Supporting local businesses among top priorities for councillors in 2021
Signs in the window of an Ottawa business that is closed due to COVID-19. (CTV News Ottawa)
OTTAWA -- A pair of Ottawa city councillors say supporting local businesses is one of the top priorities for the City of Ottawa in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Deputy Mayor and Kanata North Coun. Jenna Sudds and Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury joined guest host Andrew Pinsent on Newstalk 580 CFRA's "The Goods with Dahlia Kurtz" on Saturday morning to give a look ahead at the City's priorities in the new year.
To start, both said they spent their holidays in Ottawa, amid news of a growing number of Canadian politicians who travelled abroad over Christmas, despite public health recommendations to avoid travel during the pandemic.
"It was very quiet, that's for sure," Sudds said. "Home with the kids and my husband. We were hoping for snow to get outside some more but unfortunately it only came today."
"Stayed in town and happy we'd done so," Fleury added, saying he visited the Magic of Lights at Wesley Clover Parks on Dec. 24. "When we came back, Santa had shown up and my three-year-old was quite happy to open gifts on the 24th."
Turning their attention to the pandemic and the new year, Sudds said one of her biggest concerns is social isolation in the community.
"Overall, I'd that Kanata North has weathered (the pandemic) very well. My biggest concern, in working with my community around COVID, would be isolation. There are a lot of seniors in the community who are on their own and, frankly, are suffering through these times of not being able to get out and socialize. That's been a big concern of mine."
Sudds said some businesses in her ward, particularly in the tech sector, have fared well, but many businesses at Kanata Centrum have been struggling.
"A lot of the businesses in the Centrum not only relied locally on our business but also on the game day visitors that make their way into Kanata and to our restaurants," she said. "There's a number of small businesses, Party Mart comes to mind as an industry that has been just ravaged, and it's a struggle for them to be able to survive through this."
Sudds admitted that the City's options are limited when it comes to financial supports for local businesses and she encouraged residents to continue to shop locally as much as possible in the meantime.
"I think, as a community, we're doing our best to rally but I think we need to continue to dig deep and think about how we do spend our money when we do make purchases and make those purchases as locally as we can," she said.
Fleury says he is looking ahead to the revitalization of the ByWard Market.
"We do have the ByWard Market plan coming in front of council at the end of January, which is a good kick-start for the Market. Rideau Street reopened late in the year, so that's another glimmer of hope and support for our businesses," he said.
Fleury said help from other levels of government kept some businesses afloat in 2020 and he's hopeful those supports continue.
"When you go back to March and April, a lot didn't think they'd make it through, and then there was the federal program for their lease, through their landlords, and then there was support to keep on staff," he said. "What will be the saviour for them is continued federal programs and provincial programs and also vaccines in arms. For many, until you have capacity in stores, it really hinders their ability to increase their revenue."
Fleury noted some businesses have been able to pivot to online sales and curbside pickup, but others have closed their doors.
He said the revitalization plan would help the Market endure.
"The plan itself builds that resilience. It beautifies the area and modernizes the area to make it safe. It builds resilience in a period like a pandemic where you need public spaces to physical distance and that's what the plan is meant to achieve."
Council meets for the first time in 2021 on Jan. 27