Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa Canada
introduction of TOP PROS AND CONS OF LIVING IN OTTAWA
Ottawa for many years has been ranked as one of the best places to live in the entire country and in the World. Money Sense among other media outlets often place Ottawa near the top of the rankings. But like most major centres it is not without it’s faults either. We will cover the top Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa Canada!
Welcome to Canada’s national capital, the city of Ottawa. Located in Southeastern Ontario, Ottawa sits at the very edge of the province. It’s on the south side of the Ottawa River across from Gatineau, Quebec.
Ottawa actually sits on not one body of water, but at the meeting of three rivers: the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River, and the Rideau River. This convenient spot was chosen strategically by Queen Victoria in1857 as Canada’s capital because strategic location – adjacent to Quebec and centrally located between Montreal and Toronto made it a natural hub spot for trading, industry and as strong military location out of reach of threat from America at the time.
Today, the city boasts a population of over 1.3 million people – when you include Gatineau, Quebec. And the area keeps on growing! But why? I think it’s because of influencing factors such as the high-quality lifestyle for a moderate cost of living, and a diverse private and public sector employment opportunities. Ottawa is also a very WALK friendly city, an initiative popular in Europe that encourages municipalities to improve their walkability. In fact – Ottawa’s new city planning and overall goals is to create 15-minute neighbourhoods that are self-sufficient hubs in and onto themselves allowing for better walking, cycling, driving and living in their own area. Add to that museums and arts galore, top-notch restaurants, excellent schools, various work industries, the world’s largest outdoor skating rink, an abundance of festivals, superb safety ratings, and a wide variety of housing opportunities to choose from including entry-level homes and luxury real estate – Ottawa has a lot to offer! If you’re thinking of moving to Ottawa, you’ve made an excellent choice. There’s just about everything you need right here.
Looking for city life but with a small-town feel – Ottawa has it. Let’s just say there’s several good reasons why Ottawa keeps hitting the top of best city rankings year over year. Let’s just cover a few of the Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa Canada:
The pros – for the Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa Canada
1) The best place to live in Canada?
Ottawa is an amazing place to live. In 2021, the cloud-based software company Kisi ranked it number one out of 50 cities around the world for best work-life balance. You can’t get much better than that! This city ranked so high because it has good air quality, lots of outdoor spaces, easy access to wellness and fitness activities, and solid healthcare. Impressively, Ottawa ranked as the top city for work-life balance in all of Canada, and was number six worldwide. MoneySense’s famous Best Places to Live in Canada city rankings evaluates over 400 cities and towns across Canada placed Ottawa #1 in 2017 then in 2018 Ottawa ranked #2 in that survey. Then, in 2019, MacLean’s ranked it #3 across Canada and in 2020 AreaVibes.com ranked it #1 across Canada. Where there is smoke – there is fire – and it is obvious that the word is out on how great it is to be Living in Ottawa!
2) A Centre of Learning
“The teacher will appear when the student is ready!” If you are looking for education, you’ll find what you seek. The University of Pennsylvania listed Ottawa as one of the most educated cities in the world and it’s easy to see why. The city is home to the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Algonquin College, Dominican University College and Cegep Heritage College as well as other large education institutions for all levels including private and public! The elementary and secondary schools are abundant and highly ranked on the Fraser Institute School Rankings reporting.
In fact, over half of Ottawa’s population have some level of post-secondary education and a 3rd of the city being university degree graduates. The subject areas of public administration and business being the most popular among those. And 51% of Ottawans hold a college degree. 43% are employed in creative occupations.
Both the of University of Ottawa and Carleton University offer elite schools of education that they are known for across Canada. As an example, Carleton University is known as one of the top destinations for education and training in Journalism, International and Public Affairs as well as Technology and Architecture. Whereas the University of Ottawa is a leader in education for medical, public policy and social justice! And the university is fully bilingual, so relocating to Ottawa will enable you to work on your language skills, and take an option to work on French English, or both.
And, as a side note, Canada supports low-income students, an inclusive strategy not seen in most countries.
Ottawa has forged ahead in the technology field with the growth of the high tech field which has seen many major companies open offices in the Tech Research Park in Kanata. Companies such as Apple, Amazon, Shopify, Nokia, Dell Technologies, Alcatel, etc – AND the recently opened Bayview Yards is an innovation hub for helping businesses and entrepreneurs connect and accelerate their ideas into the World with the business, marketing and technology contacts and experience to bring it there. Just getting started on the Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa Canada.
