Canada’s business community urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to bring public-sector employees back to their offices as quickly as possible. 

While many businesses have now implemented return-to-office plans, some governments are “significantly lagging” in following suit, according to an open letter signed by 32 business associations, including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Business Council of Canada. 

Trudeau’s government, as the country’s largest single employer, should lead the initiative, the groups said. But so far, RTO policies for federal workers vary across departments and agencies.   

“As businesses in these communities assess their long-term viability given the pandemic’s damaging effects on downtown centers, restoring normal economic activity requires the federal government to act now,” the groups said in the letter. 

Dated Monday, it’s addressed to Treasury Board President Mona Fortier, the cabinet minister responsible for government spending and operations. She is also responsible for wage talks with federal workers that have hit an impasse amid four-decade-high inflation. In addition to better pay, unions including the Public Service Alliance of Canada are pushing for continued flexibility on remote work.

The Ottawa-Gatineau area, with its particularly high concentration of federal government employees, has the lowest return-to-office rate of any government capital in Canada, according to the letter.  

“We strongly urge the federal government to lead the way to a return to normal that will both foster economic growth and ensure that all Canadians receive the quality of public services that they have a right to expect,” the businesses said.