‘Freedom Convoy’ anniversary in Ottawa and federal employees fired for claiming CERB: Top five stories this week

A small rally marks the one-year anniversary of the ‘Freedom Convoy’ in Ottawa, 49 federal employees fired for claiming CERB while employed, and the city of Ottawa tables the 2023 budget.

CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at the top five stories on our website this week.

A blast of cold Arctic air gripped Ottawa for more than 48 hours this week, but it wasn’t enough to open the Rideau Canal for the opening weekend of Winterlude.

An extreme cold warning was in effect for Ottawa from Thursday to Saturday, as temperatures dropped below -27 C, with the wind chill making it feel like -43.  Saturday is the coldest Feb. 4 in Ottawa in 100 years, with the temperature dropping to -32.2 C at 6 a.m.

The cold temperatures forced Canadian Heritage to cancel all outdoor activities on Friday for Winterlude.

Meantime, the red flag continues to fly on the Rideau Canal Skateway. Despite the cold temperatures to end the week, the National Capital Commission said the world’s largest skating rink was ready for skaters in time for the opening weekend of Winterlude.

If the Rideau Canal Skateway does open this winter, it will be the latest opening in the skateway’s history. The latest date for the opening of the Rideau Canal Skateway was Feb. 2, 2002.

Ottawa police reported no problems in the Parliamentary Precinct as people gathered to mark the one-year anniversary of the arrival of the ‘Freedom Convoy’.

Police and Bylaw Services maintained an increase presence around downtown Ottawa last weekend as a rally was held to mark the anniversary of the protest against COVID-19 public health restrictions. Police had said more than 200 people gathered on Parliament Hill on Saturday, Jan. 28 for a rally and dance party.

On Monday morning, Ottawa Bylaw said police and Bylaw Services officers had issued 244 parking tickets for violating the Special Event No-Stopping Zone restrictions, while 25 vehicles had been towed from downtown streets. At least 67 Provincial Offences Notices were also issued.

Parliamentary Protective Service officers arrested two people for trespassing on Parliament Hill Saturday afternoon.

On Monday, the Ottawa People’s Commission of the Convoy Occupation tabled a report on the impact the ‘Freedom Convoy’ had on residents, saying all three levels of government failed to take into account the human rights of people directly affected by the occupation.

Ottawa police and Ontario Provincial Police officers monitor a rally on Wellington Street on Saturday. A rally was planned for Parliament Hill to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the ‘Freedom Convoy’. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa)

A federal government department has fired 49 employees who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit while they were employed.

Employment and Social Development Canada, which oversaw the distribution of the benefit—better known as CERB— conducted an internal investigation and found that some of its employees had claimed the benefit for themselves.

“Those individuals that did break the trust of the employer-employee relationship … have been terminated,” assistant deputy minister Mary Crescenzi told a House of Commons committee on Thursday. “To date, we have terminated 49 individuals.”

An auditor general’s report on the billions of dollars in COVID-19 benefits issued by the government found that at least $4.6 billion in overpayments went to those who were ineligible and another $27 billion merited further investigation.

The landing page for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is seen in Toronto, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini 

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe says the city of Ottawa’s 2023 budget is a “tight budget”.

City staff tabled the $5.5 billion 2023 city of Ottawa budget on Wednesday, which includes a 2.5 per cent property tax hike, a transit fare freeze and a 10 per cent reduction in some youth recreation fees.

Sutcliffe said staff have also identified $54 million in “savings and efficiencies” that mean programs and services won’t need to be cut.

“Those efficiencies help us reinvest in our priorities,” he said.

However, Sutcliffe said the city will need help from other orders of government down the line.

“Without the appropriate level of support from our provincial and federal governments, we will have significant pressures on our finances next year and beyond, particularly on transit and infrastructure,” he said.

Councillors will host public consultations on the budget over the next two weeks, and city committees will finalize each department budget before Council holds the final vote on the budget on March 1.

If approved, the 2.5 per cent would cost the average urban taxpayer an extra $104 this year.

The landing page for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is seen in Toronto, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini 

Two Ottawa restaurants are on the list of most romantic restaurants in Canada.

Two weeks before Valentine’s Day, OpenTable has released a list of the 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in Canada for 2023, based on more than one million reviews by OpenTable diners.

The two Ottawa restaurants on the list are Cantina Gia and Riviera.

OpenTable recommends booking a reservation for Valentine’s Day at least one week before, and dining at off-peak hours may increase your chances of securing a table at popular restaurants.

Ottawa restaurants Riviera (left) and Cantina Gia are on the list of the 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in Canada for 2023. (Riviera and Cantina Gia/Instagram)

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