3) Culture and Art
Looking for arts and culture? Ottawa doesn’t disappoint. It has exciting Indigenous events, the joys of the Ottawa Art Gallery, and its own symphony orchestra. It also has theatre and musical shows at the National Arts Centre, dance with the National Ballet of Canada, and the magical wonders of Winterlude. Also smaller stages such as GCTC Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa’s Little Theater and The Gladstone.
Obviously, it’s hard to know where to start in Ottawa as we are just scratching the surface here. Ottawa has 29 museums with 12 of them being of National significance.
Ottawa has a vibrant urban art scene from street murals, or House of Paint a hip-hop inspired local to arts focused communities in a lot of communities across Ottawa to the smaller towns like Almonte where you can see small independent boutique shops as well as open-house artist tours and so much more. If you are an artist Ottawa has a strong community that can easily be found online in various social groups that love to connect and share.
4) Crime and Safety
It’s true that Ottawa’s crime rate, like that of the rest of Canada, has risen in recent years but it’s still quite low. About 3,900 crimes happen here for every 100,000 people.
To put it in perspective, University Magazine rated the city as one of the safest in all of Canada in June of 2021. Relocating to Ottawa is still a great move to make.
Feel free to Google MacLean’s Canada’s Most Dangerous Places where you can compare over 237 communities across Canada. Ottawa ranked 107 and far more safe than other major and moderate sized cities and towns across Canada.
If you are still uneasy about the transition to live in Ottawa the OPS Ottawa Police Service offers a neat little Crime Mapping Tool which provides an interactive map in the palm of your hand tracking such crimes as Break and Enter, Vehicle Theft, Robbery and or Assaults. So now you too can be a real life Batman. No – don’t do that. Leave it to the professionals.
5) Economic Stability
Ottawa being the National Capital we are fortunate to have a consistent and strong economy. This is mostly attributed to two pretty solid sectors, high technology and the federal government, its economy is relatively stable and protected from most large swings on a national scale. Of course, the pandemic was hard on everyone but the city is predicted to rebound soon. In fact, the High Tech area which saw a slow down in 2001 has been growing steadily since and now accounts for 18.9% of Ottawa’s GDP and Federal Government at 18.2%.
Prior to the pandemic, Ottawa’s economy grew an average of 2.7% over the previous five years. Amazingly, the city is home to over 1,750 knowledge-based companies focused on aerospace, defence, security and more.
These two pillars of industry are also further strengthened by other connected industries such as Health Care & Education category accounting for 7.5% GDP, Trade industry at 9.4% of Ottawa’s GDP and the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate at 10.4% GDP (HELLO??). Other contributing industries include a strong military community, Rural Agriculture, Construction and Tourism among others. One of the true pros that separate Ottawa from many cities across North America – it truly is a pro that needs to be at the top of the list of Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa Canada.
6) Climate and Environment
Get ready for the extremes! Living in Ottawa means you need to have super-warm Winter parkas and also cool clothing for the summer. In winter, temperatures can get down around -14 degrees celsius but it can feel even colder with the wind-chill. In fact, in the dead of Winter there have been some days that have hit below -30.
Ottawa gets a good deal of snow, and winter lasts for about three months (MINIMUM), so grab your hat, mittens, boots, and wrap up! As some wise person once said, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choice”.
In summer, things can rise to about 25 or 30 degrees celsius with warm, humid weather. And some days we will hit upwards of 35 degrees celsius.
Weather in Ottawa is not for the faint of heart – this city trains some hearty folk to survive the elements – but after a season or two you will fall in love with the beauty and the beast of Ottawa’s changing weather seasons. Winter although cold can be incredibly beautiful and peaceful. You have to be in it to experience it. And Summers are the payback we get for enduring yet another chilly Winter. It’s nature’s gift back to us.
7) The Great Outdoors
Like other great cities in Canada, Ottawa is right on the cusp of nature in many ways. It’s part of the Ottawa Valley which has been described as “an outdoor playground for adrenaline junkies, outdoor enthusiasts, and nature lovers alike”. You can go on white water rafting tours down the Ottawa River, indulge in canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, camping, and ATV adventures. Ottawa also has a vibrant cottage-life as access to lakes and rivers is abundant. sThe best part is, most destinations and activities are within just an hour or two of the city.
Ottawa was designed with the Greenbelt – this gift of a green ring around the city protected nature trails, conservation areas and wetlands provides scenic getaways only 15-20 minutes from most parts of the city. If you love waling your dog or simply getting away from the in-laws the Greenbelt is you’re your jam! Packed with groomed nature trails that open almost every season offering a great quality of life for the whole family.
