In Search of Balanced Job and Population Growth in Orleans

As I mentioned in an Orleans Community Improvement Plan, there has been a long-standing issue that Orleans has experienced limited employment growth compared to the rest of the City or other suburbs like Kanata which in turn has limited the opportunities for residents to live and work in the community. As a result, Orleans residents face commuting traffic gridlock every morning and evening. This employment/population imbalance is frequently raised in virtually every recent election held in the community – federal, provincial or municipal.

Approved by City Council in 2013, the Orleans Community Improvement Plan’s main goal of this initiative is to attract major high-quality knowledge-based employment which would result in a significant improvement in the job-to-household ratio in Orleans so that residents have an opportunity to live and work in the same community. The Plan offers “Tax Incentive Equivalent Grants” to eligible projects that involve the redevelopment of properties that result in a minimum of 15 new knowledge-based jobs within 10 years following project completion.

Although the data are a bit outdated, the 2011 Origin-Destination survey completed by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Committee, provides interesting information about commuting patterns for Orleans residents. The total number of trips from Orleans to other communities in the National Capital Region during the morning peak hours (6:30 AM to 8:59 AM) was 35,070. 72% of the total trips were work-related. The total number of work-related commuters represented 44.1% of the total employed population (full time and part time), residing in Orleans. The number of work-related trips that remained in Orleans was 4,740 with an additional 3,910 workers commuting to Orleans from other communities.

The following table summarizes the main destinations of morning peak hour work trips from Orleans.

Table 1

The table below compares the number of work trips by commuters from the suburban communities of Orleans, Kanata (including Stittsville and Barrhaven (South Nepean, South Gloucester, and Leitrim). Barrhaven is selected to simplify the analysis.

Table 2

Kanata has the lowest percentage of resident employees commuting to jobs outside the suburban community. Just over half of Barrhaven’s employed labour force commute to outside jobs while the percentage for Orleans was 44%. 27% of Orleans workers commute to downtown Ottawa which is significantly greater compared to the other suburbs.

The City of Ottawa has undertaken employment surveys every five years since 1976. The survey covers every employer with a business phone number in the Ottawa. The survey is useful because, unlike the Statistics Canada Census, the employment data are actual jobs from businesses located in communities. In contrast, labour force data published in the Census are population or place of residence based, not employer or place of work. Unfortunately, the last survey was completed in 2012 (the survey was delayed by one year due to budget cuts) but the data does provide some useful insight into the geographic distribution of jobs relative to population within the City of Ottawa. The 2006 and 2012 total jobs to population ratios are shown in the following table for selected urban districts.

Table 3

As expected, employment is distinctly concentrated in the central and inner areas where 28.6% of all jobs in Ottawa were located in 2012. The federal government accounted for 52% of the total jobs in the central area or downtown and 46% of all federal government employment in the City. In contrast, the federal government sector was effectively non-existent in Orleans where there were only 50 federal jobs identified from the 2012 survey.

The suburban communities of Orleans and Barrhaven clearly emerge as bedroom communities have jobs to population ratios significantly lower than the rest of Ottawa including Kanata.  Orleans and Barrhaven also had the highest percentage of people leaving their communities to go to work in the morning – see previous table. Kanata’s higher ratio reflects the concentration of high technology jobs in the western suburbs. According to the 2012 survey, 51% of all jobs in Kanata was in high technology accounting for 38% of all jobs in Ottawa. Eastern suburbs only had 1% of the total jobs.

Between 2006 and 2012, Orleans’ population increased by 11,000 or 11%. Employment increased by approximately 3,000 jobs or 17%. The following table summarizes the economic sectors experiencing the largest gains in jobs.

Table 4

The key conclusion to be drawn from the above table is that the primary sources of employment growth are economic sectors tied to population growth – that is, they provide goods and services to households residing in Orleans. This further supports the conclusion in my previous blog in which I found that the projects and associated “knowledge-based” jobs that have been approved for property tax reductions under the Orleans Community Improvement Plan would have likely have happened without the grant. For example, daycare centres and dental offices which are considered to be knowledge-based businesses under the Plan would be classified under Health Care and Social Assistance in the previous table.

Another important conclusion is that the Plan needs to re-focus on real high-quality knowledge-based jobs including entrepreneurs if it is to achieve its goal of improving the job-population balance in the community and reduce the level of out-commuting. Ottawa’s two largest economic sectors – the federal government and advanced technology, account for a negligible amount of jobs in Orleans according to the City’s 2012 employment survey.

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