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Ford calls on federal government to ‘get government workers’ back to the office in Ottawa

Premier Doug Ford is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring federal workers back to the office for “a few days” to help boosts the downtown economy, as the Ontario government provides funding to revitalize Ottawa’s downtown core.

The Ontario government and the city of Ottawa announced a “new deal” for the capital on Thursday, with $543 million in funding over 10 years. A media release from the Ontario government said the agreement includes funding to “help revitalize the downtown area,” including dedicated funding for Invest Ottawa.

Speaking at the Mayor’s Breakfast Series Thursday, Ford said the federal government can help boost Ottawa’s downtown core and OC Transpo.

“I know a lot of people love working at home and that’s fine, but we need the federal government to get government workers back into the office. Even a few days,” Ford said to a round of applause.

“What it does is it’s a real massive boost to the transit ridership, it’s huge, and the downtown economy. Without the people down there, the economy starts dying, the restaurants start hurting and everything else starts hurting. Hopefully, the prime minister will call people back to work.”

The federal government has implemented a hybrid work policy.

According to the Treasury Board website, the hybrid work policy, “gives employees whose jobs can be done remotely the flexibility of working at home when appropriate and in an office when required.”

“You got to get the economy going downtown,” Ford told CTV News Ottawa’s Natalie van Rooy.

“These restaurants are hurting, the shops are hurting, ridership on the transit is hurting – I think that’s a normal request. You get hired, come to work. Imagine if I told anyone else in the province you don’t have to come to work, our economy would be shot. They shouldn’t get special treatment; even a few days a week, anything to get the economy going.”

Ford says the Ontario government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to support OC Transpo, including light-rail construction, and it needs riders.

“If we don’t have people hopping on the transit, it really defeats the purpose of investing more into the transit,” Ford said.

Ford told reporters says the federal hybrid work policy affects Ottawa’s downtown.

“They have to get people back to work. I understand, even like three days – anything. It sounds crazy, I’m bagging people to go back to work three days,” Ford said during a media conference at Ottawa City Hall. “Not that they aren’t working from home, but it really affects the downtown. We need (the federal government) to bring people back to work, to go into the restaurants, to go into the shops downtown, get on transit and that’s what we need.”

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said the city of Ottawa needs support from the upper levels of government to boost the downtown and support OC Transpo.

“I think we need to have the federal government as our partner, with the provincial government, as part of a discussion about the future of public transit in Ottawa,” Sutcliffe told reporters. “We have a lot of big challenges, a lot of big financial challenges and the three of us need to work together to resolve that.”

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