Part of my job as your City Councillor is working on your behalf on the various committees that I am a member of. One of those committees, the Finance Economic Development Committee, met yesterday with a few key items on the agenda that I believe are of importance to our community.
COVID-19 Economic Recovery
At committee we were presented with a somber report outlining the current economic state of our city. Here are some of the important details that were shared:
- Many of our neighbours are facing hardship, with approximately 53,600 jobs lost across Ottawa between February and July of this year. The unemployment rate is at 9.8% compared to 3.8% in February.
- According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, a survey in August noted that one in seven Canadian small businesses are at risk of closing as a result of the pandemic. We must not let our small businesses close their doors in our community. This is why it’s so important to support local.
- Only 63% of small businesses are fully open, 39% are fully staffed, and only 26% are seeing normal sale volumes.
- Economic forecasts predict Ottawa’s real GDP will see a decline by 2.4% in 2020 and it may take several years to recover this loss.
- The impact on the tourism sector has been staggering. Tourism businesses employed over 43,000 residents in our city and generated $755 million in tax revenues. It is now projected that there will be a loss of approximately $1.4 billion in visitor spending in 2020 alone.
However, it is not all bad news. It’s important to recognize that our city has a resilient and diversified economy. This has proven to be crucial and has enabled our city to offset some of the economic shocks seen in certain sectors with stronger performing economic industries. For example, hiring by the Federal Government remains stable and our technology sector remains a strong economic engine for our city.
We must continue to build on our successes and strengths. Our technology sector championed by the largest tech park in Canada, and right here in Kanata North, continues to innovate and develop cutting edge products and services. We have tremendous strength in networking and connectivity. This is something that must be a priority for our city as we look to continue to rebuild our economy stronger than before. Reliable, strong internet connectivity is at the heart of the future of any strong economy. Connectivity enables residents to reliably work or study from home, something that has proven difficult for too many in our current environment. Connectivity enables smart cities and smart infrastructure to work effectively, which should be the cornerstones of the city we build for our future. I will continue to work with stakeholders and city staff to make this a focal point in our economic recovery. Continuing to rebuild and grow our economy for our future will be hard but will enable our city to continue to be a world leader.
Code for Canada 2020
In March, before the pandemic, I attended the Code for Canada 2020 conference in Toronto. It is a requirement to provide a report to committee outlining how this business trip advanced the city’s objectives and this was on the agenda at this meeting.
I attended as I was asked to present as part of a case study panel that discussed the importance and need to fund digital government initiatives. The panel included Jamie Boyd from the Government of British Columbia, Katy Lalonde from the Ontario Digital Service, and Ryan Androsoff from the Institute on Governance.
It is now more important than ever that our city continues to build on the successes that it has had in the past like:
- Adaptive Traffic Control Innes Road Project
- EcoDrive Connected Vehicle Project
- Ottawa L5 Private Test Track
- Public CAV Test Facility in the Kanata North Technology Park
We have some of the best expertise in Canada right here in Kanata North and across our city. If we want to be leaders in this future, our city must continue to invest and make progress and be a leader in smart city initiatives. You can watch this discussion here.
Stage 2 LRT Quarterly Update & Lessons Learned
We received a comprehensive quarterly update on the construction work being done for Stage 2 LRT extension. Even though Stage 2 does not yet reach our community of Kanata, it is important that we continue to implement the lessons learned from Stage 1 and protect the taxpayer’s investments on this project. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic challenges, the construction continues to progress as expected. You can view the presentation with these details here and the video that shows the progress here.
Additionally, we also recommended the hiring of KPMG to review the procurement process that was done for Stage 2. This builds on the reports published by the Auditor General, which highlighted areas of improvement that the city could examine further. It is important that our city continues to learn and implement best practices, this is crucial as it protects our investments and delivers more value for our taxpayers.
At committee, staff presented a proposal to allow Tanger Outlets to open during statutory holidays. A by-law exemption was recommended by city staff and unanimously approved at committee. I know that currently shopping may look a bit different, but we must continue to look for ways to support our hard-hit tourism industry and retail sectors. I recognize and appreciate the concerns from workers during the time of COVID-19, and this is why I have worked closely with Ottawa Public Health and By-law in previous weeks and strongly supported the expansion and continuation of the temporary mask by-law, which now requires that masks be worn in indoor common areas. I have requested that by-law take a close look at the Tanger mall to ensure that all Provincial and Ottawa Public Health regulations are being followed. Employees and shoppers must feel safe and I will continue to make this a priority.
If you have any questions or feedback on the work I am doing on your behalf at City Hall, please reach out anytime.