The City of Ottawa unveiled a new slogan for the national capital on Friday as it marked surpassing a population of one million people: “Canada in one city.”
The national capital is the fourth municipality in the country to reach that population milestone, behind Toronto, Montreal and Calgary, according to Statistics Canada census figures from 2016. (The census metropolitan area of Ottawa-Gatineau stood at around 1.3 million three years ago, according to the agency.)
Speaking to reporters at an event to mark the occasion, Mayor Jim Watson said he thinks the city’s new slogan “resonates with what kind of city we are.”
The new slogan stemmed from a partnership between the municipality and Ottawa Tourism to identify the city’s “unique attributes” and “what defines Ottawa as a destination,” according to the mayor.
Watson said he’s not sure who exactly came up with the line.
“It’s not quite ‘technically beautiful,’ I’m glad,” he added, referring to a short-lived slogan the city unveiled back in 2001. “But ‘Canada in one city’ rings well I think.”
New welcome signs bearing the refreshed slogan and the city’s seven-digit population will be installed at the city’s limits, the mayor said.
‘Big-city amenities’ and ‘small-town charm’
Watson said Ottawa has “really changed” since he moved to the national capital in 1980 to attend university.
“There was not the kind of multicultural fabric that you see in neighbourhoods today,” he told reporters. “You go into Barrhaven today, whether you’re going into a Tim Hortons or a school to speak with students, and it’s like the mini United Nations there. And I think that’s one of the big changes.”
The mayor championed the Ottawa he lives in today as a place with “big-city amenities” with “a lot of small-town charm.”
“It’s the best of both worlds that we have here in Ottawa,” he said.
While the upgrade from a six- to seven-digit population could be seen as symbolic, Watson claimed in this speech that the change is good for the city’s economy and places the national capital “in a different league of big North American cities.”
“It a critical milestone that encourages us to develop big city infrastructure such as mass transit, and a growing population could also support more cultural activities, sports events and other exciting attractions and events,” he said.
City working on new official plan to guide future growth
Ottawa’s population has been growing steadily over the last decade, according to Statistics Canada figures. In 2011, the city’s population stood at 883,391 people — marking a 13 per cent increase in eight years alone.
The municipality identified Friday as the closest date it could say with confidence that the city had surpassed the one-million mark, based on its own methods for estimating population size.
The city estimates its population will continue to grow at a fast rate and that it will rocket to two million people much faster than it did to one. Between births, students and domestic and international newcomers moving to Ottawa, the municipality has grown by an average of about 28 people per day in recent years, according to the city.
With that in mind, city staff this year launched the process to create a new official plan for the city, which is essentially a master blueprint for future growth and development.
“It’s a critical document and ensures that we can keep pace with our growing population and adapt to change that makes Ottawa an inclusive, livable, and globally competitive city,” the mayor said on Friday.
Five mayors, past and present, reflect on contributions to Ottawa
On Thursday afternoon, Watson hosted four of the city’s former mayors for a lunch and photo opportunity to mark Ottawa’s one-million milestone.
Speaking to reporters afterward, they all reflected on what they felt were or have been their biggest contributions to the growth of the city.
Here’s what they had to say (in the order they served as mayor of Ottawa):
Jim Durrell (1985 to 1991)
“I would have to say one of the highlights was winning the Ottawa Senators, which I think has forever changed our city. It kind of made Ottawa much more than just a capital. It started to make us more of a city that … you just look at what it’s done for entertainment and what it’s done for sport and for youth in our city. So I would have to look back and say that would have been something that I was very, very proud of.
Jacquelin Holzman (1991 to 1997)
“I was mayor when we were very short of funds. It was the Bob Rae days, the two per cent days. It was the days when we wanted to make sure people would be living downtown, so between budget cuts and having to lay off staff because we just had to, between encouraging people to live downtown, we’re a better city for all of that.”
Bob Chiarelli (2001 to 2006)
“I think it’s accomplishing amalgamation. We had 12 municipal councils and over 100 councillors, and reduced that to one. And you have 12 official plans and we’ve got to combine that into one. I think it was a tremendous challenge and I think collectively we got through it much better than many people anticipated, so I think that’s the biggest thing that we were able to accomplish.”
Larry O’Brien (2006 to 2010)
“I was very fortunate in being able to build upon Bob’s LRT work to redefine it a little bit and move it forward. Jim is struggling, as the whole city is, to get it finished but once it’s finished it will be one of the most amazing city-building projects that we’ve ever undertaken. The other thing I’m pretty happy about it is the way Lansdowne Park has finished and how a true partnership between industry, companies and the city has created another very, very wonderful spot in the city.”
Jim Watson (1997 to 2000, and 2010 to present)