Ottawa’s Educated Populace Fuel More Than Just Government

As Canada’s most highly educated city, Ottawa is stacked with talent who contribute to economic success in a number of key areas. 1 While some cite a lack of economic diversity within Canada’s capital, others point to a stable economy and a relatively low cost of living. Let’s take a look at the economy of Ottawa.

Federal Government a Large Employer in Ottawa

As Canada’s capital, it’s not surprising that the federal government is a major employer in Ottawa. Key departments that employ a significant number of people include the Department of National Defence, Canada Revenue Agency, Public Services and Procurement Canada, Health Canada, and Global Affairs Canada.

The sector’s pivotal role in Ottawa’s economy is somewhat of a double-edged sword. A 2014 study found that Ottawa’s economic diversity level was 0.37 compared to Canada’s reference point of 1.2 While that statistic is obviously dated, it does underscore the city’s reliance upon the federal government.

Despite concerns regarding low diversity, the dominance of federal government employment and spending in Ottawa provides a stabilizing buffer against economic downturns. This means that during times of economic hardship, Ottawa’s economy can exhibit greater resilience due to this public sector influence​​.

Ottawa’s Tech Sector Boasts Largest Concentration of Tech Talent in Canada or US

The tech sector in Ottawa, known for its dynamic and innovative nature, plays a crucial role in the city’s economy. According to CBRE it has the highest level of tech talent concentration in the US or Canada, with tech workers representing 13.3% of total employment.3 (San Francisco, by comparison, was listed at 11.6%). Kanata North, located just outside the city, ranks as Canada’s largest tech park.4

Ottawa’s tech industry encompasses a diverse range of fields such as software development, engineering, telecommunications, and environmental technology.

The sector offers numerous opportunities for professionals and has been instrumental in shaping the city’s economic profile.

Tourism Benefits from Ottawa’s International Profile

Ottawa’s position on the world stage offers it high visibility around the world. The city’s tourism industry is a significant contributor to the city’s economy, characterized by a range of attractions and events that draw visitors both domestically and internationally.

Popular tourist attractions include Parliament Hill and Rideau Canal, as well as the Tulip Festival, Canada Day celebrations, and Winterlude.

Job opportunities abound, particularly in sectors like hospitality, retail, and event management. Key positions include hotel and restaurant staff, tour guides, event coordinators, and customer service roles at various tourist attractions. The influx of tourists also boosts jobs in transport services and the broader service sector, including roles in travel agencies and visitor information centers.

Healthcare is a Major Employer in Ottawa

The healthcare sector is a vital component of Ottawa’s economy, providing numerous jobs and contributing significantly to economic stability and growth. As a key employer, the sector includes a range of professionals from doctors and nurses to allied health workers and administrative staff. Moreover, it attracts investments in medical research and development, enhancing the city’s innovation profile. The sector’s importance extends beyond economic contributions, playing a crucial role in maintaining the well-being and quality of life of Ottawa’s residents.

Education Important to Ottawa’s Economy

The education industry is a cornerstone of Ottawa’s economy. It not only employs a substantial number of people through universities, colleges, and schools but also attracts students from around the world, contributing to the city’s cultural diversity and economic vitality. Educational institutions in Ottawa are centers of innovation and research, fostering partnerships with industries and government bodies. This collaboration often results in advancements in technology, health, and public policy, further stimulating economic growth. The sector helps in skill development and knowledge transfer, preparing a skilled workforce essential for the city’s diverse economy.

Major post-secondary institutions in the area include University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Algonquin College, and La Cité collegiale.

Educated, Vibrant Economy

While the federal government is obviously central to the city’s profile and economy, it’s a mistake to overlook Ottawa’s other industries. Tech innovation and tourism keep the city moving, while post-secondary institutions ensure that the pipeline remains stocked with a wealth of talent.

Cited Sources

1 “10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Ottawa.” Ottawa Tourism. Accessed March 6, 2024.

2 “Economic Structure and Income.” Ottawa Insights, December 20, 2019.

3 MacFarlane, Sarah. “Ottawa Moves up in CBRE’s Annual Ranking of Tech Hubs, but Fails to Break Top 10.” Ottawa Business Journal, July 21, 2023.

4 “Kanata North Business Association.” Kanata North BA, December 7, 2023.