Ottawa

Business experts say protest puts Ottawa on the map — in the wrong way

Economic experts in Ottawa say they fear the city's international reputation is taking a dive as a protest blocking the city's streets approaches its fourth weekend.

Industry advocates worry about the protest's impact on Ottawa’s reputation

An Ontario Provincial Police vehicle is parked at the ongoing protest in Ottawa, Feb. 17, 2022. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Economic experts in Ottawa say they fear the city's international reputation is taking a dive as a protest blocking the city's streets approaches its fourth weekend. 

They're calling on the Canadian government and law enforcement to act quickly to shut down the protest. 

"It's long overdue," said Sueling Ching, the Ottawa Board of Trade's president. 

Ching says not only have local businesses and residents borne the brunt of the disruptive impact, but the city's reputation could take a lasting hit — in ways that aren't immediately clear.

"The longer this goes on, the more it has the ability to impact the long-term viability of these businesses, and inhibit our ability to attract customers like visitors and [businesses]," said Ching.

The protest has caused disruption in residents' daily life, through noise pollution, the closure of businesses and instances of far-right symbols

"The world is watching," says Ching, who said the board is fielding calls from media all over the world.

Police leave the scene after making an arrest at the encampment near Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Feb. 17, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Global reputation questioned

Canada has long been seen by many as a country of order and stability, according to University of Ottawa professor Patrick Leblond. 

The public and international affairs expert says Canada is frequently marketed as a low-risk country for business, but the protest may tarnish that image for investors abroad and damage future investment — beyond the immediate impacts to trade from the Ambassador Bridge blockades

"They're waiting to see how the situation will be resolved," said Leblond.

Both within and beyond the country, Leblond says people are reckoning with the fact there are far-right elements appearing as part of the protest. 

"What we're finding out is we're not that different from other places in the world."

Ottawa Tourism says city losing out

Businesses were looking forward to Jan. 31, when public health restrictions started to lift, but Ottawa Tourism says many couldn't reopen their doors.

Jantine Van Kregten, spokesperson for the organization, says the city is also losing out on business from people who would've otherwise chosen to visit the city's attractions.

"This prolongs the serious economic hardships of our member businesses, even beyond the downtown core, and the recovery we are all working toward," she said in an email statement to CBC News. 

"It is impossible to think that Ottawa's reputation as a safe, welcoming, inclusive destination is not being negatively affected by the illegal occupation of our streets."

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