Speaking of families….
8) Raising Families
With so much to see and do, a safe environment and great schools, Ottawa is definitely an ideal place to raise a family. It’s the perfect place to establish a home base everyone can enjoy. In fact, Reader’s Digest ranked Ottawa in 2nd place as the best Canadian City to Raise a Family In!
It’s no wonder with a mixtures of some of the Nation’s best museums, history, various outdoor activities, festivals, events and holidays. Not to mention world-class educational institutions and various in-school and after-school programs for kids. The city also offers education options in both English, French or both help set them up for the future.
The city also offers plenty of family friendly restaurants, reliable public transit, availability of library access, park space, mom groups for special support and sporting facilities and programs such as hockey, soccer, swimming, etc.
It’s such an ideal place for raising kids it makes me want to have some kids – wait a minute – I already do….
9) Proximity to Other Cities
As Queen Victoria noted, Ottawa is conveniently located part way between Toronto and Montreal. It takes just over four hours to drive to Toronto from the capital, two hours to drive to Montreal, and also two hours to drive to Kingston. If you’re going all the way to Quebec City, it’ll take you about four and a half hours. All things considered, some of Canada’s major cities aren’t right around the corner, but they’re within a reasonable driving distance for a day’s road trip.
Th US border is not far either just under an hour away and being a Capital City we do offer some direct and good connecting flights to larger hubs and countries making it a great base of operations for business and family.
10) Ottawa is a Bilingual City
In 2018, Ottawa officially became a bilingual urban center. This makes a lot of sense as it’s home to Canada’s national government and the country has two official languages: French and English.
Fun fact: for over 15% of Ottawans, French is their first language spoken at home.
Evidence from recent studies show that being bilingual allows for increased mental adaptability as well as improved cross-culture skills, employment opportunities and better listening skills. Who knew?!!
11) A Vibrant History
Surprisingly, Ottawa was first called ‘Bytown’. It only got its current name in 1855. But human history in the Ottawa area goes back much further than that. Ottawa’s name comes from the Algonquin word “adawe”, which means to trade. Some of the earliest evidence of humans living around Ottawa dates all the way back to 6,500 BCE and the location is said to have been home to the Algonquin people for about 8,000 years before Europeans arrived.
It was in the early 1600s that Etienne Brule became the first European to explore the wilds of the Ottawa River. The fur trade then became dominant and by 1650, sadly disease and warfare for control of the fur trade routes caused the Algonquin people to lose control of the precious Ottawa River. The Mighty Ottawa River provided for ease of transport for the logging industry and this industry left it’s mark on Ottawa from major works sites such as LeBreton Flats and Chaudiere Falls which were locations of Canada’s largest lumber mills. As well larger streets such as Booth and Bronson were names after lumber barons. And the creation of Lowertown in ByWard Market was due to the logging companies employees and trade.
Ottawa is surrounded by beautiful historic architecture and stories from the past. If you want to learn more about the great history of Ottawa I highly recommend checking out the Lost Ottawa book series by David McGee.
Since the old days, the city of Ottawa has grown to be the global attraction and national hub it is today.
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan known as OHIP allows residents of Ontario and Ottawa residents access to free healthcare. OHIP is partly funded by contributions automatically deducted from resident’s salaries in the form of taxes.
Ottawa is home to four major hospitals including The Ottawa Hospital, CHEO the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the Queensway-Carleton Hospital and Montfort Hospital. The small towns that surround Ottawa also have reliable and efficient medical facilities and hospitals. Ottawa is also home to world class facilities such as Royal Ottawa Hospital – a mental care facility for Eastern Ontario as well as the University of Ottawa Heart Institute located at the Civic Campus.
As the population grows confirming a family doctor can be a challenge but many have located one within a short time of relocating. Dentists, special care, seniors care and many other specialties abound in Ottawa – one of the many benefits of a large city with a diverse economy and diverse population.
There are so many ways to get around this city. Ottawa has a reliable public bus system run by OC Transpo which have the newly implemented and expanding LRT light rail transit system called the O-Train. The system spans across Ottawa and all the suburbs – it is a very large geographical spread to cover but they do it as efficiently as they can. And across the Ottawa River in Gatineau they operate the STO which serves Quebec and has inter-connections to Ottawa side.
Taxis, Uber, shared drive programs, rentals, black car service are also available. You can even rent one of the public e-scooters placed around the city at certain locations and book it through its accompanying app. Convenience at your fingertips!
