ottawa’s impact as a leading tech and business hub globally, as well as the city’s contributions to the province and its economy. 

“We are very grateful for this visionary collaboration and landmark provincial investment in Ottawa,” she said. “This support will enable our city to address significant challenges, seize new opportunities, and fuel the development of our economy and community for generations to come.”

Ford calls for more federal involvement 

While Ford focused his announcement on the province’s investments, he also called on the federal government to come to the table to contribute to downtown revitalization efforts. 

“As the largest employer in the city, the federal government needs to do its part to help rebuild the city’s economy,” said Ford in his remarks.

Multiple revitalization efforts are currently underway locally, including from the Downtown Revitalization Task Force, led by Ottawa Centre MP Yasir Naqvi, and the Ottawa Board of Trade. Both groups have cited the challenges of collaborating across three different levels of government. 

According to Sueling Ching, establishing clear responsibilities for each stakeholder is a key part of OBOT’s revitalization plan. “In some cases, it will require additional collaboration between all levels of government,” she said Thursday. 

She added that the new deal with the province addresses many key concerns local business leaders have been calling out in recent years, including public safety, homelessness, housing and infrastructure.

“We’re pleased about the investment the provincial government is making in Ottawa,” she told OBJ. “We feel it acknowledges and demonstrates the value of Ottawa as an economic driver for our province. To quote the mayor, we have unique challenges in Ottawa but we also have various opportunities to build and grow.”

In his speech, Ford called on the federal government to return workers to downtown offices. 

“I know a lot of people love working from home and that’s fine, but we need the federal government to get government workers back into the office,” he said. “Even a few days. It’s a real massive boost to the transit ridership … and the downtown economy. Without the people down there, the economy starts dying and the restaurants start hurting.”

Responding to those comments, Somerset Coun. Ariel Troster said in an email to OBJ that the changing work habits of downtown employees have been a major challenge since the pandemic, with a loss of up to 100,000 people in Centretown from Mondays to Fridays. 

“Hybrid work is the new reality and our challenge is to transform downtown into a place where more people live and even more people want to visit,” she wrote. “I don’t think we are ever going to go back to the way things were in 2019 – innovating and investing in our city’s core will do much more than trying to convince people to return to old work habits.”

Despite that, she said she was encouraged to see funding put toward downtown revitalization efforts. 

“I am hoping this can be used to assist with the ongoing adaptive re-use of empty or half-empty office buildings and to improve the downtown public realm with beautification, amenities and public art,” she wrote. 

Deal a “big win” for city: Sutcliffe

In addition to funding for downtown revitalization, $48 million is earmarked to improve public safety in the ByWard Market, which includes increasing uniformed officers and mental health resources, as well as establishing a police neighbourhood operations centre nearby. 

“This is a big win for Ottawa,” said Mayor Sutcliffe in a press release. “These investments will relieve significant budget pressures for the city and will help us to deliver better services to our residents. It’s also an example of what happens when elected officials do what the voters expect them to do: work together to solve problems and build better, safer, more affordable communities.”

The deal includes up to $197 million in operating capital over three years, as well as up to $346 million in capital support over 10 years. Other aspects of the announcement include: 

  • Up to $120 million for shelters and homelessness supports, conditional on federal support for refugees and asylum seekers
  • Up to $9 million for general maintenance of Ottawa Road 174
  • Up to $181 million for various transportation priorities, including a new interchange at High 416 and Barndsale Road
  • Up to $47 million for Ottawa Road 174 improvements to be provided while a three-stage plan is underway to explore and assess the considerations related to ownership of Ottawa Road 174
  • Up to $118 million over three years through the Building Faster Fund, conditional on Ottawa’s progress toward its housing targets

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