Ottawa

Doug Ford calls on federal workers in Ottawa to return to office

Ontario's premier wants the federal government to require public servants to work in the office more frequently — but neither the government department responsible for public servants nor one of its main unions appeared moved by the request.

Premier wants feds to help revive downtown Ottawa economy

A premier and mayor shake hands, looking happy.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford shakes hands with Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe in Ottawa on Thursday during a mayor's breakfast. Ford said he'd like to see public servants work downtown at least three days a week. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Ontario's premier called on the federal government to require public servants to work in the office more frequently to revitalize the city's downtown — but neither the government department responsible for public servants nor one of its main unions appeared moved by the request.

"They have to get people back to work," Premier Doug Ford said during a press conference on Thursday in Ottawa, standing next to Mayor Mark Sutcliffe.

"It sounds crazy. I'm begging people to go to work for three days — not that they aren't working at home, but it really affects the downtown." 

Ford popped by Sutcliffe's monthly city hall breakfast Thursday where he served up a wide-ranging funding plan for the capital over the next decade — one that would also require significant federal investment. The "new deal for Ottawa" offers up to $543 million over 10 years from the province for housing, travel, public safety and other areas.

Up to $20 million is on offer for economic recovery and downtown revitalization.

Ford called his plea a "simple request" — for the federal government to require public servants to return to the office at least three days a week, a point of contention for many public servants during contract negotiations last year.

"You got to get the economy going downtown. These restaurants are hurting, the shops are hurting. Ridership on the transit's hurting," he said.

"I think that's a normal request. You get hired, come to work. Imagine if I told everyone else in the province you don't have to go to work? Our economy would be shot. So, they shouldn't get special treatment."

WATCH | Ford wants remote work changes:

Ontario premier thinks federal workers should return to offices

2 months ago
Duration 0:55
During a stop in Ottawa to announce a downtown revitalization plan, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked why he is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to mandate federal workers back to the office full time.

When asked to respond to Ford's calls, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said in an email that public servants currently work on site two to three days a week which provides workers with "benefits that consistent in-person experiences offer, all the while maintaining flexibility of working off-site."

The spokesperson said location of work for the public service is determined by management.

'Leave this issue ... where it belongs': union

Jennifer Carr, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said it has "always opposed" the federal government's "one-size-fits-all approach" in calling public servants back two to three days per week last year. 

The union, which represents federal scientists and professionals, wrote in an email that has resulted in "decreased productivity, increased worker dissatisfaction, and has negatively impacted the services Canadians rely on." 

"Premier Ford should leave this issue at the negotiating table where it belongs," wrote Carr.

Carr pointed out that many employees no longer have a dedicated office to go back to and many are sharing workstations. She said it's time for the government to develop a "modern workplace" with flexibility and to prioritize health and safety. 

The largest union for public servants, Public Service Alliance of Canada, has not yet responded to CBC's request for comment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priscilla Ki Sun Hwang

Reporter/Editor

Priscilla Ki Sun Hwang is a reporter with CBC News based in Ottawa. She's worked with the investigative unit, CBC Toronto, and CBC North in Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. She has a Master of Journalism from Carleton University. Want to contact her? Email priscilla.hwang@cbc.ca

With files from Kimberley Molina