The city also offers dedicated biking lanes and a massive path system in and around the city. In the winter – some even skate to work along the Rideau Canal – the longest skating rink in the World!
14) A Multicultural City
As a diverse city, about 24% of Ottawa’s population was born elsewhere, and visible minorities accounting for about 23% of the total population. Since the 1980s, records show that almost three-quarters of the city’s population growth has been directly credited to people moving in from other cities in Canada and around the world.
Being the National Capital there is an abundance of Embassies and High Commissions as Foreign Affairs and Diplomatic Affairs are alive and well in Ottawa. The resulting impact allows for great diversity across the city and it relies on newcomers to continue its growth. As it does grow, especially In recent years, it is great to see such a beautiful city grow to have such an abundance of cuisine, culture and celebrations!
Do you love getting active? Moreover, do you love watching others get active? From hockey to basketball, football, curling and more, Ottawa has a team for you to either join or cheer on! The Ottawa Senators haven’t won a Stanley Cup in recent years but the team dominated the professional hockey scene in the early 1900s. They were one of the original members of the now-famous National Hockey League which started way back in 1917.
The City of Ottawa offers great recreational and sport programs for all members of the family from young and old. You can easily find a resource directly online at Ottawa.ca. There are also many private trainers and facilities for a multitude of activities from hip-hop dancing, lawn bowling, ringette, shooting and everything in between.
If Winter sports are more your thing, your family will love snow tubing down family-friendly hills in Ottawa. And you can even skate on the Rideau Canal with thousands of other people along with so many other activities.
16) Diversity, Festivals, and Events
Musical festivals, celebrations of culture and food, National art exhibits and special events. Ottawa has a lot going on. In fact, Ottawa has over 50 festivals that take place annually many for each season. The biggest problem will be narrowing down the ones you want to attend. Everything from Ottawa’s pride festival, the annual Greek Festival is famous for taking over the city streets with amazing performances and food every August to the RBC Bluesfest which headlines amazing talent from across the World!
In winter, you can watch amazing ice sculptures form before your eyes in live ice-carving competitions and go tubing on family friendly hills in town. In the fall, you can take in Apple Orchard getaways or Pumpkin Patch family outings to many other fall celebrations across the this beautiful city! One of the great pros of the Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa Canada!
17) Employment Opportunities
Because this is Canada’s national capital, aside from the Federal Government and Diplomatic Affairs there are a lot of other top-rated employers in the area such as federal agencies or nationwide organizations. This includes the Bank of Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation which both ranked high as top employers in 2021. Other Crown Corporations such as Export Development Canada, CMHC, Farm Credit Canada, IDRC plus so many more.
Ottawa’s High Tech industry has over 1,700 knowledge-based companies that employ close to 70,000 people! These cover areas such as Defence and Security, Aerospace, e-Commerce, Communications and more!
Other large contributors to Ottawa’s overall GDP include Health Care, Education, Trade, Finance, Agrifood and professional services.
Ottawa’s employment rate has taken a bit of a downturn due to the pandemic. As the world recovers, though, it’s sure to bounce back along with the rest of Canada.
18) Parliament Hill
What list of Ottawa is complete with mentioning Parliament Hill? This is the home of Canada’s federal government! It’s where representatives from across all of Canada convene to communicate and make national laws. Canada’s senate and house of commons are here, all housed in beautiful buildings that date back to the 1870s. They celebrate stunning Gothic Revival architecture and if you don’t work in one, you can still go on a tour to take it all in.
Cinema, live theatre, music and dance are all important parts of Ottawa’s entertainment scene. Some of its biggest venues include the Canadian Tire Centre, the National Arts Centre. Others include La Nouvelle Scene, the GCTC, Ottawa’s Little Theatre and The Gladstone among smaller venues around the city. Theatre goer? You won’t be disappointed by this Pro of the Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa Canada.
20) People and Quality of Life
With such a vibrant and varied city the people of Ottawa are a direct reflection of that. Multi-cultural, friendly, educated, respectful, polite and generally outgoing. Ottawans enjoy an exceptional quality of life with rich cultural diversity and more opportunities than found in most other cities. The city offers a diverse range of communities and neighbourhoods ranging West to East and North to South! This mixed Pro of Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa Canada really is powerful as it touches are everyday lives.
