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Prime Minister meets with Mayor Sutcliffe at Ottawa City Hall

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Mayor Mark Sutcliffe at Ottawa City Hall on Thursday, to discuss municipal-federal issues including the future of the downtown core.

Trudeau made the short trip down Elgin Street from the Prime Minister's Office to Ottawa City Hall for the 9:15 a.m. meeting.

"This is the first time ever that the sitting prime minister of Canada has come to Ottawa City Hall for a meeting with the mayor," Sutcliffe said.

"It's an honour to welcome you here."

The prime minister told reporters, "it's a real pleasure to be here. Obviously, the work we've already done over the past times together; lots of great initiatives on housing, on transit and on other things we're continuing to do."

"Good relations with cities has always been fundamental for this government."

Sutcliffe said the two leaders discussed "working together to address Ottawa's unique and immediate challenges," including public transit and the revitalization of the downtown.

"I raised with the prime minister Ottawa's unique challenges. The fact is that, as they discussed the other day, if they are going to move out of 50 per cent of their buildings in the downtown core and if federal employees are going to work some hours from home and some hours in the office, that's having a huge impact on the downtown core and on our public transit system," Sutcliffe told CTV News Ottawa Thursday afternoon.

"I think there's an opportunity for the federal government and the City of Ottawa, for his team and my team, to work together to address those challenges and to reimagine the future of downtown Ottawa.

Sutcliffe said the prime minister "agreed with me."

"I think he understands the unique challenges Ottawa is facing and he is willing to work with us on them."

Sutcliffe said he raised transit funding with the prime minister, noting OC Transpo's biggest challenge is "our number one customer" isn't going to work every day.

"Ottawa's challenges are much greater than any other city in the country, there's no question about that and a big reason for that is our number one customer at OC Transpo was federal public servants taking the bus or the train," Sutcliffe said.

"Our number one customer segment has been disrupted. That's a decision for the federal government, but if that's going to be the way things are going forward we need the support of the federal government to make sure we have a sustainable public transit system in this city."

The meeting comes two days after the federal government tabled its 2024 budget, which included $50 million in funding for the Ottawa Police Service to bolster its presence within the Parliamentary Precinct.

While the budget also included $1.1 billion to extend the Interim Housing Assistant Program for asylum claimants, Sutcliffe said he had hoped to see funding for the City of Ottawa.

"We were hoping to see something in the budget for a welcome centre for Ottawa. This is an urgent crisis in our city," Sutcliffe told CTV News Ottawa Tuesday evening.

"We are really struggling right now. We're seeing the shelters in our city beyond capacity and a huge percentage of the people in the shelters are new arrivals to the city."

A report for next week's community services committee meeting shows the city is requesting $32.6 million in federal funding for a newcomer reception centre and scattered transitional housing units. Last year, the city created an enhanced housing allowance to provide 120 new housing allowances, with a price tag of $2.1 million.

Sutcliffe has also been calling on the federal government to provide more funding for transit and support a new vision for downtown Ottawa as the federal government shifts to a hybrid work model and reduces its office footprint.

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