The Best Street Food in Ottawa

Sunday April 4, 2021

Saturday took us to Bells Corners, and on the return trip, a visit to our Best Of Ottawa Awards street food truck runner-up Ad Mare.

Ad Mare reopened for the season on Friday in the parking lot of Kichesippi Beer Co. Kichesippi has a great patio and in normal times, it would be packed and Ad Mare’s line-up long. But as the Province has banned patio service for the next four weeks, there was no waiting.

We ordered the Shrimp Po’ Boy. What we received was a demi-baguette, overflowing with huge deep fried shrimp, on a lettuce, tomato, and pickle base. 


We chose the chips as an accompaniment: thinly sliced potatoes, beets, and sweet potatoes crisped on the spot. 

Absolute heaven.

So take this as your notice that Street Food Truck season has opened. We've listed some of the best here.

▪️ Everyone has their favourite chip truck, and Wes’ is ours. Wes’s Chips food truck is now open for the season, from 10-7 daily at 198 Madawaska Blvd in Arnprior, Ontario. Best. Chips. Ever.

▪️ Jerk on Wheels (1533 Merivale Road, open 12:00pm to 6:00pm) has big news: They’re opening a second truck! Details are hush-hush at the moment, but if you share their announcement on Instagram you’ll have a chance to win a large Jerk poutine.

▪️ Falafael on Wheels is open Monday to Friday 11:30am to 6:30pm and on Saturday from 11:30am to 4:30pm. 1649 Montreal Road (at Blair). Look for fresh falafels in a sandwich, on a salad, or as a snack, plus salads and fries. Available via Doordash and Uber Eats if you can’t get to the truck. 

▪️ Visit the Nepean location of Raon for Bimbimbaps (Korean rice bowls with meat or tofu), Korean fried chicken, and spicy nuts. 6-65 Bentley Avenue from Monday to Friday 11:00am - 2:00pm and 4:00pm -7:30pm, and Saturdays from 12:00pm to 7:30pm. They’re also at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Lansdowne Park on Sundays from 10:00am to 3:00pm.

▪️ BBQ fans mark your calendars for this Friday, April 9 for the 2021 opening of Smokin’ R & Rs in Stittsville. The menu will satisfy lovers of burgers, pulled pork, buffalo chicken, veggie wraps, salmon, and bison. It’s all there, including chips. 1441 Stittsville Main Street, 11:00am to 7:30pm daily.

▪️ Big D’s Dog House and Poutine is now open to satisfy your hot dog and poutine cravings. Open daily from 11:00am to 7:00pm at Hazeldean and Sweetnam Drive.

▪️ If you didn’t get enough Easter sweets there’s an adorable menu of mini donuts on offer at Le Donut Stop, 3910 Innes Road in Orléans (in the Canadian Tire parking lot). Open today until 5:00pm, they offer Cinnamon Sugar, Powdered Sugar, or Plain in batches of 12, 24, or 50.

▪️ When you can’t get to a campfire, you’ll find a wide selection of roasted marshmallow treats at the La Guimauverie truck. Right now they’re based at the Navan market on weekends but watch their social media for news about a new location in Orléans, coming very soon.

Interview with Laura Perreault Of The Midnight Baker

By Martha Gall

Wednesday March 3, 2021

For Laura Perreault, aka The Midnight Baker, baking is something that has brought her joy since childhood. She’d been baking as a hobby for family and friends for years, when in 2016 she arrived at a crossroads. During a bout of depression, she wondered what she should be doing, and she ultimately decided that since baking was her passion she should be doing it. She rejected returning to school to study baking, saying “I’ve graduated four times. I realized that school is a safe place for me.” Instead, she took an online course to learn the theory and then found work at Nat’s Bread Company and the now-closed Sutherland on Beechwood to hone her skills. She also worked part time for Joy of Gluten Free. 

By 2019 she was working three days per week for a doctor, and baking bread and pastries for family and friends at night once the kids were in bed (the habit of staying up late to bake is what inspired her business’s name, The Midnight Baker). She decided it was time to grow her own baking business. She rejected the idea of a home-based food business due to the regulations. “You need a specific entrance for the business, for example,” Perreault says. Next, she investigated renting a commercial kitchen. “Commercial kitchens are expensive,” she says, “and they charge a minimum of four hours. Often they require that you hold liability insurance before you can set foot in the space. The application process is daunting. So, at that time, I decided against renting in one. Ultimately I looked at doing vendor shows and farmers’ markets instead, because the regulations (for selling bread and pastries at farmers’ markets) are different.”

Perreault successfully applied for the Log Farm famers’ market that year. At the end of market season in 2019, after the learning curve of her first year selling at the market, she once again investigated commercial kitchens. After reading an ad in Kijiji she met with the manager of a commercial kitchen, but it was still too pricey. Then, fate intervened. “The house we’d rented for 11 years, the house my kids grew up in, was going to be sold. We looked around for another house to live in, but rents had gone up! Eventually we moved in with my in-laws.”

Living as an extended family provided Perreault’s teenaged children with the opportunity to spend time with their grandparents, but it also meant that there was no room for the Midnight Baker to work. Luckily, the family’s living arrangement released money to rent a space to do her baking. She called back the manager of the Cookhouse Community Kitchen, and he told her that there were overnight slots for rent. “The overnight rates were more reasonable,” she says. She started renting space last March, at the start of the pandemic. 

