El-Chantiry eyeing business recovery

WEST CARLETON – Coun. Eli El-Chantiry says his focus in West Carleton during the current stage of the pandemic is supporting local businesses struggling to survive and rural residents isolated on their property.

In the early days of the pandemic, El-Chantiry wanted to ensure rural residents had access to COVID-19 testing without having to undertake the risk of heading in to the city. He was lobbying for a mobile testing unit.

West Carleton Online brought up the issue with Dr. Vera Etches on April 15.

“The Ottawa Hospital is leading a response that includes considering how to get services out to all areas of the Champlain District including rural,” Dr. Etches said at the time. “So, our health system partners are working on increasing their ability to go out to the vulnerable populations who need testing, even in their homes. This is something that there is a number of different strategies being investigated whether its paramedics or family doctors. So, I think the best update would come from our health care partners who are planning to talk about this system of testing vulnerable populations, wherever they are, very soon. These are populations where we want to decrease the barriers.”

West Carleton Online caught up with El-Chantiry yesterday (May 4) to get the latest update on a mobile service as well as his current focus as the pandemic and the state of emergency enters its seventh week. The councillor who is also staying put, had just returned from a walk in the neighbourhood of his Carp-area home.

“From my understanding, the testing responsibility has been transferred to the Ottawa Hospital,” he said. “They are working through para-medicine. The good news is we haven’t got a lot of calls which means people are able to look after themselves on their own or there aren’t many cases in the rural areas.”

The City of Ottawa’s Human Needs Task Force has targeted both isolated seniors and rural residents with its state of emergency pandemic support.

On April 27, the task force reported on some of its outreach progress:

Ottawa Community Housing has called the 1,451 residents on their emergency call list and prioritized calls to the most vulnerable of their 6,300 seniors. The Canadian Red Cross has followed up with in-person visits and has now connected with almost all those who couldn’t be reached by phone initially.

The Ottawa Food Bank has equipped Canadian Red Cross volunteer teams with hampers of non-perishable food items they can share with residents in need during in-person visits.

The task force started outreach to rural residents, mailing a postcard with information about ward-specific supports and services for rural and isolated seniors in West-Carleton, Cumberland, Osgoode and Rideau-Goulbourn.

At the end of April, the task force will work on plans to address the needs of more isolated and vulnerable residents in our broader communities, building on work done with Ottawa Public Health, for instance, to distribute flyers to seniors about protecting mental health.

El-Chantiry says West Carleton was the first to receive the information cards.

“I thought that was a good step in the right direction,” he said. “I’m also using my social media feeds and website to share information and the services available. So far, we’re providing a lot of information. I think people are reading it.”

El-Chantiry also posted a video to his social media asking the community to donate to the West Carleton Food Access Centre.

“To my knowledge it was quite successful,” El-Chantiry said. “I don’t want to give specific numbers out, but Mary (Braun – the WCFAC executive director) seemed quite pleased.”

El-Chantiry says he hasn’t heard a lot of requests from individuals in West Carleton.

“West Carleton residents aren’t high maintenance,” El-Chantiry said. “They rely on family, friends and neighbours if they need anything.”

Pandemic statistics seem to be levelling off. Officials are unsure if cases have peaked, but there is a slowing of infection numbers.

“So far things are going okay,” El-Chantiry said. “Now we’re working on economic recovery.”

El-Chantiry is co-chairing the Economic Partners Task Force with Mayor Jim Watson. The task force was struck March 16 to help support Ottawa’s small businesses. The task force also includes Mark Kaluski, Chair, Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), Sueling Ching, President and CEO, Ottawa Board of Trade, Lise Sarazin, directrice générale, Regroupement des gens d’affaires (RGA), Michael Crockatt, President and CEO, Ottawa Tourism and Carole Anne Piccinin, Executive Director, Ottawa Festival Network.

“I’ve been promoting and heavily supporting local businesses as much as I can,” El-Chantiry said.

El-Chantiry and his wife Maha sponsored a contest. The West Carleton COVID-19 Neighbourhood Network Facebook Group is hosting a weekly contest that is still ongoing. In its first week, contest entries involved West Carleton residents posting a photo of themselves enjoying a take-out meal from a local restaurant. The winner of the contest won a $50 gift certificate to a West Carleton restaurant. The El-Chantirys donated $250 so the contest can run for five weeks.

“I enjoyed that,” El-Chantiry said. “I know it’s not a big thing. But these local businesses support the community. Not one of them didn’t help out during the flood, the tornado. We had to donate personally as the Facebook group is not a registered organization. But it was a great idea and I wanted to support it somehow. People are getting creative.”

El-Chantiry said the Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee (ARAC). Which he chairs, has also supported a West Carleton organization. ARAC provided $3,300 to help subsidize the Constance Bay Community Market Cheer Baskets the organization recently sold. For the second year in a row, the Constance Bay market has had to delay its scheduled May opening. Instead they provided a grab bag filled with some of the market vendors’ best products.

“I’m happy we managed to do that,” El-Chantiry said.

El-Chantiry says he is listening to any and all recommendations when it comes to economic recovery.

“If you have any ideas, I don’t want to call it a ‘return to normal’, but we’d like to hear it,” he said. “Whatever you recommend, it doesn’t mean its not going to go through the checks and balances of COVID-19, but pose it to the task force. Or call my office.”