Ottawa sits at the confluence of three major rivers: the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River and the Rideau River. The Ottawa and Gatineau rivers were historically important in the logging and lumber industries and the Rideau as part of the Rideau Canal system for military, commercial and, subsequently, recreational purposes. The Rideau Canal, connecting the Ottawa River and the Saint Lawrence River at Kingston, Ontario, by-passes unnavigable sections of the Rideau River as it winds its way through the city. Rideau is a French word that means 'Curtain' in English, and the Rideau Falls resemble a curtain, thusly named by the early French canoeists. During part of the winter season the frozen waters of the canal form the world's largest skating rink thereby providing both a recreational venue and a 7.8 kilometres (4.8 mi) transportation path to downtown for ice skaters (from Carleton University and Dow's Lake to the Rideau Centre and National Arts Centre).
In 2006, the populations of the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa-Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA) were 812,129 and 1,130,761 respectively, while the Ottawa-Gatineau urban area had a population of 860,928. The city had a population density of 1,680.5 persons per km2 in 2006, while the CMA had a population density of 197.8 persons per km2. The estimated population of the National Capital Region is 1,451,415. The pre-amalgamated city population was 337,031 in 2001.
Ottawa's median age of 36.7, as well as its percentage of seniors are both below the provincial average and the national average, while those under 15 exceed Canadian percentages.
The vast majority of the population growth is attributable to relocations to the city, and over 20 percent of the city's population is foreign-born. Around 75% describe themselves as Christian, with Catholics accounting for 43.3% of the population and members of Protestant churches was 27.6%.
Bilingualism became official policy for the conduct of municipal business in 2002, and 37% of the population can speak both languages, making it the largest city in Canada with both English and French as co-official languages.Mother tongue was listed as 62.8% English, 14.9% French and 21.6% list languages other than English and French as their mother tongue.
Local government and politics
Ottawa is a single-tier municipality, meaning it is in itself a census division and has no county or regional municipality government above it. As a single tier municipality, Ottawa has responsibility for all municipal services, including fire, ambulatory, police, parks, roads, sidewalks, public transit, drinking water, stormwater, sanitary sewage and solid waste. Ottawa is governed by the 24-member Ottawa City Council consisting of 23 councillors each representing one ward and the mayor, currently Jim Watson, elected in a citywide vote.
Along with being the capital of Canada, Ottawa is politically diverse in local politics. Most of the city has traditionally supported the Liberal Party. Perhaps the safest areas for the Liberals are the ones dominated by Francophones, especially in Vanier and central Gloucester. Central Ottawa is usually more left-leaning, and the New Democratic Party can win ridings there as government unions and activist groups are fairly strong. Some of Ottawa's suburbs are swing areas, notably central Nepean and, despite its Francophone population, Orléans. The southern and western parts of the old city of Ottawa are generally moderate and swing to the Conservative Party. The farther one goes outside the city centre like to Kanata and Barrhaven and rural areas, the voters tend to be increasingly conservative, both fiscally and socially. This is especially true in the former Townships of West Carleton, Goulbourn, Rideau and Osgoode, which are more in line with the conservative areas in the surrounding counties. However not all rural areas support the Conservative Party. Rural parts of the former township of Cumberland, with a large number of Francophones, traditionally support the Liberal Party, though their support has recently weakened.
Ottawa is known as one of the most educated cities in Canada, with over half the population having graduated from College and/or university.Ottawa has the highest per capita concentration of engineers, scientists, and residents with PhDs in Canada.
The city has two main public universities Carleton University and University of Ottawa, and two main public colleges Algonquin College and La Cité collégiale. It also has two Christian universities Dominican University College and Saint Paul University. There is also the University of Quebec en Outaouais, Cégep de l'Outaouais, and Heritage College in the neighbouring City of Gatineau.
There are four main public school boards in Ottawa: English, English-Catholic, French, and French-Catholic. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) is the largest board with 147 schools, followed by the Ottawa Catholic School Board with 85 schools. The two French language boards are the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est with 49 schools, and the Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario with 37 schools. The Ottawa Public Library was created in 1906 as part of the famed Carnegie library system. The library system had 2.3 million items as of 2008.