There were some initial challenges moving to a commercial kitchen for example, if she had problems with equipment, there was no one to help in the middle of the night. But the space included three big prep tables and the fridges and ovens that she needed. Like the other renters - school meals franchise The Lunch Lady, Caribbean food suppliers Run 2 Patty, and Tiffin Mania, Indian food for delivery and pickup - Perreault is responsible for keeping the space and equipment clean. “I’ve formed friendships with the other renters, and with other small business owners.”

She also does deliveries to homes, from her website, in the farmers’ market off season. “I bake incredibly fresh baked goods at the kitchen, wrap them in bags, come home with them, and then go out and deliver them.”

So, how’s business? Turns out, despite the pandemic, The Midnight Baker is doing well.

“For Mother’s Day 2020 I rented the commercial space at night and I made $1,000 in one day. In 2019 at the Log Farm, on my best day I made $300. In 2020, my lowest day was $350.” Perreault believes this is due to the volume that she can now produce at the commercial kitchen, and the growth in numbers of COVID-fatigued people visiting farmers’ markets. Usually at the end of the regular farmers’ market season, there is a plethora of Christmas markets, however the pandemic closed down many of them in 2020. The Log Farm’s two outdoor Christmas markets in November 2020, on the other hand, drew huge crowds of socially distanced people wanting to support local businesses. 

What’s next for The Midnight Baker? Her daughter helps at the market, and one day Perreault hopes to convince her 18 year old son to help with deliveries. Perreault hopes to run the business full time someday,  but for now she still works at the doctor’s office, where in spare moments she finds herself dreaming up new recipes or updating her Instagram. "I'm taking it slow but sure," she says. 

Meanwhile, in December, the Cookhouse Community Kitchen put all four business logos on the building’s exterior, and Perreault is incredibly proud. She’s started offering  frozen meals to reheat at home, and she says "I'll be slammed" once the farmers’ market season will begin again in May.

Resources for home food businesses:

Ministry of Health’s Guide to Starting a Home-based Food Business

Health Protection and Promotion Act, Food Premises

Ottawa Public Health’s guidance on operating a food business, including the application

The 10 best pizzas in Ottawa

Tuesday February 9, 2021

For myriad reasons Darren and Martha have strong opinions about pizza but the truth is, like cameras, the best pizza is the one you have in your hand. Order from somewhere nearby – the chance of you being disappointed is hovering around zero per cent.

But to inspire you, here are ten of the best pizzas in Ottawa.

🍕Diavola: Spicy salami, peppers 
Anthony's Pizza Napoletana  (🥇Best Of Ottawa 2020 winner) Wellington Street and Bank Street

🍕Alla Ola: Cacio e pepe cauliflower puree, roasted mushroom, Parmesan, truffle oil, toasted breadcrumbs, and parsley 
Farinella (🥈Best Of Ottawa 2020 runner up) Little Italy

🍕Wild Boar: Local wild boar sausage, caramelized apple, sage pesto, and two year-old cheddar
Tennessy Willems Wellington Street West 

🍕Albert - Kimchi PIzza: Tomato sauce, local cheese, house-made vegan kimchi, bacon and sesame-soy-honey
Pizza Nerds Bank Street

🍕Gitanes: Calabrian chili arrabbiatta, aged mozzarella, Manila clams, oreganatto , fresh lemon zest, fennel pollen, pangritatta, and parsley.
Heartbreakers Pizza  Hintonburg

🍕Pizza With Potatoes: Green and red peppers, red onions, potatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and cheddar
Pizza Café Tache Gatineau

🍕Shrimp & Fig: Shrimp, capicola ham, dried figs, and hot peppers
Canal Ritz Dow's Lake 

🍕Lost In Wakefield: Slow roasted garlic tomato sauce, house made maple fennel sausage, caramelized onions, cremini mushrooms, whole milk mozzarella, and basil with a sesame crust
Art Is In Bakery ByWard Market

🍕The Boss: Roasted tomato, roasted garlic, fresh boconccini, basil reduction, and fresh arugula. 
Bread & Sons Bank Street

🍕Alessandro: Garlic, fresh basil, speck, chili oil, and pine nuts
Roberto Pizza Little Italy

Romantic takeaway and delivery dinners for Valentine's Day in Ottawa

Tuesday February 9, 2021

Two glasses with red roses

Whatever February 14th means to you, there are lots of ways to have a celebratory, even if we’re still under lockdown. Even if lockdown is lifted, restaurants will likely be restricted to 25% capacity, so reservations will be challenging to procure. For that reason, we suggest ordering in or picking up*.

Al’s Steakhouse

For those that need their meat red, Al’s has a fixed menu for two. A choice of either bottle of cocktails (Al’s Old Fashioned or Celebataire) or a bottle of wine, choice of zucchini sticks or calamari, salad with Al’s Famous Garlic Dressing, New York striploin, lobster linguini, homemade cheesecake. $155

Golden Triangle
Pickup or delivery Feb 12, 13, and 14


Arlo offers breakfast in bed for two. Once you get back from picking it up, of course. Smoked salmon from the Chelsea SmokeHouse, creton with apple and mustard jam, salt cod frittata with marinated peppers, six mini bagels, creamy herb & caper spread, pistachio & fleur de sel chocolate bark, fruit salad, fresh squeezed orange juice, and a bottle of sparkling wine. $125. Add $50 and you can get a sexy surprise bag from Venus Envy.

