Letter from Ottawa Board of Trade Ottawa – City Budget
December 5, 2023
Mayor Sutcliffe, City of Ottawa
City of Ottawa Council Members
City Hall, City of Ottawa, 110 Laurier Ave West, Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1
Mayor Sutcliffe and City of Ottawa Councillors,
Re: Ottawa City Budget 2024
I am writing on behalf of the Ottawa Board of Trade regarding the city budget, a key tool for shaping the future of our city and quality of life for our citizens. The Ottawa Board of Trade is the voice of business and a key advocate for economic development in our Nation’s Capital. Our mission is to cultivate a thriving world class business community. One that drives affordable, inclusive, and sustainable city building and community prosperity. We work closely with our colleagues at the Ontario and Canadian Chambers of Commerce as well as key economic partners at all levels of government.
The Ottawa Board of Trade supports a budget that represents a forward-thinking, inclusive, and sustainable vision for our city, one executed on the principles of fiscal prudence, innovation, planning for growth, and optimizing opportunities.
Thank you and congratulations to our Mayor and City Councillors for working together to table the 2024 budget aiming to balance fiscal prudence and key investments for our future. Your focus on city wide and regional challenges and opportunities is crucial if we are to compete in today’s global economy. We also wish to applaud the work of the city staff team as they navigate unique challenges in these uncertain economic and political times. Thank you.
We have a unique opportunity to “Build up Ottawa” in a new way. Governments and economic partners must create an environment in which the private sector can drive the growth needed to support our whole community. We must commit to radical collaboration to optimize our resources and relationships. We must present a clear and coordinated approach to other levels of government for policies and programs that inspire private sector investment. Our ability to work together on this front and communicate our commitment to economic growth, resiliency building initiatives, preparedness planning, and service excellence will drive confidence in our current and future entrepreneurs and investors.
We encourage our city council, staff, and partners to activate key opportunities by embracing an entrepreneurial culture and committing to service excellence, so we are known as "open for business”. The City of Ottawa staff structure must be designed to support business growth in the most efficient, effective, and transparent way lest we lose important opportunities in key areas. City building projects must be contemplated through a climate, diversity and economic lens including impact analysis where possible.
Now is the time for Ottawa to thrive by shoring up our strengths, sharing success stories and supporting the levers will generate the greatest impact in the long term. Innovative infrastructure is critical to economic growth and a key factor in determining where people choose to live, and where businesses choose to invest. We recommend advancing key areas that will optimize our investments and drive the most growth quickly.
- ByWard Market, Lansdowne 2.0 and LeBreton (including a new event center and arena).
- New Ottawa Hospital, world class with advanced R&D capabilities and regional reach.
- Support to leverage our leadership in AV, tech diversity and high-tech talent penetration.
- Support for destination development and visitor attraction as a key brand builder.
- Strategy for increased direct flights, housing, and an integrated transit system for inner city mobility.
Small businesses are the cultural and economic core of our community. They provide jobs, essential services, and unique experiences. They are the foundation of what attracts residents and visitors alike to our region. The entrepreneurs and employees of these businesses are community leaders and supporters and have proven themselves to be among the most driven and resilient among us. However, many continue to struggle to rebound. The rising cost of doing business, access to labour, ever changing consumer and workplace trends have compounded their ability to generate revenue and manage debt. The government imposed counter measures during the pandemic were offset with program support, however, did not account for the long recovery of local, small businesses in the hardest hit sectors. Today, we are at risk of losing many that we fought to keep and counted on to drive our future economy. Together, we must advocate for, create, and support policies and programs that directly impact small businesses, and diverse businesses owned by women, Indigenous, racialized entrepreneurs, people with disabilities and those who are part of the LGBTQ2S+ community. Small business confidence and success increases with clear, efficient decisions and processes that reduce their commitment of time and money. The ability to navigate our regulatory systems, and easy access to services and support drives entrepreneurship.
The key lesson from the pandemic is that we are all connected. Our economy and our health are intertwined. We learned that we are only as strong as our most vulnerable. And they need to be part of our recovery. We call on our local government to lead and collaborate with community services, mental health, and police services on an timely and transparent strategy to end homelessness using best practices and calling on other levels of government for policies, programs, and support in the areas of their jurisdiction.
This year, the Ottawa Board of Trade declared “Downtown Ottawa” as a top priority and calls on every level of government, economic partners, the business community, and residents to do the same. We have been meeting with local and international stakeholders to create an action plan to transform our city core which is critically important to our whole city, our region, and our country. Last week we launched a new campaign, “Build Up Downtown” which identifies our top five immediate actions which include:
- Guaranteed 10-Year PILT and support for transition of core from federal government (as an anchor employer).
- Funding of the transit gap (capital and operational) from federal and provincial governments to enhance mobility to the core.
- Piloting an incentive strategy to build more downtown residential units and support office-to-residential and other adaptive re-use developments.
- Commitment to a collaborative effort including experts in homelessness and support service providers, and funding from all levels of government to urgently address homelessness, mental health, and addictions.
- Prioritization of public realm investments and the creation of a Downtown Animation Fund to enhance vibrancy.
We understand and appreciate that many of these initiatives are underway and commit to continued collaboration with the City of Ottawa and all stakeholders to ensure we are “the city that gets it right”. Our final report will be released early in 2024 with the medium- and long-term recommendations. Meanwhile, we will keep you updated on our progress.
Once again, thank you to the Mayor and City Council and city staff for your commitment to economic growth and innovation. We look forward to enhancing our support for the upcoming economic development plan as well as the community and economic priorities for this term of council. Thank you for your ongoing support of our business community. We value our partnership with you as we work to protect and enhance the quality of life for everyone in Canada’s Capital Region.
President & CEO, Ottawa Board of Trade