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Call to action: Transforming downtown Ottawa for a vibrant future

Sueling Ching

On June 9, 2023, the Ottawa Board of Trade issued a call to action to the Federal Government, the province of Ontario and the City of Ottawa, to join the Ottawa Board of Trade as we declared Downtown Ottawa our top priority. We committed to working with key stakeholders to build a roadmap for transformation. The heartbeat of our region, the city core, demands our immediate attention and collaborative efforts. By implementing a 5-pillar action plan, developed by the Ottawa Board of Trade’s economic development committee, we can build a thriving, resilient, and economically prosperous downtown.

The urgency of transformation

Downtown Ottawa serves as a significant influence on businesses, residents, and visitors alike. Our current trajectory, without a focused plan, will negatively impact our property tax base and essential services like police and transit. It is crucial to recognize that every resident in our region has a stake in the vibrancy of our city core. The recent announcement by Public Services and Procurement Canada to reduce their office footprint by fifty percent across the country further emphasizes the urgency for action. We must plan effectively and gain clarity from government and business leaders to build investor confidence and foster growth.

Government support and collaboration

Any private sector employer with the footprint of our public sector in Ottawa would be expected to share plans and provide support in the face of significant changes. Our federal government has an obligation to assist Ottawa and Gatineau with real and meaningful transitional supports. We call upon our federal partners to work hand in hand with us, offering transitional programs and funding. In these uncertain times, clear communication, transparency, and predictability are critical. We urge all levels of government to cultivate an environment in which businesses can compete and thrive.

The importance of downtown Ottawa

A thriving downtown is essential to the cultural, economic, and social fabric of our entire region. It enhances our brand as a place where people want to live, work, play, learn, and invest. However, the pandemic has exposed challenges that we must address. From inadequate housing to mounting mental health and addiction issues, from transit funding to the responsibilities of municipal governments, we need to tackle these issues head-on. The transformation of downtown Ottawa requires a whole-of-community approach, and now is the time to act.

The five pillar action plan

The Ottawa Board of Trade has adopted a comprehensive 5-pillar action plan to guide our economic growth agenda:

  1. Creating affordable, walkable, and amenity-rich communities.
  2. Implementing flexible and efficient government regulation and approvals.
  3. Encouraging public and private investment in infrastructure.
  4. Supporting the growth of both private and public sector employment.
  5. Ensuring the safety and security of employers, residents, and tourists.

By rallying around this plan, we can advocate for policy changes, secure appropriate resources, and leverage Ottawa’s strengths to seize the opportunities before us.

Bold examples and collaboration

We can take inspiration from cities like Calgary and Paris, which have embarked on remarkable transformations. Calgary’s proactive approach to reinventing its downtown and Paris’s commitment to the 15-minute city model demonstrate the power of bold thinking and visionary action. We, too, must embrace this mindset and recognize that the competition is fierce. Delaying action is not an option.

The next right step

Now is the time for all residents, businesses and in particular every Member of Parliament, MPP, our Mayor and City Councillors to be united in our commitment to transform Downtown Ottawa. It needs our focus and support to keep it vibrant, safe and an economic engine for every part of the National Capital Region. Together, we have the resources, the expertise, and the opportunity to make a lasting impact. Let us be determined, innovative, and collaborative, drawing upon the lessons we have learned from the pandemic. By revitalizing our city core, we can foster economic growth, ensure a higher quality of life, and build a prosperous future for generations to come.

Yours in prosperity,

Sueling Ching
President & CEO | Ottawa Board of Trade

About the Ottawa Board of Trade

The Ottawa Board of Trade is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan member driven business association. We are the voice of business and a key advocate for economic growth in our Nation’s Capital. Our mission is to cultivate a thriving world class business community in Ottawa by influencing economic development through leadership and partnerships. One that drives affordable, inclusive, sustainable city-building. We represent businesses at all three levels of government and support business growth through relevant benefits and programs. Join us today!