Pickup and delivery Feb 13


Amuse has a fixed price dinner for two. Charcuterie, chilled crab cake, and flourless chocolate cake. For the mains choose two from: lobster and shrimp linguini, beef short rib, or baked salmon. $140 

Pickup only Feb 12, 13, and 14


Beckta has a set menu for two. Three Quebec cheeses, BC sablefish, Alberta lamb shank, dark chocolate cake, and Paris-brest plus a bottle of wine for $145, for $240 the dessert is the same, the wine gets an upgrade, and the courses are lobster Caesar salad, foie gras, and ribeye. Most items can be ordered for takeaway à la carte.

Pickup and delivery Feb 12, 13, and 14

Brookstreet Hotel

Eat like an Ottawa Senator from their preferred hotel. It’s a set menu for two, with Velouté of Butternut Squash, chicken black plum and cider terrine, steak and lobster tail, and a crème brülée. $180

Pickup only Feb 12, 13, and 14

Cabottos Italian

Cabottos’s Valentines menu is a challenging one, as you’ll have to choose from an extensive list of rich classics. Lobster ravioli, filet mignon, and Osso Buco are serious dishes for big occasions. We think this one will be especially appropriate for those planning to pop a question that is quite popular at this time of year. Order online, for pickup between 2pm and 9pm on February 14th.

Pickup only

Cafe De Luxe

Sweet lovers will want to check out the assortment of heart shaped cookies in gift boxes of six ($14.95) or 12 ($29.95) 

Delivery and pickup

EVOO Greek Kitchen

EVOO says their pre-orders for Valentine’s Day Weekend are selling fast, so fans of Greek feasts should get in now. The Valentine’s Day Menu for Two includes dips, house Spanakopita, salad, lamp chops, a half chicken, Greek sausage, pork souvlaki, fries, and dessert for $125 (seafood feast also available for the same price). EVOO has even taken care of the decorations, with options for adding feathers, confetti, or balloons to your order for an additional $25.

Little Italy
Pickup and delivery

El Camino

For those that love the taste of south of the border south of the other border, El Camino has a fixed price taco menu. Two Margaritas, guacamole and chips, papaya salad, and choose six tacos from this list: Beef Taco, Cochinita Roasted Pig Head Taco, Japanese Eggplant Taco, Taco Del Norte, Pollo Asado Taco, Crispy Fish Taco, Ox Tongue Taco, Cauliflower Taco w. Peanut Macha Salsa. Followed up by churros with salted caramel and tequilime pie. $100.

ByWard Market and Elgin Street
Pickup only Feb 12, 13, and 14


The set menu for two includes six oysters with garnishes, Caesar Salad, Beef Wellington with Pomme Aligot, roasted root vegetables, Bordelaise sauce, and an assortment of chocolates and petit fours. $160

Pickup and delivery Feb 13 and 14


The Indian feast for two from Ishina has everything you need for a cozy night in. Available on February 13th and 14th, the four course meal includes soup, appetizers, your choice of lamb shank or stuffed eggplant main and a rose flavoured Shahi Tukda to finish. Orders accepted until February11th. 613 721 1067

Bells Junction
Pick up and delivery

Morning Owl Kanata

Even on Valentines day, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Morning Owl’s Breakfast Board for two includes breakfast items and your choice of Pink Hot Chocolate, Pink Undertow Coffee (we don’t know what that is but we want one), or a Valentine Cocktail. Order by February 12th for pickup on February 14th. 613 518 0021

Pickup only

Napoli’s Café

This five course meal for two is only available on Valentine’s Day itself. Focaccia, kale and spinach Caesar salad, lobster ravioli in house bisque,grilled tenderloin, and ginger fig almond crumble cake. $150.00

Pick up only Feb 14


The set menu for two is a tour of Thailand with two lychee and passion fruit spritzers , two bottles of Singha Thai Beer, two pieces each of crab/prawn/cilantro fritters and peanut crusted striploin rice paper rollup, and a seven course menu: green papaya salad, pad kee mao, chicken and coconut broth, sour long bean and ground pork flash, prawn and eggplant curry, duck curry, mango/coconut/ginger panna cotta. $90.

Michael Blackie has done a video to show what you get.

Pick up only Feb 13 and 14

North & Navy

The Best of Ottawa 2020 winner for Italian food has options that include wine, cocktails, and flowers. The set menu is tuna crudo, tallegio scarpinocc, cornish hen stuffed with sausage, followed by gianduja marquise. $95 each person and comes with North & Navy’s fantastic bread. 

Pickup and delivery Feb 12, 13, and 14


The Saint-Valentin dinner for two features tuna crudo or citrus salad with pistachios, rigatoni with yak ragu, rabbit ballotine or crumbed fogo island cod, and dark chocolate and raspberry tart. $155.

Sparks Street
Pick up only Feb 11, 12, 13, and 14

Soca Kitchen

For a Spanish flavour, Soca has a set menu for two: Seafood Soup, napa Caesar, roasted lamb & escargot in lobster butter, rustic black garlic mashed potatoes, and chocolate cake. $110

Wellington Village
Pickup and delivery Feb 13 and 14

St. Martha's Brasserie

St Martha’s offers fixed price for four courses, with four options each. Duck confit Aumöniere filled with blueberry coulis, flétan (baked halibut with brussels sprouts mousseline), quinoa with coriander and mint pesto, and coconut milk panna cotta give a flavour of St Martha’s style. Vegans take note, every course has a meat and dairy-free option. $65 per person.

