City Scope

Toronto, Ottawa, Southern Ontario, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon:  Which city is for you?  Read on for an overview of the city selected. 

City of Ottawa
Ottawa 101

-Elizabeth Howell

A basic guide to city-living essentials.

Ontario’s legal drinking age is 19. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario ( is the exclusive agent for spirits. The Beer Store ( is another designated retailer. Boutiques – often near or in the larger grocery chains – sell Ontario wines.

Ottawa’s national banks are The Bank of Montreal (BMO), CIBC, TD Canada Trust, National Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, and RBC Royal Bank. Credit unions include Alterna, and Quebecbased Caisse Populaire and Desjardins. Most have extended hours Thursday and Friday; some have Saturday hours.

Business Hours
The average workday is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some government offi ces close at 4 p.m. Smaller stores are usually open Monday to Saturday to 6 p.m. Some chains and LCBOs keep Sunday hours. The Loeb chain and Shopper’s Drug Mart have outlets open 24 hours.

The electrical standard is 110 volts/60 cycles AC. Dual-voltage appliances require an adaptor to convert the plug into one with two fl at, parallel prongs.

On any telephone you can dial 911 for police, fire or ambulance service.

Immigrants should go to the Government of Canada Services for Non-Canadians website, To get a Social Insurance Number, which you need to work in Canada, visit a Human Resource Centre of Canada offi ce. Go to or call 1-800-206-7218. Ottawa’s Employment and Financial Assistance Centres administer income and employment assistance programs. Visit or the central office at 370 Catherine Street, Suite 100; or call the main information line at (613) 560-6000. For online job banks go to

Grocery Stores
Larger chains include Loblaws, Loeb, Food Basics, Price Chopper and Sobeys. A local chain, Farm Boy, specializes in fresh produce. Specialty shops – bakeries, butchers, and delicatessens – can be found in the Westboro, Glebe, and ByWard Market areas.

<img src=ftp://homesftpkbarton@ width=198 height=191 />

Immigration Assistance
Newcomers can go to the Province of Ontario site for information about permanent resident cards, citizenship and immigration and employment. Or go to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website ( or The Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (; (613) 725-5671) for help.

English and French are the languages spoken most often in Ottawa, although other languages are also spoken here. The YMCA/YWCA has a Language Assessment Resource Centre with instruction; call (613) 238-5462 or go to To learn French, contact Alliance Francaise: (613) 234-9470;

Ottawa has two major English-language dailies, the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Sun. Le Droit is the Frenchlanguage daily. National newspapers The Globe and Mail and the National Post are available. Free local tabloids cover everything from business and neighbourhood news to entertainment and lifestyle.

You can pay at the meter. Alternatively, use the electronic City of Ottawa parking cards. They are available from city offices or the Bank of Nova Scotia and Royal Bank, and can buy you $25 or $50 worth of pre-paid parking.

Enjoy Asian food along Somerset Street, Italian on Preston Street, and an eclectic international variety in the ByWard Market, on Bank Street in the Glebe, and along Wellington Street in Westboro. Check listings in the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa City magazine, or CheapEats Ottawa.

There is a Goods and Services Tax (GST) of fi ve per cent on all but basic groceries and some prescription drugs. The provincial sales tax (PST) is eight per cent.

The area code for Ottawa is 613. In Gatineau, the area code is 819. Residents must now dial all 10 digits for local calls. For long distance, dial 1 plus the 10-digit telephone number. 1-800, 1-888, and 1-866 numbers are toll-free. For operator assistance, dial 0. For local and North American directory assistance, dial 411; there is a charge of 75 cents.

Ottawa typically has long, cold winters and, increasingly, hot and humid summers. A bonus: there is an average 2,059 hours of sunshine annually. The amount of precipitation is variable, with enough snow to make cross-country skiing a common pastime and enough rain to keep the many greenbelts lush. MTO

Shelter From the Storm

-Moving To Magazines

Thanks to government employment,Ottawa remains a hub of economic activity during the downturn

A lot of destinations in Canada are boom-andbust towns, but the situation is different in Ottawa thanks to the stabilizing presence of the federal government. Demand is up for federal jobs and the economy remains relatively strong.

Indeed, Ottawa has weathered about two centuries of change since the first immigrants came. The city’s economic foundation was built on water rather than land. In the 1800s, when the city was a shanty town, lumberjacks lashed to gether rafts of white pine and used the Ottawa River to transport the logs they cut downstream in the Ottawa Valley. The addition of the man-made Rideau Canal in 1832 expanded commerce through the centre of the city, and was a large factor in Queen Victoria’s decision to name Ottawa the capital of Canada in 1855.

Today, water is a key tourism attraction.  Boaters and naturalists enjoy the slow waters of the Rideau River, which winds its way past dozens of kilometres of parks. Large boats use the Ottawa and Gatineau rivers to ship goods, a custom that dates back to when native peoples ruled the waters.

The city of Ottawa is now home to over a million people. This includes several older cities amalgamated into Ottawa in 2001 on the promise that the move would save money. However, the effort to cut back administration was unsuccessful. The amalgamated local Ottawa government of today struggles to make ends meet, keep up services such as snow removal, and avoid deficits. By contrast, Ottawa’s federal and provincial government public services are doing well. As the seat of Canadian government, practically every federal and provincial agency has a presence in Ottawa, defining policies in matters ranging from health care to atomic energy.

Thousands of public servants drive the economy, causing some stores to offer “government discounts”. Even the city’s bus system is dependent on public service; on federal holidays, OC Transpo cuts back major routes and sometimes runs on a Sunday schedule.

The other major employer in Ottawa is the high-tech industry. Although the industry is still a staple of local business, the recent economic downturn has caused a lot of employment cutbacks in that area. Job losses and bankruptcies are mounting as the companies lose money.

But in general, Ottawa is still sheltered from the manufacturing woes hitting other major centres in Canada. Although Ottawa’s unemployment rate is now at about five per cent – two percentage points higher than last year – government jobs ensure a steady stream of contracts for local businesses.

Apartment vacancy rates in the city are on the rise, with about four per cent of rental units available in the city – an increase of two percentage points over last year, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. This means it’s relatively easy for new Ottawans to fi nd a home, particularly in the outlying areas of the city still under construction: the suburban former cities of Nepean and Kanata. These are on the opposite side of the Greenbelt, a 20,000-hectare natural area that separates the centre of Ottawa from the south.

Inside the Greenbelt are a variety of trails and natural preserves, and a wildbird care centre to cater to Ottawa’s avian afi cionados. Deer peer out from the trees and Canada Geese graze on the grass, just a few dozen metres away from the roads that connect the old city centre to its newer regions.

The issue for Ottawa now is staying the course – to keep business going during a time of cutbacks. But as a city that has adapted many times over a period of centuries, Ottawa has experience enough to fi gure out how to adapt once more. MTO