Finance committee gets COVID-19 economic impact update

CITY HALL – The city’s Finance and Economic Development committee (FEDCO) received an update on the economic impact of the pandemic on Ottawa’s economy and the city’s efforts to foster recovery during today’s (Sept. 1) meeting.

“Despite a loss of 53,600 jobs between February and July, stable government employment, increased government spending during the pandemic and a robust technology sector mean that Ottawa’s economic contraction will be less than the national average,” city staff released in a statement. “Tourism, Ottawa’s third largest economic driver, is one of the most affected sectors, with an estimated $1.4-billion decrease in visitor spending this year.”

 To support economic recovery, the city has created a business support and recovery webpage, encouraged residents to support local businesses, offered temporary property tax deferrals to qualifying property owners, developed a toolkit for safe business reopening, reduced fees and accelerated approvals for new patios, and encouraged residents to explore rural wards.

Retail stores in Tanger Outlets could soon stay open on New Year’s Day, Family Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day. The committee approved exempting the stores from the Retail Business Holidays Act as they are within two kilometres of tourism attractions like the Canadian Tire Centre, the Bell Sensplex and the Thunderbird Sports Centre, and the mall itself is a tourism attraction with visitors coming from outside Ottawa.

The city’s investments earned $39.3 million last year, a 2.26-per-cent return. FEDCO received its annual update on the city’s investments and debts. The city took on $470 million in new debt to fund roads, bridges, transit infrastructure, sewers and water infrastructure, and facilities supporting police, fire and recreation services,, bringing the total long-term debt up to $2.56 billion. With an asset base of $22.9 billion, debt now represents 11.2 per cent of the city’s total asset value. The city also issued a $200-million green bond last year to help fund the light-rail transit project.

Work continues on the construction of Stage 2 LRT. FEDCO received an update on progress along all three O-Train extensions. Seven rail bridges south of Greenboro Station are under construction and work is underway for grade separation with the VIA Rail line. Construction of the flyover rail bridge east of Blair Road and the Highway 174 overpass bridge at the Montreal Road interchange are progressing. In the west, construction is underway on the split structure bridge south of Lincoln Fields Station, which will allow the LRT to continue to Moodie and Baseline stations. Early work to build two tunnels as part of the western alignment is also underway.

FEDCO approved hiring KPMG to review the procurement process for Stage 2 LRT. After assessing the auditor general’s recommendations against best practices and meeting with councillors to get their perspective on the process, KMPG would report to the committee early next year, recommending best practices for the procurement of future projects.

FEDCO approved a motion to refer some aspects of the governance of business improvement areas to the Mid-term Governance Review and to canvass members of council on their interest to participate in a working group comprised of representatives from council, city staff and business improvement areas.

Recommendations from today’s meeting will rise to council on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

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