Pickup only Feb 12, 13, and 14

Vittoria Trattoria

Vittoria Trattoria has a set menu for two: Potato and leek veloutè, kale salad, braised lamb, and chocolate cake. $85

Riverside South
Pickup only Feb 12, 13, and 14


The bar at the Château Laurier has two kinds of dinner-for-two: with and without champagne. Starters include shucked oysters, tuna crudo, or roasted beet salad; mains include luck of duck confit (with a tarragon spatzle), boneless beef shortrib, or chicken breast; dessert includes flourless chocolate cake, macarons, or chocolate dip strawberries. $189 or $299 with a half bottle of of Moët & Chandon.

Pickup only Feb 12, 13, and 14

* Restaurants usually pay around 30 per cent of the total bill to the big delivery services – Uber, DoorDash, SkipTheDishes, etc. We all help out our local restaurants if we pick up rather than have the meal delivered. This doesn’t apply to restaurants that use their own delivery staff and every restaurant would rather pay the 30 per cent than not have the order at all.

We welcome additions and corrections to this list. Contact us at [email protected]

The Best of Ottawa Award Winners and Runners-up 2020

Monday October 5, 2020

The COVID response has hit Ottawa's shops and restaurants hard. Many have closed, many others are clinging on by their fingertips.

Our goal with the BEST OF OTTAWA 2020 AWARDS is to highlight what is great about Ottawa, to champion those shops, businesses, and services who are fighting the downturn, and to introduce everyone who lives here to something new.  

We're stunned by the response to our first ever awards. There were THOUSANDS of responses. We're confident that this is a pretty good representation of what Ottawa thinks.

So, these people, businesses, and services were awarded the BEST OF OTTAWA 2020. All the winners and runners-up will be receiving a frame-able certificate. To everyone who nominated and voted, thank you for your service.


Best cheap deal/meal under $10
Runner-up: Ahora Mexican Restaurant


Best place to splurge


Runner-up: Riviera Ottawa


Best wine list


Runner-up: The Whalesbone


Best Burger


Runner-up:  The Worx Craft Burgers and Beer


Best Pizza


Runner-up: Farinella


Best Shawarma


Runner-up: Shawarma King


Best Taco


Runner-up: Ola Cocina Taqueria


Best Poutine


Runner-up: Pure Kitchen


Best Food Truck


Runner-up: Ad Mare Seafood Truck


Best Coffee


Runner-up: Equator Coffee


Best Bagel


Runner-up: The Bagel Run


Best African Restaurant


Runner-up: BBQ Golden Grill


Best Caribbean Restaurant


Runner up: Island Grill


Best Chinese Restaurant


Runner-up: Gongfu Bao


Best French Restaurant


Runner up: Le moulin de provence


Best Greek Restaurant


Runner up:  Greek On Wheels


Best Indian Restaurant


Runner up: East India Company


Best Italian Restaurant


Runner up: Trattoria Caffé Italia


Best Japanese Restaurant


Runner up:  Genji


Best Middle Eastern Restaurant


Runner up: 3 Brothers Shawarma


Best Thai Restaurant


Runner up: Khao Thai


Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant


Runner up: The Green Door


Best Patio


Runner up: Tavern on the Falls


Best Ice-Cream/Gelato


Runner up: Moo Shu Ice Cream


Best Local Brewery


Runner up: Dominion City Brewing


Best Local Distillery


Runner up: North of 7 Distillery


Best Local Beer


Runner up: Beyond The Pale Pink Fuzz 


Best Art Supply Store


Runner up: Deserres


Best Vintage Clothing Store


Runner up: Ragtime


Best Vintage Furniture Store




Best Furniture/Decor Store


Runner up: Zone


Best Grocery Store


Runner up: La Bottega


Best Organic Food Store


Runner up: Farm Boy


Best Farmer’s Market


Runner up: ByWard Market


Best Piercing/Tattoo Shop


Runner up: Living Colour


Best Real Estate Agent

MARNIE BENNETT, Bennett Property Shop

Runner up: Tara Shields, Royal LePage Team


Best Women’s Apparel Store


Runner up: Giant Tiger


Best Men’s Apparel Store


Runner up: Giant Tiger


Best Bookstore


Runner up: Octopus Books


Best Activisit/Activist Group


Runner up: Earthub


Best Activist Campaign


Runner up: Save The Bees


Best Community Hero

JOE THOTTUNGAL, restauranteur provinding food for homeless families

Runner up: Gwen Madiba, campaigner for women & the Black community in Ottawa 


Best City Councillor


Runner up:  Mathieu Fleury


Best Member of Provincial Parliament


Runner up: Yasir Naqvi


Best Member of Parliament


Runner up: Peter Julian


Best Neighbourhood


Runner up: Hintonburg


Best Place to Bring an Out of Towner


Runner up: Gatineau Hills


Best Local Podcast


Runner up: The Interview Dudes


Best Local Instagram - Personality/Content Creator


Runner up: @LuckyLittleQueer


Best Local Instagram - Photography


Tie: Runner up: Brittany Lee Smyth

Tie: Runner up: Cory Conty


Best Local Instagram - Pets


Runner up: @theguiltypoodle


Best Locak TikTok


Runner up: @gghamar


Best Ottawa Blogger


Runner up: Amy Karlin, Amy In 613


Best Local Website


Runner up: Reddit Ottawa


Best Local TV Personality


Runner up: Matt Skube CTV Ottawa


Best Local Radio Personality


Runner up: Alan Neal, CBC All In A Day


Best Local TV Station


Runner up: CTV Ottawa


Best Campus/Community Radio Station

CKCU FM 93.1

Runner up: CHUO 89.1


Best Radio Station 


Runner up:  Hot 89.9


Best Local Twitter


Runner up: @YOW_weather


Best Local YouTube


Runner up: Elle Mills


Best Local Band


Runner up: Hollerado

Best Musician


Runner Up: Lucky Ron



Ottawa brewery is resurrecting long-lost alcoholic root beer – Cronk

Thursday July 30, 2020

Buy Cronk. Cronk is good. Cronk is the drink.

