The federal government paid three tour companies nearly $35,000 to compensate them for losses they incurred as a result of a one-day Three Amigos summit in Ottawa in the summer of 2016, according to public accounts documents released last week by the federal government.
The meeting of North American leaders happened on a Wednesday in the last week of June, and for security reasons, most of the roads were closed in the downtown core from morning to evening.
Boat traffic was also restricted on the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal, which explains why companies offering boat tours received the compensation.
3 companies paid $35K
Documents show the government paid three tour companies a total of approximately $35,000. One other payment of $95 was paid to an unspecified organization or individual.
Amphibus Lady Dive Inc., which takes tourists around the capital region in a bus that transforms into a boat, received about $13,127 — approximately half what the company felt it deserved, according to manager Denise Frappier.
Still, Frappier said she was pleased with the payout.
“It was a nice surprise. They usually make you do a lot of work and then you get nothing,” she said.
Despite not being able to run tours on the day of the summit, Frappier said the company had to staff its kiosk for the benefit of customers dropping by to book future rides.
‘Only so many calls you can make’
Another company, Ottawa Boat Cruise, received $18,000 in compensation, while Gray Line Ottawa, which runs bus tours, was paid $3,418.
Not all tour operators received compensation, however. The owner of Capital Cruises, whose sightseeing tours normally depart from docks on both sides of the Ottawa River, said he asked one of his staff to inquire about compensation after hearing rumours it was available, but neither Parks Canada nor the NCC could provide details.
“There’s only so many calls you can make if you’re being told ‘No’ or ‘no we don’t know about it,'” Kurt Huck said.
Huck ultimately called his staff person off the chase, in part because he believed the company’s losses would be minor, and the time would be better spent drumming up business.
“Really, we have about 100 days to make money, from the May long weekend to Labour Day,” he said, adding the government should have done a better job communicating the compensation program to business owners who would be affected.
The federal government received a total of eight requests for compensation, from applicants seeking about $43,000 between them, according to an email from the Summits Management Office at Global Affairs Canada.
The department rejected a claim by a business located outside the affected security zone, and also rejected claims for restitution of lost wages.
Businesses asked to submit detailed claims
Huck said he was “flabbergasted” by the amount given to his competitor, Ottawa Boat Cruise. He estimated his own company would pull in at most $10,000 on a good weekday in late June. Additionally, he said boat traffic was not shut down entirely on the Ottawa River. His own boat continued to operate, albeit with tweaks to its regular route and pickups from the Quebec side of the river only.
Businesses seeking compensation were required to fill out a detailed application and to submit financial information from the previous three years. They were also asked to explain why losses were not covered by insurance, and to describe their efforts to minimize the losses resulting from the summit’s security measures.
Neither Ottawa Boat Cruise nor Gray Line Ottawa returned calls for comment.