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Why Ottawa?

Economic overview

As the capital of Canada, the City of Ottawa is home to close to one million people and is the fourth largest municipality in the country. With a vibrant technology sector, high median household income and affordable living costs, Ottawa is a great place to live, work and play. The following are some quick facts and an economic overview of Ottawa.


The Planning, Infrastructure, and Economic Development Department tracks population change on an bi-annual basis. These City-derived estimates are based on the 2011 postcensal estimate of population and net new units from issued building permits, changes in rental vacancy and the decline on the persons per unit in existing households.

The City of Ottawa had a year-end 2017 population of 979,173, a 1.1 per cent increase from year-end 2016. Similarly, the Ottawa-Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA) increased 1.2 per cent year-over-year for a year-end 2017 population of 1,365,201.

Land area

As reported in the 2016 Census, Ottawa has land area of 2,790 km2. This means that Ottawa is larger than the cities of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, and Montréal combined.

Labour force

As reported by Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, between 2013 and 2017, the Ottawa CMA’s labour force grew by 3.4 per cent. The number of employed residents also increased 4.4 per cent to reach 546,700. Ottawa CMA’s unemployment rate decreased to 5.6 per cent in 2017, remaining lower than the provincial (6.0 per cent) and national (7.3 per cent) rates.

In 2017, the top five employment sectors in Ottawa CMA were:

  • Public Administration (23 per cent)
  • Health and Education (20 per cent)
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (11 per cent)
  • Retail Trade (10 per cent)
  • Construction (5 per cent)


The region is recognized for having the highest number of residents with post-secondary education in Canada. The percentage of Ottawa’s population aged 15 years and over with a Postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree is 63.7 per cent. Over 128,000 have masters and Ph.Ds.

Ottawa has a highly sought after talent pool. The city boasts the second highest concentration of scientists and engineers in North America and the highest concentration of tech talent in the nation.

The Ottawa Economy

As reported by the Conference Board of Canada, real GDP at basic prices for the Ottawa-Gatineau CMA was at 69,406 (2007 $ millions) in 2017, which is up 2.7 percent from 2016.

As reported in the 2016 Census, the median total family income in 2015 for the City of Ottawa was $109,000. Even though Ottawa has the second-highest family income among major Canadian cities, the city’s average housing costs are affordable. As reported by the Ottawa Real Estate Board, the average housing costs in 2015 in the City of Ottawa was $391,940.

Ottawa's Economic Advantages

Ottawa is internationally renowned as a great place to live and to do business; the many awards received[EJ1]  are a testament to that. There are many economic advantages to establish your company in Ottawa; notably, great access to talent, low cost of doing business, superb quality of life, and an accessible global network.

Access to talent

Having access to talent is a key competitive advantage in a global economy. Talent is at the heart of Ottawa's economic development. The region is recognized for having the highest number of residents with post-secondary education in Canada. 37.7 per cent of population aged 15 years and over, University certificate, diploma or degree at bachelor level or above.

Ottawa has a highly sought after talent pool. The city boasts the second highest concentration of scientists and engineers in North America and the highest concentration of tech talent in the nation, a source of innovation and creativity. In addition, Ottawa’s high concentration of Research and Development centres is a catalyst for talent attraction and retention.

Ottawa’s four post-secondary institutions ensure a steady talent pipeline. They educate as many as 130,000 students with 20 per cent of that student population specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The area is also home to many Private Career Colleges, which offer unique and specialized skills training for our dynamic labour market.

Cost of doing business

Total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G7, ranking #2 among the top countries with the lowest business costs.

Furthermore, Ottawa has been rated the most business-friendly environment and third best city for FDI out of 77, mid-sized cities, in the Western Hemisphere – it’s no surprise why Ottawa is home to more technology companies than Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and almost five times more than Waterloo.

Quality of life

Ottawa is a world-class capital, globally recognized as a diverse metropolitan hub, with a friendly atmosphere and magnificent natural beauty. The city is ranked as one of Mercer’s top 20 cities for global quality of living.

Affordable housing, low taxes, low crime, good transit infrastructure, strong arts and sports community, and access to healthcare have catapulted Ottawa to first place in MoneySense Magazine’s Best Place to Live in Canada, 2017. Residents enjoy:

An abundance of parks and paths for walking, hiking, and cycling (over 1,000 parks, 200 square kilometres of protected greenspace)

Excellent health care

  • A city of festivals and events (as many as 180 different annual festivals, fairs, and special events yearly)
  • Access to 29 museums - including 12 significant national museums
  • An active city with an enormous number of outdoor and indoor recreation activities to choose from (170 kms of recreational pathways for cycling and in-line skating; boating and skating on the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; over 200 kilometres of groomed trails for skiers)
  • It is no wonder that Ottawa is considered one of the top 10 cities for the following rankings: Best Place to Raise Kids, the Best Place to Retire and the Best Place for New Canadians. Overall Ottawa is an ideal city to live and work!

For more information about Ottawa’s quality of life, visit Why I Chose Ottawa!

Global network

As a G7 capital, Ottawa is the political heartbeat of Canada with proximity to a large concentration of policy makers, government departments, and 65 federal research labs.

The award-winning Ottawa International Airport is within a two-hour flight of over 200 million North Americans. As the Nation’s Capital, Ottawa is host to 130 embassies, consulates and high commissions representing countries from around the world, offering you a global network right in your backyard!

For more information about Ottawa's economic advantages visit Invest Ottawa webpage!