Last month, Paul Fairie, an researched at the University of Calgary, was looking at an 1883 copy of the Calgary Herald, and noticed something weird. 

Cronk was interspersed between paragraphs all through the paper. Why? Facinated Twitter users took up the task.

A bottle was found.

Then an an 1860 recipe.

Dating back to the 1840s, Cronk was the invention of Warren Cronk of Syracuse, New York, who invented the drink as a healthful tonic. Only slightly alcoholic, it was a mix of sasparilla, sassafras, and hops.

Over the next few decades, the recipe was franchised out to brewers across the US and Canada, including Calgary. But by the end of the 19th century, Cronk was gone and forgotten.

Until Paul Fairie's Tweet. Which inspired Cold Garden brewery of Calgary to make the first batch of Cronk in perhaps 100 years.

And that's why it is fabulous that Nita Brewing in Nepean is brewing it in Ottawa.

In a phone call with the ottawan, Nita Brewing said that the first batch should be ready in “two to three weeks.“ 

“We've never done this before so we'll see what happens.”


the ottawan will keep you updated as this unfolds.

DON‘T FORGET: The Last Ottawa-Gatineau Beer Map That You Will Ever Need 

Ontario bill threatens renters in favour of landlords, Ottawa advocates say

An Ottawan Original

Thursday July 2, 2020

▪️ Over one-fifth of MPPs list report receiving rental income, it's one-quarter if spouses are counted
▪️ No moritorium on rent owned due to COVID-19
▪️ Landlords would no longer need to go to Landlord Tenant Board to evict

By Jillian Piper

On March 12, Ontario parliament held the first reading of Bill 184, named the “Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act,” which the Ford administration said will protect the rights of tenants and landlords.

However, Ottawa advocates say the new bill decreases renters’ rights amid the pandemic — at a time when they need financial support the most.

One of the most controversial points of the new bill is the ability of landlords to give an eviction notice as soon as a rental payment is missed, instead of having to go to the Landlord Tenant Board and organizing a new payment plan with the tenant.

In May, the bill had its second reading in parliament and is currently being considered by the standing committee on social policy.

Controversy surrounding Bill 184

Herongate Tenant Coalition organizer Josh Hawley said he isn’t surprised at the bill’s timing.

“They pushed it through the pandemic on purpose,” he said.

He added while the housing crisis in Ottawa has been around for years — council even declared a housing and homelessness crisis earlier this year — Bill 184 is pushing pre-existing cracks in the system.

“The crisis was clearly exacerbated by Ford, who as soon as he got into power, he cut funding to the tribunals,” Hawley said.

Hawley referred to when Doug Ford amalgamated the nearly 20 tribunals into one entity known as Tribunals Ontario, a process which began back in 2018.

“What ended up happening was he didn't hire new adjudicators, so the Landlord Tenant Board is really starved of adjudicators right now, which increased the backlog,” Hawley explained.

Hawley added by cutting the tribunals, he thinks Ford was “setting the stage” to justify passing Bill 184, which he described as “an eviction speed-up bill.”

Passing a bill that would allow landlords to evict tenants as soon as a payment is late, rather than being able to agree on a new repayment plan in the Landlord Tenant Board, is especially problematic given the job insecurity brought on by COVID-19, Hawley said.

In June, Canada’s unemployment rate hit a record 13.7 per cent.

While the government of Ontario acknowledges paying rent will be more difficult due to COVID-19, the government’s website states all tenants who can pay their rent must do so to the best of their abilities.

“Landlords are entitled to collect compensation from a tenant for each day that an eviction order is not enforced. However, tenants who are asked to self-isolate or who can’t work may have difficulty paying their rent,” the website reads.

“We encourage landlords and tenants to work together during this difficult time to establish fair arrangements to keep tenants in their homes,” the statement continues.

In late April, Ford said residential rent relief would soon be implemented. Currently, there is no COVID-19 residential rent-specific relief program for Canadians, but the federal and Ontario government did provide a commercial rent assistance program for small businesses affected by COVID-19 back in May.

Advocates say time to implement support for renters is running out.

COVID-19 financial strains

Mavis Finnamore, long-time tenant leader of housing advocacy group Association of Community Organizations for Reform (ACORN)’s Ottawa chapter, said while COVID-19 relief programs have been generous, residential tenants are being left in the dust.

“[The government has] been all over the place with donating money left, right and center, and it's actually kind of amazing to me that they've somehow overlooked residential tenants,” she said.

“I used to think of the government as being something that worked for the people to help the people, and I'm really not seeing this now,” she added.

Finnamore said vulnerable communities were hit hardest by the pandemic, which emphasizes the need for rental support during COVID-19.

“We already have a housing problem and then to have COVID-19 and all these restrictions dumped on it made things very, very uncomfortable for people at the lower end as far as rent goes,” she said.

