GATINEAU, QUE. -- After nearly two years of COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario and Quebec, many small businesses that rely on federal employees to survive are still hoping they will come back to the office as soon as possible.

The pedestrian walkway in downtown Gatineau would normally be packed at noon, but now it’s a ghost town.

“It’s just been really hard for us in general, restaurant workers,” says Eve Jacques, manager at Piz’Za-Za.

Small businesses like her pizzeria are hurting because the federal buildings sit empty, while thousands of federal employees work from home.

“About 5,000 (federal workers), definitely. You have Portage building here, Terrasses de la Chaudière over there,” says Jacques. “Usually at this time of the year, if they were here working in the office, it would be full,” says Jacques. “I mean full downstairs and full upstairs.”

Without those federal workers, this is what its like at Piz’Za-Za every weekday at lunch, nearly vacant.


President of the Gatineau Chamber of Commerce, Stéphane Bisson, is calling for answers about when they can expect workers back in the office.

“Having them working remotely, it's like a desert in the downtown area,” says Bisson. “I’m asking the government to get back a plan, having some timeline that we could see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

But the Public Service Alliance of Canada says there is still no scheduled return date yet, saying, “We have no timeline for when workers are returning to offices.”

There is concern that without federal workers, some businesses might have to close for good.

“We don’t want to rush them to do anything that would harm people,” says Bisson, “but we definitely are looking for the federal employees to come back to work.”

At Piz’Za-Za, which has been in business for almost 30 years, Jacques says they are looking forward to the day when their tables are once again full. For now, all they can do is wait.

“People are tired of being at home, they want to get dressed up and go to work and socialize,” says Jacques. “We do get a lot of calls or messages saying we are excited to come back. So, we’re just waiting on the government for the next steps.”