Ottawa

Ontario sending $11.5M to Ottawa for post-convoy business, tourism

The Ontario government is sending $10 million to Invest Ottawa for grants to cover money lost because of the occupation of downtown streets. Another $1.5 million is going to Ottawa Tourism to market the city in spring and summer.

$20M from federal government seen as not enough to cover lost money

The head of the Downtown Bank Street BIA, which includes the stretch of Bank Street seen here, said some businesses lost more during the occupation of the area than they did during the most recent pandemic closure. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

The Ontario government is sending $10 million to Invest Ottawa for grants to cover money lost because of the occupation of downtown streets earlier this winter. Another $1.5 million is going to Ottawa Tourism to market the city.

Some streets in Ottawa's downtown core are still closed to vehicles for cleanup after more than three weeks of a demonstration, which stretched from the last weekend of January until the Family Day long weekend.

Security concerns, road closures and messages to avoid downtown led many businesses to close just as they emerged from the latest provincial capacity limits.

As police were moving protesters out of the capital two weeks ago, the federal government announced a $20 million pool of money for small businesses affected by the occupation — each would be allowed to draw up to $10,000.

Some business leaders said it wouldn't be enough.

Christine Leadman of the Bank Street Business Improvement Area and Joe Thottungal, the owner of the Thali restaurant on O'Connor, say businesses need government support after losing weeks of revenue.

On Friday, a provincial news release announced a similar fund in the amount of $10 million. Like the federal money, Invest Ottawa will co-ordinate it and give small businesses grants of up to $5,000.

But one business owner echoed previous comments that, while he wouldn't turn down financial assistance, the money being offered is "a drop in the bucket" compared to the multitude of expenses he has to cover in a month.

Nazmi Fawaz co-owns Bello Uomo, a men's clothing store on Sparks Street that only reopened Wednesday after being shuttered for four weeks because of the protest and subsequent street closures. He said rent alone is more than what's being offered by the province, not to mention the cost of insurance, an accountant, and paying suppliers.

"We do have close to $10-15,000 a month we are responsible for," he told CBC.

Nazmi Fawaz co-owns Bello Uomo, a men's clothing store on Sparks Street. He hopes all levels of government do more to help downtown Ottawa businesses hurt by the pandemic combined with the occupation. (Tyler Nicol/CBC)

The money for Ottawa Tourism will go toward a campaign to attract visitors to the capital this spring and summer, the news release said.

"Tourism has a major role to play in the recovery of our community; in the short term, we encourage Ottawans to support the downtown as we resume our role as a welcoming, safe, inclusive destination," said Ottawa Tourism President and CEO Michael Crockatt in the release.

Crockatt told CBC the money is especially needed because the effects of the occupation could be long-lasting.

"Information that people were seeing caused them to cancel trips that they had planned, and certainly caused them to consider other destinations if they were already considering Ottawa for March break, for summer or for other reasons," he said.

WATCH | The effects of the Omicron closures, then the occupation:

‘It can’t get worse’: Businesses face double whammy of pandemic and protest

6 months ago
Duration 1:14
Michelle Groulx, executive director of the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas, says local businesses that were already struggling during the pandemic have had to close once again because of the protest.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was actually visiting Ottawa Friday to ask the province to match the $20 million from the federal government.

There's also a class-action lawsuit looking for compensation for residents, workers and businesses from protesters and donors to crowdfunding campaigns.

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