Although the City of Ottawa declared a housing and homelessness crisis earlier this year, Finnamore said it seems to be swept under the rug.

“Somehow, [government officials] have developed amnesia,” she said. “It seems inevitable that we're going to be seeing another bunch of people out homeless, but [the government is] kind of contributing to the problem.”

Finnamore said ACORN members have collectively sent thousands of emails and called politicians hundreds of times to advocate on behalf of housing supports for renters amid the pandemic.

The group hopes to see the government provide an emergency no-interest loan that those struggling to pay rent — whether or not they receive the $2,000 a month Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or unemployment insurance— could easily apply for in a time of need, as well as freezing rent increases and ensuring vacancy control to avoid higher rates.

Finnamore also said the most important change the group is advocating for is a moratorium on evictions caused by inability to pay rent.

“We're not hearing from our governments on these very vulnerable marginal income people. They're not helping them out,” she said. “So the louder we can amplify our message through whatever media or system we can do, the better.”

Finnamore added she has also been talking more directly with councillors to see if they can exert pressure on other councillors to enact support.

‘Skyrocketing’ housing market

Somerset Ward city councillor Catherine McKenney said the government has known the necessary steps to take since the national housing strategy was released in 2017, but no concrete measures have been implemented.

“The national housing strategy calls for two things, it calls for us to end or reduce chronic homelessness by 50 per cent and to reduce core housing needs, so helping people who are paying far too much for their housing,” McKenney, council’s liaison on housing and homelessness, said.

McKenney added housing prices in Ottawa have recently “skyrocketed.”

“Some people are paying well over 30 per cent of their income just on housing,” they said. “People are falling into homelessness as a result.”

Even rent forgiveness would not be enough to undo the damage already done, McKenney added.

“We need to give people rent supplements or housing allowances until they’re able to gain their own ability to pay for housing and we need to build more housing,” they said. “We have to start building housing that is supportive housing for people coming out of shelter.”

MPP Joel Harden agreed that affordable housing is a necessity for Ottawa neighbourhoods.

“People in Ottawa Community Housing will tell you, despite being the biggest landlord of affordable housing in the city, they have a waitlist of 10 years for the units they currently have,” he said.

While some new developments are currently underway, Harden said the majority are not affordable.

“In the private rental market what we're seeing across Ottawa are these enormous glass monstrosities being built up, which are not affordable housing — they’re not even family housing,” he said. “They’re housing for affluent folks, frankly, like myself.”

“I make a good income as an MPP, but that’s not who we’re looking to house,” he added.

Of the 124 Ontario MPPs in 2019, about a fifth listed “rental property” as one of their sources of income. That amount increases to just under a quarter of MPPs profiting off of rental incomes if their spouses’ listed incomes are included.

Finnamore said having people who generate a profit off of rental incomes making policy decisions can be problematic.

“If you’re an owner, you have a different point of view and I think that if you’re doing it for income, certainly you don’t want anything impinging on your income,” she said.

Finnamore added that while small landlords typically know their tenants and are more likely to actually live in the development, problems can arise with bigger companies.

“They certainly did not want to pay attention to tenants’ concerns [at her previous apartment], they were just concerned about demolishing and getting the money out of you,” she said.

Finnamore added she also worries about conflicts of interest.

“All the developers were throwing money around at all the councillors,” she said. “The obvious conclusion is you've got to be getting something for your money.”

Calling for support

Harden said one possible solution to Ottawa’s high housing prices could be implementing an inclusionary zoning policy, following in the footsteps of cities like Montréal and Vancouver, which would require developers to set aside a certain percentage of new developments to be affordable for those with moderate to low incomes.

“The way you can require the private rental market to care about building affordable housing is to require it,” Harden said. “It’s not going to happen by itself, legislation has to guide it.”

Harden referenced the development of Heron Gate as a perfect example of affordable housing in Ottawa being demolished for profit.

“We have to put our heads together because it’s not as if in Ottawa there isn’t usable space,” he said. “There is unused and underutilized space, we just have the wrong priorities in the kind of housing we’re building.”

Hawley disagreed with implementing inclusionary zoning practices, saying mixed income communities as a result of inclusionary zoning can lead to further division between classes.

“Mixed income communities don't accomplish anything,” he said. “If anything, they create division because there's a hierarchy. There's condescension from property owners.”

While some advocates think policy is the best approach to change, Hawley said he believes meaningful change can only occur with community action.

“I see structural change not coming from policy, not coming from lobbying politicians, but coming from building up the power of working class people,” he said. “It's been taken away from us for so long, we've been led to believe that we have to trust politicians or the change we can make happens once every four years.”

“But the real change happens at your home with your neighbors,” he added.

With the main source of government-provided tenant support being the Landlord Tenant Board, which Hawley described as “cumbersome” and “not set up for tenants,” he said it is all the more important to support neighbours.

“It's a commitment to realize that in our homes, we can protect ourselves and we can defend ourselves,” he said.

How Contact Tracing Apps work

Friday June 19, 2020

Love under lockdown

The COVID-19 pandemic forces singles to navigate a unique set of circumstances and a completely unexpected dating scene 

Thursday June 11, 2020

By Hollie Grace James

It seems like only yesterday that Don was enjoying his early 20s, in the thick of Ottawa’s vigorous singles scene, meeting women in bars, clubs and through friends. Cue the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent societal shutdown, and most opportunities to meet potential partners have shifted online. “Dating apps are all that’s left,” he laments. “I’ll admit, I’m using three of them.”

