Municipal Elections and BIA Issues

Ottawa’s BIAs are Local Boards of Council and must be ‘arms length’ and non-partisan in our approach to the Municipal Elections.  

As stewards of our districts, BIAs are the boots on the ground and eyes on the street; in direct sight and experience of issues impacting the area, its businesses, and people who live and work there. BIAs form a symbiotic relationship with residential communities and contribute to the vitality and liveliness of Ottawa’s neighbourhoods. Our BIAs are key economic and social drivers of our city.

Ottawa’s 19 designated Business Improvement Areas are located in urban, suburban and rural Ottawa. Each is unique and they are much more than ‘shopping districts’ or places to zip through in a transactional sense. They are here to linger in, to stroll through, to experience, to enjoy, and to contribute to everyday quality of life. Learn more about the Value of Ottawa’s BIAs (PDF).

For the 2022 municipal election, OCOBIA has outlined Ottawa BIAs’ collective issues. We encourage all municipal candidates to review and consider these issues as they impact Ottawa’s growth and prosperity.

For ward-specific BIA issues, we encourage you to visit the BIA website for more information. We will list the BIA links as they become available:

Heart of Orléans BIA   |   Carp Road Corridor BIA   |   Barrhaven BIA

Public Transit

Business productivity gained from access to broader labour markets with more diverse skills is enabled by expanded public transit service areas and reduced traffic congestionEconomic Impact of Public Transit Investment

With the highest job vacancies seen in several sectors, businesses are challenged in hiring within our geographically expansive city. Public transportation in between AND within urban, suburban, and rural areas needs urgent attention – whether it is unreliable, or non-existent. Late or canceled buses impact employee quality of life and the retention of staff. 

Many of our business districts just outside the core are watching and waiting to see how LRT Stage 2 will roll out. Getting anywhere in the core from Orléans can be over an hour. It can be up to 1.5 – 2 hours one way to get from the core to Kanata (or Kanata North). Rural areas that are growing are not included in any existing public transit or plan.

Public transit to and from post-secondary institutions and BIAs is critical, as the student labour market currently can endure a 1-2 hour commute between their institution and BIAs in suburbs. This is a deterrent in offering attractive and convenient employment.

Businesses would also like to see the OC Transpo bus network have better connectivity throughout/within their urban, suburban or rural neighbourhoods for more reliable access for staff.

Tree Canopies

Street trees are a critical economic development and sustainability investment.

Street trees are good for business. Lining streets with trees leading to a neighbourhood centre draws customers into adjacent businesses through elevating Walk Appeal. Also, every street tree absorbs the first inch of stormwater. They can save billions in stormwater infrastructure across the city. Additional info on benefits is available here: The powerful virtuous cycles of street trees

BIAs are seeking a commitment to developing tree canopies in business areas from the City (with support of all levels of government). 

A plan on maintenance and tending should be set to ensure that trees survive and thrive. The environmental and infrastructure benefits can provide cost savings to the city and businesses.

Affordable Housing

starts with home - affordable housing in Ottawa

A neighbourhood’s resilience depends on ensuring that community members can continue to live and work nearby.

Affordable housing is critical to attract and retain a labour market in various sectors. OCOBIA endorses the Starts With Home campaign – a campaign to act on building affordable housing, maintaining and keeping affordable housing stock.

The 2021 Homeless Point in Time (PiT) count shows that homelessness is increasing, with lack of affordable housing being the prime reason for the rising number.  26% of those surveyed claimed to not have enough income for housing. The PiT count does not account for ‘unknown homeless’ – i.e. adults or families living in other people’s homes due to job loss or unaffordable housing.


City infrastructure improvements can impact community safety and well-being.

Road improvements, widening sidewalks, multi-use pathways, bike lanes, bike parking, street lighting, street furniture, public washrooms, water management, enhanced accessibility, and more. Infrastructure within our BIAs need careful consideration in urban, suburban and rural areas.

As the ‘eyes on the street’, BIAs can provide valuable insight on the infrastructure upgrades and improvements needed, that vary from area to area. Many roads are in need of repair or reconfiguring to include proper bike lanes, wider sidewalks. Sidewalk maintenance, especially with the involvement of pavers, is critical to avoid accidents and injuries. 

For areas experiencing growth, how will the next council ensure that services and infrastructure support densification? Will there be added EV Charging stations, improved transit routes, Ottawa Hydro improvements to the power grid, etc to accommodate?

The health and well-being of people who live, work and visit our BIAs is top of mind. Public washrooms in our BIAs need to be available. We support and endorse the GottaGo Campaign for a network of public washrooms. We believe BIAs can facilitate this with the support and resources of the city – whether it is city-subsidized public washrooms for accessible public toilets in commercial locations, or new construction, or providing way-finding for existing public toilets.

For rural communities, what are the plans to support businesses with water and sewer access? With storms and power outage occurrences, water access is impacted for businesses (and residents) on wells. How will the loss of hydro power be mitigated with contingency plans?

Response to Social Issues

BIAs are facing challenges of an increasing number of individuals living with homelessness, mental health, substance abuse and addictions.

Crime, including theft and violent crime, is escalating in our BIAs. Commercial property owners do not have the resources to manage and handle these situations. 

We are seeing encampments within the core and in the suburbs. Throughout the city, BIAs are experiencing a higher population of people affected by mental health and addictions illnesses. Businesses in BIAs are experiencing direct crimes, and some don’t feel their staff are working in safe areas.

Rapid response to calls for someone in distress, or to clean up needles, feces and other biohazards needs to be made available to business areas.  What proactive measure will take place to prevent criminal activity and protect vulnerable populations? 

Will the next Council prioritize rapid crisis response, as well as urgent clean-up response, for BIAs? Will the City consider a direct line for urgent needs in BIAs?

Development in BIAs

In a good neighbourhood, the ground floors of buildings work symbiotically with the surrounding sidewalks and public spaces. Together they provide a continuous network of pathways and experiences that are active, safe, comfortable and engaging.

It is without question that development and densification of housing needs to occur in our city. The city of Ottawa declared a housing crisis in 2020, and we need to act fast. As BIAs see development impacting the landscape and main street, ground-level commercial space becomes increasingly important.

Ground level commercial increases pedestrian comfort (active space is safer), drives district desirability, and serves as an additional tax base. A successful ground-level commercial space creates place for the users of the building and surrounding neighbourhood to visit through interior and façade design and a proper tenant mix. Importance of Ground Level Space

BIAs are requesting that PRED review applications for development and request main-level plans for developments within BIAs.

Economic Development

Remove barriers, improve access, and support economic growth.

The pandemic saw a focus in our city on economic development to aid in the rebound and recovery of businesses.  BIAs would like to continue to see, city program reviews with an economic development lens.  We hope to continue consultation on city programs – ie. leadership table mental health, community safety and wellbeing, climate resilience, etc.

We would like to see a continued investment in economic development to remove any barriers in the city to attract business and workers:

– temporarily – ie. events and conferences, filming production, tourism

– permanently – ie. business expansion to Ottawa, entrepreneurs

(the YOW CIP is an example)

BIAs would like to create MOUs with the city of Ottawa (per BIA or standard across all BIAs) to help outline roles and responsibilities of each organization. See: City of Collingwood, Exeter, Sudbury as examples.

Ottawa BIAs by the Numbers