Opinion: Ottawa is an excellent G7 capital

Recently Ottawa Citizen columnist Andrew Cohen espoused that “Ottawa is the Worst G7 Capital”. I and thousands of others have a different view. 

By Bruce Lazenby

I love Ottawa and I am excited about our future.  Here are some of the reasons why:

GLOBAL ECONOMIC PLAYER

In 2015, Ottawa was named the most business-friendly, mid-sized city in North AND South America by the Financial Times. It’s the largest regional rankings published by the magazine and is an intensively competitive field.

Our dynamic tech sector is on fire with Ottawa software companies (Halogen, Kinaxis and Shopify) raising more money in the public markets than every other city in Canada combined over the last five years.  Branham Group’s latest list of the top 250 technology companies in Canada concluded that Ottawa was home to more headquartered companies than Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and more than three times Waterloo. Our tech companies are closing in on record employment but with more diverse sectors and more diverse geography across the city. They are attracting young, exciting and dynamic new talent to our city.

The Airports Council International says Ottawa has the best airport in Canada and third in the world; the other G7 capitals are nowhere to be found in their rankings. Our Convention Centre was crowned number two in the world by the International Association of Convention Centres; again the other G7 capitals were noticeably absent.

Ottawa also shines when it comes to sustainability. Corporate Knights magazine rated Ottawa the most sustainable city in Canada and third in all of North America. None of the other G7 cities, save for Washington DC, even cracked the top twenty.

Looking forward, we will be opening a world-class Innovation Centre this year and the redevelopment of Lebreton Flats is well on its way, with more great things on the horizon as Mr Cohen acknowledges.

A SMART CITY WITH HIGH QUALITY OF LIFE

Canada has the most educated workforce in the world and Ottawa has the most educated workforce the Canada. The Martin Prosperity Institute rated Ottawa-Gatineau first in their search for the world’s top Creative Class. We beat out 61 other cities. According to Mercer, we ranked third in North America for quality of living and Today’s Parent says we are the second best place in the country to raise a family.

Compared to our G7 counterparts, commuting to work is a pleasure. Driving in Paris or Rome can be a full-time job in itself. You can get across our great city by car in just twenty minutes.  Hop on a train in London or Tokyo and be prepared for a nose to nose two-hour ride.  Contrast that to Ottawa, where an express bus can get you from the quiet suburbs to a bustling core in nearly forty minutes and this is before the LRT is finished.

And when it comes to the cost of living, Ottawa is not only the least expensive G7 capital by leaps and bounds but it’s also the most affordable major city in Canada.

FUN FOUND AT EVERY CORNER

Culture is everywhere in the capital. Start by touring one of our 44 museums or art galleries, or take in a festival that celebrates music, theatre, sports or different ethnic backgrounds. Ottawa hosts over ninety events a year, so you’ll be sure to find one you like.

Our bike paths are an incredible way to see the city. Clocking in at 600 km, we are on par with Paris and Berlin. Tokyo has less than nine kilometers. Our green assets don’t stop there.  The area is home to seven ski resorts and over 430 km of cross-country ski trails. If the water calls your name, the Ottawa River is home to seven sailing clubs and is one of the top white-water rafting spots in the world.  And for the daring, rent a built-to-race eight-cylinder Mustang  and take a spin on Canada’s longest private race track topping out at well over 200 km/hr. I did and I’ll never forget it.

Mr. Cohen clearly doesn’t get invited to the foodie hangouts where some of the newest thirty something tech millionaires in Ottawa are hanging out, sharing tips of their successes with new startups and some of the 120,000 post-secondary students that are excited about their role in the city’s future.

And finally 2017 is around the corner and Ottawa is taking the lead in celebrating our country’s 150th birthday.

WORLD CLASS POTENTIAL

Add everything up and I believe you have the makings of a world-class city. Ottawa may lack a history of culture and municipal development that span over thousands of years, compared to its G7 counterparts; Yet, the nation’s capital has its own distinct assets and we are just scratching the surface of our potential. Don’t forget that the new Ottawa is barely fifteen years old (since amalgamation).  Prior to this, our municipalities were more competitive than collaborative, so I think we are doing pretty well for a teenager.

Mr. Cohen and I seem to be looking at Ottawa through completely different lenses. Neither he nor I were born here, however, we both chose to live here. And we both want the same outcome: to make Ottawa the best place to work, play and grow.

At Invest Ottawa, we have the bold vision he’s asking for, so I invite him to roll up his sleeves and work with us to achieve it.  In my experience, city building is way more fun and rewarding than city bashing.

Bruce Lazenby is President and CEO of Invest Ottawa.