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Ford calls on federal government to 'get government workers' back to the office in Ottawa


Premier Doug Ford is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring federal workers back to the office in Ottawa "even like three days" a week, to help provide a boost to the downtown core and transit service.

Ford issued the call the same day the Ontario government and the city of Ottawa announced a "new deal" for the capital, with $543 million in operating and capital supports for the city over 10 years. A media release from the Ontario government said the agreement includes up to $20 million in funding to "help revitalize the downtown area," including dedicated funding for Invest Ottawa to "continue attracting investments that create good jobs."

During a speech at the Mayor's Breakfast at the Shaw Centre, Ford said Trudeau should require workers to be in the office more days a week.

"I know a lot of people love working at home and that's fine, but we need the federal government to get government workers back into the office -- even a few days," Ford said to a round of applause.

"What it does is it's a real massive boost to the transit ridership, it's huge, and the downtown economy. Without the people down there, the economy starts dying, the restaurants start hurting and everything else starts hurting. Hopefully, the prime minister will call people back to work."

The federal government has implemented a hybrid work policy, seeing employees in the office at least two-three days each week.

According to the Treasury Board website, the hybrid work policy, "gives employees whose jobs can be done remotely the flexibility of working at home when appropriate and in an office when required."

"You got to get the economy going downtown," Ford told CTV News Ottawa's Natalie van Rooy.

"These restaurants are hurting, the shops are hurting, ridership on the transit is hurting – I think that's a normal request. You get hired, come to work. Imagine if I told anyone else in the province, you don't have to come to work, our economy would be shot. They shouldn't get special treatment; even a few days a week, anything to get the economy going."

Ford says the Ontario government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to support OC Transpo, including light-rail construction, and it needs riders.

"If we don't have people hopping on the transit, it really defeats the purpose of investing more into the transit," Ford said.

Premier of Ontario Doug Ford receives a customized sports jersey from Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe at the Ottawa Board of Trade's Mayor's Breakfast Series, in Ottawa, on Thursday, March 28, 2024. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe did not specifically address the issue of the federal work plan, but said the city does need support from the upper levels of government to boost the downtown and support OC Transpo.

"I think we need to have the federal government as our partner, with the provincial government, as part of a discussion about the future of public transit in Ottawa," Sutcliffe told reporters. "We have a lot of big challenges, a lot of big financial challenges and the three of us need to work together to resolve that."

Ford told reporters the federal hybrid work policy affects Ottawa's downtown.

"They have to get people back to work. I understand, even like three days – anything. It sounds crazy, I'm begging people to go back to work three days," Ford said during a media conference at Ottawa City Hall. "Not that they aren’t working from home, but it really affects the downtown. We need (the federal government) to bring people back to work, to go into the restaurants, to go into the shops downtown, get on transit and that's what we need."

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) said in a statement to CTV News Ottawa that it is opposed to mandatory back-to-office plans for all workers and criticized the premier for weighing in.

"Premier Ford should leave this issue at the negotiating table where it belongs," said PIPSC president Jennifer Carr.

"The Treasury Board of Canada already rolled out a one-size-fits-all approach to return federal public servants to their offices for two-three days per week in 2023. PIPSC has always opposed this approach and instead supports the principle of 'presence with purpose' being at the office when justified by operational needs. So far, the benefits of this one-size-fits-all approach have been hard to find. Instead, this approach has resulted in decreased productivity, increased worker dissatisfaction and has negatively impacted the services Canadians rely on."

Carr says a majority of federal employees no longer have dedicated offices to return to and many are still sharing workplaces.

"As PIPSC has been asking over the past year, it’s time for the government to work with us and the other federal PS unions and develop a modern workplace that includes flexible work arrangements, properly equipped work spaces, and puts a high priority on health and safety." Top Stories

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