Ottawa's primary employers are the Public Service of Canada and the high-tech industry. The city has a high standard of living and low unemployment. Ottawa had the fourth highest growth rate among major Canadian cities in 2007 with a 2.7% GDP growth rate, which exceeded the Canadian average of 2.4%. It is estimated that the National Capital Region attracts around seven million tourists annually who spend about 1.3 billion dollars.
The region of Ottawa-Gatineau has the third highest income of all major Canadian cities. The average gross income in the region amounted to $40,078, an increase of 4.9% compared to the previous year. The annual cost of living rate in 2007 was 1.9%.
Developed in the early 1950s, Tunney's Pasture is an area that is exclusively reserved for various federal government buildings.
The Federal government is the city's largest employer, employing over 110,000 individuals from the National Capital region. Ottawa is also an important technology centre; its 1800 companies employ approximately 80,000 people. The concentration of companies in this industry earned the city the nickname of "Silicon Valley North." Most of these companies specialize in telecommunications, software development and environmental technology. Large technology companies such as Nortel, Corel, Mitel, Cognos and JDS Uniphase were founded in the city. Ottawa also has regional locations for 3M, Adobe Systems, Bell Canada, IBM, Alcatel-Lucent and Hewlett-Packard. Many of the telecommunications and new technology are located in the western part of the city (formerly Kanata).
Another major employer is the health sector, which employs over 18,000 people. Nordion, i-Stat as well as the National Research Council of Canada and OHRI are part of the growing life science sector. Business, finance, administration, and sales and service occupations rank high among types of occupations. Approximately ten percent of Ottawa's GDP is derived from finance, insurance, real estate whereas employment is in goods-producing industries is only half the national average. The City of Ottawa is the second largest employer with over 15,000 employees.
In 2006, Ottawa experienced an increase of 40,000 jobs over 2001 with a five-year average growth that was relative slower than in the late 1990s. While the number of employees in the federal government stagnated, the high-technology industry grew by 2.4%. The overall growth of jobs in Ottawa-Gatineau was 1.3% compared to the previous year, down to sixth place among Canada's largest cities. The unemployment rate in Ottawa-Gatineau was 5.2% (only in Ottawa: 5.1%), which was below the national average of 6.0%. The economic downturn resulted in an increase in the unemployment rate between April 2008 and April 2009 from 4.7 to 6.3%. In the province, however, this rate increased over the same period from 6.4 to 9.1%.
Traditionally the ByWard Market (in Lower Town), Parliament Hill and the Golden Triangle (both in Centretown - Downtown) have been the focal points of the cultural scenes in Ottawa. Modern thoroughfares such as Wellington Street, Rideau Street, Sussex Drive, Elgin Street, Bank Street, Somerset Street, Preston Street and Sparks Street; are home to many boutiques, museums, theaters, galleries, landmarks and memorials, while dominated by eating establishments, cafes, bars and nightclubs.
Ottawa's hosts a variety of annual seasonal activities — such as Winterlude, the largest festival in Canada, and Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill and surrounding downtown area, as well as Bluesfest, Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, Ottawa International Jazz Festival, Fringe Festival and Folk Music Festival, that have grown to become some of the largest festivals of their kind in the world. In 2010, Ottawa's Festival industry received the IFEA "World Festival and Event City Award" for the category of North American cities with a population between 500,000 and 1,000,000.
As Canada's capital, Ottawa has played host to a number of significant cultural events in Canadian history, including the first visit of the reigning Canadian sovereign—King George VI, with his consort, Queen Elizabeth—to his parliament, on 19 May 1939. VE Day was marked with a large celebration on 8 May 1945, the first raising of the country's new national flag took place on 15 February 1965, and the centennial of Confederation was celebrated on 1 July 1967. Elizabeth II was in Ottawa on 17 April 1982, to issue a royal proclamation of the enactment of the Constitution Act. In 1983, Prince Charles and Diana Princess of Wales came to Ottawa for a state dinner hosted by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. In 2011, Ottawa was selected as the first city to receive Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge during their Royal tour of Canada.