Ford government giving $10M to Ottawa businesses affected by ‘freedom convoy’ protests

By Lucas Casaletto

In support of Ottawa businesses affected by the weeks-long protest in the city’s downtown core, Ontario’s government announced it is offering them $10 million.

Tourism and Culture Minister Lisa MacLeod, who also represents an Ottawa riding, also announced a $1.5-million investment in Ottawa Tourism to help it launch a campaign to encourage visitors in the spring and summer.

“The illegal blockades in downtown Ottawa this winter caused significant financial losses for local businesses,” said MacLeod.

“Our government is supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs by providing the relief they need to recover quickly. Today’s announcement will help Ottawa — and the small businesses at the heart of our community — get ready to welcome visitors for the spring and summer tourist seasons.”

MacLeod said eligible businesses can apply for grants of up to $5,000 to help pay for “non-deferrable operating expenses” they incurred during the blockade and protests, totalling $10 million.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said the funding will be administered by “Invest Ottawa,” which will post details on eligibility on its website in the coming days.

“For weeks, the city of Ottawa was under siege from an illegal blockade, impacting business owners and workers through no fault of their own,” said Bethlenfalvy. “Our government has always stood with hard-working Ontario small business owners, and we have committed to supporting the City of Ottawa and to helping businesses recover.”


Protesters begin to gather in downtown Ottawa for the trucker convoy protest on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. (Credit: CityNews Ottawa / David Smith.)

The owner of an Ottawa business that was forced to close for several weeks because of the protests told CityNews that convoy demonstrators had a “devastating” impact on her employees, finances, emotional health.

Sarah Chown, the managing partner of Metropolitain Brasserie Restaurant on Sussex Drive and Rideau Street, was forced to close for 13 days to avoid interaction with protesters.

Honking, loud music, the smell of gasoline, and public intoxication — Chown said that happened daily near her restaurant.

“It is hindering our ability to operate and my staff to earn a living,” Chown said on Feb. 12. “It’s devastating the impact this is having on us as well as, obviously, the hundreds of other businesses that are operating in the downtown core that is simply a ghost town. It cannot continue.

“Angry, I’m sad. I have run the gambit of emotions. There have been tears. There’s been screaming, ranting, all of those things. And it’s just like, you continue to beat your head against a brick wall,” she added.

The federal government previously announced that small businesses could apply for up to $10,000 for non-deferrable operational costs for a total of up to $20 million.

On behalf of Ottawa residents and businesses, a lawsuit is looking for more than $300 million in damages from truckers and donors.

Zexi Li, the face of the lawsuit, said she is still planning to take protesters to court, arguing the damage has been done.

“We were tortured by sound for days. We were harassed in our streets; we were honked at in the streets. They even honked at animals, and when I say honk, people have to remember that this isn’t just like a car beep. This is a well over 100 decibels of blaring horns that are blasting your ears at levels that can cause deafness and hearing damage instantly,” she told CityNews.

The lawyer representing residents and businesses in the class-action lawsuit said he’s hired private investigators to identify individual truckers and has collected lists of licence plates.

With files from CityNews Ottawa and Monika Gul

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