By Simon Brandon
Canada’s capital is often overlooked in favour of its bigger, brasher neighbour to the south, Toronto. But do not be fooled: Ottawa’s tech-driven economy is strong and, as one of the world’s cleanest capitals, it is a pleasant place to live, too.
Despite tricky relations with the US — Canada has not been immune to US president Donald Trump’s fondness for tariffs — a steadily growing economy has been good news for Canada’s labour market.
Nationally, unemployment has been dropping steadily over the past decade, from 8.7 per cent in August 2009 to 5.4 per cent in May this year — the country’s lowest rate since 1976.
Ottawa, home to the Canadian Parliament, has generally outperformed the national average for earnings. However, property prices are low compared with Canada’s other major cities; the average price of a house in Ottawa is C$420,300 ($320,000), compared with C$1,006,400 in Vancouver and C$794,800 in Toronto.
Growing high-tech hub
With 11.2 per cent of Ottawa’s labour force — more than 70,000 people — working in the sector, Ottawa has quietly grown as a centre for tech-focused businesses.
After the federal government, technology companies now occupy more office space in central Ottawa than any other sector. A survey last year by international real estate firm CBRE ranked Ottawa’s tech sector as having the best growth potential in North America.
Though smaller than many major western seats of government — the city’s population stands at about 1m — Ottawa has all the cultural centres typical of capital cities in a compact space.
The city has seven national museums, including the National Gallery of Canada, housed in a striking modern building in the centre, while a little further out is the Canada Science and Technology Museum, which reopened in 2017 after an extensive renovation.
Live music is a big part of Ottawa life, too. As well as an annual jazz festival — which takes place in several venues, including Marion Dewar Plaza next to City Hall — each July downtown Ottawa is given over to Bluesfest, a 10-day outdoor music festival that covers many more genres than its name suggests (the line-up this year included Wu Tang Clan, The Killers and Pussy Riot).
Ottawa was rated third in North America in this year’s annual quality of living ranking by Mercer, the consultancy. It shared top spot in North America for safety.
The city has more than 1,300 parks and open spaces, such as Major’s Hill Park and Riverain Park, which hugs the east bank of the Rideau river for more than a mile.
Winter sport facilities
The winter in Ottawa lasts from December to February. The thermometer rarely climbs above freezing, with the daily minimum temperature dropping to -20C on average 17 times a year.
This is great news for winter sports enthusiasts. There are several downhill ski centres within an hour’s drive of downtown Ottawa: Calabogie Peaks is one of the largest and has trails to suit all abilities.
Ice skaters, meanwhile, can warm up on the world’s longest ice rink, the Rideau Canal Skateway, which winds its way through the city for nearly five miles.
Photographs: Dreamstime; Getty Images/iStockphoto; Alamy