THE CONS – for the Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa Canada
The CONS. Like any city or location you have to take the good with the bad. And Ottawa is no exception – there are some challenges with Living in Ottawa. So – here is a recap of the TOP 5 reasons you wouldn’t want to Live in Ottawa:
1) “It’s Boring”
When researching cities across Canada, you may find it suggested that it is very quiet and boring to live in. This reputation, mostly, is completely out of date. The city absolutely comes alive during the summer months. With special museum exhibitions and major festivals running from May through October! Just to name a few Canada Day – Ottawa Fringe Festival – Tulip Festival and Ottawa’s Bluesfest. Of course, attracting big names from the realms of music and art is a struggle for Ottawa. Mostly based on it’s size but it is has definitely been improving in recent years.
The reason you hear that Ottawa is boring is mainly for ages between 17 and 27. During this time you may find entertainment in Ottawa more lacking than other cities. Nightlife is usually active Thursday through Saturday. But unlike other major and larger cities we don’t have nightlife options every evening or every day of the week. However, Ottawa has good transportation links to both Toronto and Montreal. Making it a good location – both these cities are renowned for their lively night-life. A quick jaunt over there should help get your fill of excitement! And of course, a party (or in this case, which city) is only as boring as you make it. You can always find the exciting and interesting parts of any city (and if not, make it yourself).
If Ottawa does not offer enough entertainment during your teenage years and twenties, that can quickly change in the future. Many born in Ottawa, that leave seeking adventure often return when ready to settle down and start raising a family. Often due to the city often being named as one of the best places to live in Canada. This is considering the quality of life including income levels, unemployment rate, housing, lifestyle options and the weather. There are plenty of activities available for families and children in Ottawa, especially outdoors. With ski trails and snowboarding parks, horse-back riding, kayak rapids and canoeing rivers and SOOOO much more.
2) You May Need To Be Bilingual
The key word in this phrase is ‘may’. You do not need to be bilingual in order to live easily in Ottawa. However it will seriously help you if you can at least learn simple words and phrases in French. They offer many services throughout the city in both languages. And if you are looking to apply for a job within the government, they may require you to speak French. As you are promoted the requirements to serve and work in both of Canada’s official languages will be required. Especially if you have employees reporting to you.
Of course, if you live in Ottawa, it is common for children to be taught French at school. Giving them a head start for life in Ottawa. But if you are moving to Ottawa from an area that is heavily anglophone, you may struggle with employment opportunities.
3) “It’s Too Expensive”
Of course, when you are moving to any city around the world from a non-city location, you will inevitably see an increase in your cost of living. This is no different if you are relocating to Ottawa. As Ottawa’s largest employer is Federal Government income levels are stable and typically competitive offering great pensions and high-income brackets.
As Ottawa is the capital city of Canada, there are an enormous amount of great employment opportunities. High Tech – or Silicone Valley North is alive and well here in Ottawa and Kanata. It is a massive employer as well. And like any city, especially National Capital, the size of the population will drive additional employment areas. Areas such as health and education, finance, trade and construction. Of course, with such a high population the service sector industries like retail and hospitality are also abundant.
Overall, it is important to remember that the cost of living within any location is reflected in your salary. Your salary for a specific job will always be greater when living in a city compared to smaller or rural locations as the cost of you living in said location will be higher.
4) The Weather
As mentioned earlier Ottawa experiences the extremes when it comes to Weather. A typical year in Ottawa, the city can receive close to 69 inches of snow over 52 days of the year!
The hottest month tends to be July and the warm season tends to last just under 4 months. If you like moderate dry consistent weather – Ottawa is not going to be the spot for you. But if you like the changing seasons and embracing some extremes Ottawa could be the right fit. Of all the cons of the Pros and Cons of Living in Ottawa Canada this one is the most intimidating for people relocating to Ottawa.
5) Mass Transit That’s Still Under Construction
Ottawa is renowned for having one of better transit systems in all of Canada. It is not, however, very popular with some Ottawans. OC Transpo operates the city’s transportation, which has had a successful and expansive bus service. But the launch of the LRT System – Light Rail Transit has hit a few delays which has some commuters frustrated. They are working diligently to resolve these issues. The city has put a sizeable amount of investment within transit. Including the O-Train network with another 27 stations being added to the line. The work on this development, however, can seem to be never-ending.
So there you go – is Living in Ottawa right for you? For most, Living in Ottawa is a great choice. For some, they cannot see themselves living in our Wintery Capital or Quite Lifestyle. Even with these challenges, the city is an ideal place to live in and raise a family. If you’re thinking of moving to Ottawa, feel free to reach out to us! Give us a call, shoot us a text, send us an email, we’ve got your back!
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