What once seemed exciting and limitless, dating in the world of abundance and easy access due to the rising popularity of apps, has actually produced a whole new level of inauthenticity, according to Sue McGarvie, internationally recognized sex and relationship therapist. “Women describe it as a ‘soul crushing experience’ and men as ‘a cat with too many mice to chase’,” she says, adding that dating apps have evolved and become primarily geared towards hook-ups, as opposed to long-lasting relationships. McGarvie posits that online use had been declining the past five years, estimating that 60 percent of people were meeting potential partners in person. But with Coronavirus mandated lockdowns, the new norm has shifted yet again. “It’s become the 1950’s,” explains McGarvie. “You’re looking at eight weeks of courtship - the “no [sex until after the] third date” rule is over.”

Don agrees that dating is now much trickier. “First, texting is odd, and it still feels weird to suddenly offer a video chat to someone you don't really know. Then, it's hard to keep conversations interesting and long-lasting if there is no plan to meet.” McGarvie acknowledges that dialogue is more important now than ever and that the current circumstances are forcing people to actually communicate. “Guys who are just looking for like Don, who’s open to meeting women in real life, citing sex as a human need, are discovering exactly this, as many women have included a sort of disclaimer in their bios, discouraging social interaction and viewing it as a “red flag.” “I might still want to eventually meet women that can't, or won't, go out these days. So I don't want to freak them out by offering to meet,” Don explains.

Although physical distancing measures remain in effect, singles aren’t necessarily adhering to such strict guidelines. “You go to Costco and [you aren’t physical distancing],” says McGarvie. “How is that different from having one person over?” This was the mindset of Carrol, a 30 year-old real estate agent who met up with a Facebook match just prior to the lockdown. “Quarantine gave us a chance to create a friendship and have an opportunity to spend time together without the distractions of having so many people on the go, because [due to the pandemic] we weren’t supposed to be hanging out with anyone else.” A phenomenon McGarvie says that she, too, has witnessed. “You’ve had a chance to talk to them, you’ve had a chance to walk with them and now you’re asking them to come over and make things together. When was the last time in a hookup culture that that happened?” Although the pandemic has slowed certain aspects of blossoming relationships, McGarvie admits that on the flip side, dating in quarantine can actually speed up the intimacy stage and she’s certain that some unexpected relationships will come out of this.

Julia, 35, and her newfound love interest [looked to be] just be such a prime example. Having met on Tinder two days before the world went into lockdown, he moved into her apartment within a week so that the two could proceed with their relationship whilst adhering to physical distancing recommendations. As the two talked long into the nights, they discovered intimate details about one another that she says would have taken weeks or months to uncover otherwise. “He’s my person. I can’t believe I waited [until I was] 35 to meet someone I feel this ready for.”*

McGarvie explains that, because people were so busy with their daily lives pre-pandemic, it took months to experience a significant number of dates. But, because we currently have the time, if this is the person, you have the opportunity to find out now. “It can certainly be an advantage,” she says. Julia sees it as such saying, “He asked me on visit one if I was willing to have kids. The world was ending. Why not? Almost two months later and [it’s been] heaven ever since.” Ultimately, McGarvie says that the pandemic can be a blessing in disguise. “Figure out what you’re looking for because you have the time to do it. Find ways to bring out the best in yourself. The world is your oyster.”

*Julia and the man broke up a few weeks after she was interviewed for this article.

CERB provides hope for Ottawa masseuse

Ottawan Original

Monday June 8, 2020


Sarah Richardson was lost when she could no longer work as a registered massage therapist due to COVID-19.

She’s one of the millions of Canadians who applied for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which pays $2,000 every four weeks to those who no longer have paid work during the pandemic and are otherwise excluded from the Employment Insurance (EI) program.

Eight million people have taken advantage of the program so far, according to the Government of Canada’s website.

If it weren’t for CERB, Richardson said her life would have been completely different.

40-year-old Richardson runs her massage clinic in Little Italy, relying on her self-employment income for her personal living expenses and the clinic rental.

When her clinic had to close down due to COVID-19, she “was really nervous and stressed.”

“I thought at one point, I might have to move back home with my parents and give notice [to my landlords],” she added.

Richardson said her new reality came as a shock because she was financially conservative.

“I consider myself to be quite savvy with my money and I'm not a big spender,” she said. “Some people probably are already living in a lot of debt, and I'm fortunate that I don't have that problem.”

Richardson’s one-bedroom apartment, including utilities and a parking space, amounts to around $1,500 per month. The rent for her massage clinic is just over $1,000 per month — not including added costs such as telephone bills.

While Richardson said she had enough money to pay rent for the first month of unemployment, she didn’t have the savings to cover expenses over additional months.

“I didn't feel like I would be able to cover,” she said. “So I was very relieved when I first heard about [CERB].”

When her parents told her about CERB at the end of March, Richardson had been off work for about two weeks since the College of Massage Therapists Ontario had told its members working was unsafe — even fining masseuses who continued working.

Applying to the program shortly after, Richardson said the quick response she received from CERB “amazed” her.

“I hadn't done my taxes online like that, so I didn't have the [Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA)] number,” she said. “So, I was nervous because sometimes those things can take a long time, but I got that within two or three days.”

Upon receiving the benefit, Richardson said her concerns melted away.

