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The Pros and Cons of Moving to Ottawa
If you’re thinking of taking a job in Ottawa or possibly coming here for school, you’re probably wondering what it’s like.
Like any city, it has its ups and downs. But these will depend on your age, your lifestyle and other factors: one person’s “pro” can sometimes be someone else’s “con”.
Let’s talk about what life’s really like in the nation’s capital.
If you’re looking for a place that has a blend of city living and small town appeal, Ottawa has a lot to offer.
1. Economically Stable
It’s no secret that Ottawa’s a government town. This means jobs in a wide variety of departments requiring a wide variety of skills. It also means we’re a bit more economically stable, because we’ve got that buffer of employment that isn’t dependent on resources, manufacturing or services. There are layoffs sometimes by both Conservative and Liberal governments from time to time, but all things considered you don’t get the fluctuations you see with cities dependent on other sectors.
2. Lots of Green Space and Bike Paths
Ottawa has one of the highest percentages of parks to residents in Canada. They’re scattered around the city with most neighbourhoods being in walking distance of at least a small park with a place for kids to play. There are also dozens of larger parks where you can enjoy a picnic lunch and a game of frisbee.
For people who like to get their exercise in the great outdoors, there’s lots to choose from. Ottawa has many scenic bike paths, especially along our rivers. In the winter, there’s the canal, of course. If you’re in the mood for a longer hike or ski, the Gatineau Hills are 10 minutes away in Québec.
3. Lots of Great Museums
As Canada’s capital, we get the benefit of playing host to the nation’s major artifact collections. There’s the Museum of Nature in the recently refurbished Victoria and Albert building, the Canadian Museum of War on Lebreton Flats. The Canadian Science and Technology Museum is being rebuilt, however, and will be better than ever when it reopens in fall 2017. The Canadian Aviation and Space Museum and the Diefenbunker, a piece of cold war history preserved in its original state. Right across the river in Gatineau is the Canadian Museum of History, with attractions like its IMAX theatre. You can find even more attractions in this list.
4. Lower Crime Rate
While crime is a fact of urban life, Ottawa is not bad in this area all things considered. We have one of the lowest crime rates of any large city in Canada, with 799 violent crime incidents per 100,000 people in 2012. Only Calgary is lower with 735. Even better, it looks like crime rates overall are decreasing.
5. Less Traffic Congestion
Ottawa does have a rush hour, but it’s nothing compared to what you’ll find in the bigger cities. The 401 runs east to west right through downtown, but thanks to some recent and ongoing expansions congestion has dropped. But if you’re used to the madness of the Don Valley Parkway or Highway 40 through Montréal, our little piece of the 401 is a cakewalk.
The other main arteries are slow at their peaks, but the only truly terrible route is the Prince of Wales Dr access to Barrhaven. It’s a two-lane highway that is one of the only ways south to one of Ottawa’s key bedroom suburbs, Barrhaven.
6. Housing Prices Are Reasonable
If you’re used to paying for housing in Vancouver, Toronto, or Calgary, you’ll find yourself paying much less for comparable housing here. If you’re from a small town or a rural area, of course you won’t have the same experience. Of course housing here gets more expensive the closer you are to downtown, but you can still get a better house for less than you’ll pay in Canada’s other major cities (except is Montréal).
It’s not all sunshine and roses in our fair city…
1. It’s “Boring”
If you’re used to more cosmopolitan cities like Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver you may find life in Ottawa a little dull. Sure, we have theatre, galleries, and live music, but not in anywhere the volume of our more big league cities. We have a lot of restaurants and clubs in the downtown core, but again you won’t find nearly the number of places to go or the variety you’ll get elsewhere.
If you’re a hard core culture vulture, foodie or fashionista, you may find yourself feeling a little deprived (although we do have a good craft beer scene). Sports fans are a little more well looked after, however, with the Canada Tire Centre and tons of local sports arenas and leagues if they want to play themselves.
2. You May Need to be Bilingual to Get a Job
Many public-facing jobs in Ottawa require that you know both official languages. This is only a con, of course, if you’re unilingual.
It’s common for Ottawa kids to take French immersion in school so they have a great start. But people moving from the more heavily anglophone provinces will have less to choose from in terms of employment opportunities.
3. Mass Transit that’s Still Under Construction
We keep hearing that Ottawa has one of the best mass transit systems in Canada, but Ottawans still complain about it. The truth is that it’s great if you’re going to and from the downtown core, but not great if you’re going elsewhere. It’s understandable – downtown is where the bulk of the jobs are, and our population is spread out, making investing in efficient mass transit a problem.
The good news is that we’re finally building some light rail lines, even if the program is not set for completion for decades.
Should You Move to Ottawa?
You’ll notice our list of pros was more about what it doesn’t have than what it does have. That says something about our city. The truth is it’s not the most exciting place for twentysomethings or die hard out-on-the-towners. But if you like the outdoors or are looking for a nice, green city to raise a family in, you simply can’t do better than good ‘ol Bytown.
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