Ashley Madison, the Toronto-based website created for married people to find new lovers, is popular in Ottawa.
According to data on AshleyMadison.com, there were more than 55,000 users on the website living in Ottawa in 2013, making it the most infidelity-friendly city in the country.
The same was true this year when the website gave updated data to the National Post in February as Ottawa topped the list with roughly 189,000 users, or nearly one in five people living in the city. That’s a lot of people who might be worried their information might get leaked after Monday’s highly-publicized hack. Ashley Madison did not respond to requests for comment.
One federal government employee, whom Global News agreed to keep anonymous, says the highly-educated, well-employed population of Ottawa is just much more open to experimenting.
“I lived downtown Toronto for a couple years and I’ve noticed a cultural difference, people here are actually are a lot more prone to having just simply open relationships as well as cheating,” he said.
The federal government employee admitted there are rumours about philandering politicians and public servants alike.
But people working for the government must be concerned about their image or reputation should they get caught… right? Wrong.
“Have you ever been to a political event?” the federal employee asked. “There’s a general saying in Ottawa, you know you go to Conservative events to get drunk, Liberal events to get laid, and NDP events to get pamphlets.”
People do talk sometimes – when they’re angry with a politician, recently fired, or upset. But even then, he said, the rumours aren’t spread widely because people don’t seem to care.
“It’s just generally considered ‘eh, it happens.’ It’s not fairly inflammatory here, it’s also not really anyone’s business for the most part,” they said.
“The rumour doesn’t get spread because of disinterest for the most part.”
But Ashley Madison members might not necessarily be cheating. The federal government employee who spoke to Global News suggested the highly-educated people in Ottawa might be more open-minded and willing to talk about open relationships.
“People just sort of go for the things they like,” our federal government employee said. “So they’d be much more open for example to having a conversation like open relationships or cheating relative maybe to some other areas where that type of conversation would be considered taboo. It just isn’t.”
Ottawa certainly isn’t the only place where people cheat, and it might not be the only city where a significant portion of people don’t care if you do.
A 2014 Pew Research study found that only 47 per cent of respondents in France found infidelity “morally unacceptable.” More than 76 per cent of Canadian respondents to the Pew Research disapproved of infidelity. The median of all countries was 79 per cent.
And it’s not just Canada’s capital region; Ashley Madison data provided to the National Post suggests international capitals like Washington, D.C., Athens, Greece, Berlin, Germany, and Oslo, Norway also top their country’s respective per capita lists.
Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman told the newspaper that strong, risk-taking personalities who do well in politics are simply more likely to stray from their spouse.
Dr. Oren Amitay, a registered psychologist living in Toronto, said he thinks people cheat simply because they can.
“Above and beyond everything else, if there is an opportunity, and if a person feels like they can get away with it,” he said.
WATCH: (Mon, Jul 20) Group calling itself The Impact Team threatens to release users’ personal data if Ashley Madison is not shut down. Mark Carcasole reports.
Booming Alberta cities like Calgary and Edmonton were the cities Ashley Madison found in 2013 to have the second and third most amount of users, respectively. Toronto had the most members at 114,235, but it finished fifth per capita.
Not every member of the site is married, despite the site’s tagline of “Life’s short. Have an Affair.” Anyone above the age of 18 with an email account can sign up, meaning people in an open relationship, or singles looking for married people or couples might also be on the site.
And still others are just looking for people to meet.
Amitay suggested Ottawa, as well as Calgary, and Edmonton, have something else in common. A lot of people are travelling in and out of the city – government employees in Ottawa, and people seeking work in the booming energy industry in Alberta.
“You’re away from your family temporarily, you don’t have ties, so it’s somebody kind of just filling a hole, so to speak,” he said.