Ottawa and Economic Diversification: Why Do Community Leaders Continue To Deny That We Are The Nation’s Capital?

Ever since the Queen Victoria’s selection of Ottawa as the Capital of the United Province of Canada, economic diversification has appeared as a rallying cry on the part of local public and business representatives. In 1906, Mayor Ellis laid out the challenge that “the time has come when Ottawa must decide whether it is for all time to be simply the seat of Government and a Departmental City, or whether it not become also an industrial centre” with its excellent “rail facilities and unrivalled water power” (City of Ottawa Council Minutes 1906). Continue reading


Living Together: Do Social Housing Projects Affect The Condominium Real Estate Market In Ottawa’s Downtown Neighbourhoods?

The general aim of this posting is to examine if proximity to social housing projects located in the inner city neighbourhoods of Ottawa comprised of Centretown, Sandy Hill and Lowertown has a potential negative market impact on downtown condominium projects. My analysis here is similar to the objective of my previous blog on Thorncliffe Village where I examined whether or not the close proximity of ownership townhomes to social housing had a negative impact on their resale market performance.

The housing market in Ottawa’s inner city neighbourhoods, as in other large Canadian cities, has experienced quite dramatic changes in terms of its demographics and real estate development trends in recent years. Continue reading

How Global Is Ottawa?

Globalization and its concomitant concepts of global cities, control-and-command centres, and city mega-regions are much in vogue these days. Globalization has been identified as being the cause (blame?) for many of the challenges faced by larger Canadian cities ranging from governance (e.g. amalgamation) to economic competitiveness to investment in municipal infrastructure. The rationale commonly presented by municipal representatives is that, in the face of powerful social, political and economic globalization forces, metropolitan cities throughout Canada must strengthen their competitiveness in the world economy in order to maintain and sustain local prosperity and high quality of life. Continue reading

The Federal Government and Ottawa’s Economy: The Sky is not Falling

At the February 2012 official opening of Invest Ottawa (the City’s economic development / investment attraction agency),  Mayor Jim Watson stated,

“One of my priorities . . . was to establish Invest Ottawa to help attract more investment and foster greater economic growth in our nation’s capital. . . Recent headlines surrounding public service job losses underscore the need to diversify our local economy, and Invest Ottawa is going to help us do just that. Invest Ottawa is a clear commitment to inspire more entrepreneurs to build our prosperity to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.”  (Invest Ottawa opening Mayor Watson))

Later in the year, the Mayor further elaborated in his 2012 State of the Economy address on the challenges facing the City resulting from the federal government’s austerity measures. He stated that “in this new federal government dynamic, we have the most to lose but we also have the most to gain”. To prevent Ottawa from becoming “a shadow of its former self”, the Mayor added that “we can no longer depend on the federal government to shelter us from [economic] storms or drive our economy … instead, we will construct a new economic engine … an engine that is more diverse – that runs on more than just one industry” (2012 State of the Economy link). This doom and gloom shows up even the City’s Economic Development Strategy stating that the local economy is in peril as a result to the federal government’s budget cutbacks.  Continue reading

Pulse Check on Ottawa’s High Tech: Part 4 – Innovation Trends as Measured by Patent Activity Levels

The single most defining factor underlying the development of sustainable high-tech clusters is the ability of the local economy to support innovation and entrepreneurship which has also often described as the startup or entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is true irrespective of which cluster location is analyzed – Ottawa, Waterloo, Calgary, Montreal or San Jose / Silicon Valley. A strong ecosystem is highly collaborative and fosters innovation through the sharing of ideas and fostering partnerships and networks.  The startup ecosystem can be comprised of several key elements including the presence of federal government research labs, strong university linkages to private industry, presence of major anchor technology firms, accessibility to venture capital, and availability of specialized professional and technical services. Such communities also tend to be very resilient whereby failures of individual companies like Nortel can spin-off new technology firms. Continue reading

Pulse Check on Ottawa’s High Tech: Part 3 – The Geography of the Branham300


In the previous post, I looked at employment in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services as an indicator of economic performance of Ottawa’s high-tech sector and its competitive position relative to other Canadian cities. In this post, I will look at the changing distribution of head office locations of Information Communications Technology (ICT) firms in Canada as another high-tech performance indicator.

My analysis is based on the widely recognized and referenced Branham300 which, according to their website, is the definitive listing of Canada’s top publicly traded and privately held ICT companies, as ranked by revenues. By the distribution of ICT head offices and changes in the distribution over time, one is able to assess the competitiveness of metropolitan areas as high-tech centres. Head offices of companies are often play a vital role in local economies because they typically employ highly skilled professionals and are major purchasers high-end professional services such as auditing, management consulting and financial services. More importantly, head offices are the decision making units within corporations determining how corporate resources are invested and allocated (Conference Board of Canada). Still, it is useful to keep in mind that the location of head offices may not always coincide to where the corporate researchers, thinkers and innovators are found. For example, Nortel’s head office was located in Brampton, Ontario but its largest R&D facility was in Ottawa. Similarly, RIM (Blackberry) had its main R&D facility in Ottawa while its head office was in Waterloo.  Continue reading

Pulse Check on Ottawa’s High Tech: Part 2 – Employment Trends in the Knowledge Intensive Industry


Employment data are a widely used for tracking economic change in industries and communities. Employment is especially important to communities where companies are located because job growth means new opportunities to earn income for younger workers and new immigrants / in-migrants or for existing workers looking for more rewarding jobs. Sustained investment in capital such as new office buildings or technology typically reflects a more resilient  and healthy local economy.

In this post, I will compare employment trends in the Professional, Scientific and Technical (PST) services sector between Ottawa and other selected metropolitan areas. As I noted in my previous introduction blog, Statistics Canada does provide employment data for the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector but only for fee based special tabulations. Statistics Canada’s ICT sector includes both manufacturing (e.g. communications equipment, semi-conductor and other electronic components, computer and peripheral equipment) and service industries such as software publishers, data processing, computer systems design and telecommunications carriers.  Continue reading