City Council nays tax break for airport hotel

The first major topic of discussion at the April 12th meeting of Ottawa City Council centered around a motion brought forward by Councillor Allan Hubley to rename the Kanata Recreation Complex the Tony Graham Automotive Group Recreation Complex. Under the city’s corporate sponsorship act, the facility will be funded by Tony Graham Toyota to the tune of $1 million over ten years. Tony Graham Toyota will be responsible for changing the signage and funding certain community events and programs. The motion was carried; only Councillor Shawn Menard dissented.

Councillor Theresa Kavanagh brought forward a motion sponsored by Councillor Shawn Menard asking the city to streamline tree removal for farmers within the city’s boundary. The motion asked the General Manager of the Planning, Rural Affairs, Real Estate and Economic Development Department to report to the Environment and Climate Change Committee and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee with an independent investigation into amending the act.

The reason for the requested change involves the removal of trees in an area of the city known as Tewin. The land is owned by the Algonquins of Ontario Reality Corporation, who partnered with Taggart Group Companies for future property development. Allegedly, trees that did not require removal were taken down following the 2022 windstorm. Kavanaugh stated that she believes a loophole had been used to remove the trees. Councillor George Darouze and fellow rural Councillor David Brown supported the motion but asked city staff to ensure the property rights of farmers would be protected. The motion was carried.

Councillor Glenn Gower and Councillor Cathy Curry brought forward a motion to support a tax cut of roughly $3.7 million over ten years for a hotel at the Ottawa airport. The motion was brought forward following the April 4th  Finance and Corporate Services Committee meeting, where a $10 million tax break for the same hotel was voted down.

Curry argued that a successful hotel would bring business to Ottawa, which in turn would help fund social programs like affordable housing. Councillor Shawn Menard countered that airports are mainly a federal responsibility and that the community has been very clear that it does not support this incentive. He asked Council to vote against the motion and instead put the money toward other priorities in the city that would “promote economic development.”

Councillor Ariel Troster agreed with Menard’s point and noted that giving the Hotel Germain Group a tax break would constitute unfair competition to the existing hotels near the Ottawa Airport. Troster summed up the sentiment of many on Council by saying, “We have no business subsidizing extremely wealthy corporations with taxpayer money.”

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe reiterated that he disapproves of public funds being used to prop up private business and did not endorse Gower’s motion. The Gower-Curry motion failed to pass in a 18-7 vote.

The mayor and Council sent a message today that the airport hotel will not receive special treatment. Council will meet again on April 26, 2023.