Come on, Ottawa, stand up and be proud!
Despite popular belief, the people of Ottawa can get pretty full of themselves—at least on Canada Day. Our belief is, we should feel that way more often.
It’s almost hard to believe, but Ottawa and the surrounding area kick off a festival or other large, multi-day event, on average, of every 5.5 days. Not just during the summer but all year long.
From high-profile events such as Bluesfest, Race Weekend and the Tim Hortons Dragon Boat Festival to lesser well-know parties such as Bytown Days, the Arboretum Festival and the Chill Factor in Downtown Rideau (billed as “an edgy celebration of culture, cuisine and couture), not many days go by where you can’t celebrate something.
Add to that mix an NHL team, a semi-pro baseball team, some of the most beautiful parkland anywhere, a ton of museums, three scenic—and busy—rivers, an active theatre and music scene, and the very vibrant ByWard Market, and you have anything but a “sleepy place” as Ottawa Citizen columnist Andrew Cohen recently wrote. (In fact, he went even further by calling it “soulless.”)
In a 2014 study of 50 Canadian cities, the Conference Board of Canada called our city one of Canada’s top “magnet” cities for its ability to attract people.
So, why do we still think of ourselves as a dull, even boring, government town?
Yes, the government employs a lot of the 553,800 working people who call Ottawa home—the number is around 149,000. But the three orders of government do not employ the other 400,000 who work in health, education, real estate, science and technology and other sectors in the area. And our two local universities and three local colleges are working hard to help us maintain that level of diversity.
Why are we able to attract and retain such a diverse and skilled workforce? For starters, Ottawa’s workforce boasts the highest post-secondary rate in Canada. We have knowledgeable and skilled people. That’s attractive to employers.
Our cost of living is also lower than some of Canada’s larger centres. The rent in Toronto, as just one example, is 33 percent higher than here in Ottawa. Groceries are more (7 percent) and so is public transportation (37 percent).
A sleepy government town? Nothing could be further from the truth! We need a basic mind shift, one that allows us to give ourselves a little more credit.
As Canadians, it’s not like us to be boastful, but let’s admit it, this is a pretty good place to live and work. Why not tell the world? What’s the downside? More investment, more tourism and more, dare I say it, events?