“I felt like I wouldn't have to worry,” she said. “Financially, I didn't really want to have to build up a debt that I would have to pay off when I've worked so hard my whole life to get to where I am.”

Richardson said CERB made her feel like she had her independence back.

“I live alone, so I work hard to tend to my needs and be capable of making sure that I'm financially covered and that I can support myself,” she said. “So, when I wasn't able to work, it felt like that sort of safe and secure part of my life had been taken away.”

“The $2,000 literally just covers my life,” she added.

Ian Lee, the MBA director of Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, said CERB’s speed also surpassed his expectations.

“It was very, very effective in the short run for providing financial support as quickly as possible,” Lee said. “They did it in a remarkably short time.”

Lee added that new government programs typically take at least a year or two to implement due to the levels of bureaucracy they must go through before approval.

Lee also noted CERB is more inclusive than employment insurance.

“The EI system was too slow because it's designed with checks and balances,” he said. “Not only that, but there's a lot of people who don't qualify for various reasons over the years — [the government] put restrictions on it, so that not every last person that loses their job qualifies for it.”

As a self-employed masseuse, Richardson would have fallen through the cracks of EI.

Major Canadian stakeholders, such as Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz, deemed CERB and similar automatic support programs beneficial for Canada’s economy due to the speed in delivering fiscal support to citizens. Poloz added automatic support systems could help Canada navigate future crises should they arise.

However, Lee was quick to point out flaws with the current CERB system.

“The Government of Canada and the CRA, have the most efficient database of anybody in Canada,” Lee explained. “If you wanted to just simply say to the CRA, ‘Okay, reverse the flow — instead of [citizens] sending you money every month, you turn around and send them money.’”

“They could’ve done that and it would’ve been even faster than the CERB,” he said.

Lee added redirecting the flow of money from the CRA, essentially creating a negative income tax, also would have negated fraud because the agency could adjust the CERB to suit individual needs based on recorded incomes.

“With a negative income tax it’s customized to each person in terms of how much they made, so you tailor it through the software program to each person,” Lee said. “Whereas the CERB was much more crude.”

Because the CERB system was more generalized — giving every applicant $2,000 — Lee said there may be more pushback when trying to end the program.

“It's going to be much more difficult politically to wind it down,” Lee said. “I don't see any politician standing up saying, ‘Okay, now let's let's cut off those cheques,’ and I don't see anybody raising their hand saying, ‘Please stop sending me $2,000 a month.’”

“There's going to be all kinds of complaining and very angry people when that comes to an end,” he added. “It's going to be really, really difficult for any leader to say, ‘Look, we just cannot keep printing a quarter of a trillion dollars a year deficit.’”

If the program does get extended, it could have catastrophic results for the nation’s economy, Lee said.

“We the taxpayers are going to have to pay back whatever was borrowed and spent and we’re going to hit a quarter of a trillion-dollar deficit this year — that’s just the deficit, then you add the deficit onto the national debt,” he said. “My criticism long term is, this is going to fall disproportionately on young people.”

Lee explained that while some might think the economy will bounce back, similarly to how the economy boomed after the World Wars, he said that will most likely not happen because Canada’s population, and by extension its workforce, is much older than it was then.

As a result, Lee predicted high inflation or economic stagnation as the two most likely outcomes of racking up national debt long term, which he said could occur anywhere from two to five years from now.

“That's my biggest fear long term is it's going to put us deeply into debt,” Lee said. “Because the bigger the debt becomes, the greater the burden down the road.”

“The short term and the long term [effects of CERB] are sort of opposite of each other,” he added.

Even those who support the idea of a basic income program, which would give all Canadians a living allowance regardless of circumstance, also had problems with CERB and its possible extension.

“We needed the CERB, but we actually, frankly needed a lot better than the CERB,” Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden said. “We need a plan to save Main Street. We need a plan to help some of the vulnerable people.”

Harden, the official opposition critic for persons with disabilities, said CERB highlighted just how low the disability support program benefits really are.

“In a crisis you can get governments agreeing to the notion that $2,000 a month is something like a minimum basic income,” Harden said. “But people who exist on the Ontario disability support program … have to exist on, if they’re a single individual, about $1,100.”

“We have a country where so many hundreds of thousands of disabled people in the province of Ontario, and their caregivers and their families, are being asked to live in poverty,” he added.

However, Harden said he understands the need to implement CERB quickly.

“CERB is temporary and there’s a lot of exceptions to it,” Harden said. “But, I think at the end of the day, the government of Canada was trying to do something to get some money directly into peoples’ hands or, you know, we risk the collapse of the economy.”

Although Harden said he would like to see government plans to help small businesses and a wealth tax on Canada’s billionaire class among other long-term solutions, he hopes CERB shows the potential of basic income programs.

“Maybe COVID-19 was that moment for us to take a deep breath and think about the kind of society we want to create,” he said. “To create a society of shared prosperity, where every single person — regardless of who they are, where they live — have an equal opportunity at a decent life.”

While Richardson acknowledged criticism of CERB, she remained grateful.

“I felt hope and I felt supported by my country,” Richardson said of receiving the benefit.

Richardson also said while she appreciates CERB, she’ll be back at work as soon as she can.

“I'm very passionate about my job and it provides me with purpose,” she said.

“If I could give up the CERB and be able to work, I would in a heartbeat.”

We want to know what questions you have about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or paths forward for exiting the shutdown. Reply to us at [email protected]

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