National Capital Region (Canada)

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National Capital Region
(Ottawa – Gatineau Metropolitan Area)
Metropolitan area
Downtown Ottawa looking towards Parliament Hill
The Hull district of Gatineau
The Hull district of Gatineau
National Capital Region (striped area)
National Capital Region (striped area)
Coordinates: 45°25′15″N 75°41′24″W / 45.42083°N 75.69000°W / 45.42083; -75.69000Coordinates: 45°25′15″N 75°41′24″W / 45.42083°N 75.69000°W / 45.42083; -75.69000
Country  Canada
Provinces  Ontario
Principal cities Ottawa, ON
Gatineau, QC
 • Metro 6,287.03 km2 (2,427.44 sq mi)
Elevation 70–556 m (230–1,825 ft)
Population [3]
 • CMA 1,236,324
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s) 613, 819, 343, 873[4]

The National Capital Region (French: Région de la capitale nationale), also referred to as Canada's Capital Region and Ottawa–Gatineau (formerly Ottawa–Hull), is an official federal designation for the Canadian capital of Ottawa, Ontario, the neighbouring city of Gatineau, Quebec, and surrounding urban and rural communities.[5] The term National Capital Region is often used to describe the Ottawa–Gatineau metropolitan area.

Unlike capital districts in some other federal countries, such as the District of Columbia (United States), the Australian Capital Territory (Australia), National Capital Territory of Delhi (India), Distrito Federal (Brazil) or Distrito Federal (Mexico), the National Capital Region is not a separate political entity. Its component parts are within the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Defined by the National Capital Act,[6] the National Capital Region consists of an area of 4,715 km2 (1,820 sq mi)[7] that straddles the Ottawa River,[7] which serves as the boundary between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. This area is smaller than that of the Ottawa–Gatineau census metropolitan area (CMA), which is 6,287 km2 (2,427 sq mi) in size.[3] Ottawa–Gatineau is the only CMA in the nation to fall within two provinces.


Main articles: Ottawa and Gatineau

The European first settlement in the region was led by Philemon Wright, a New Englander from Woburn, Massachusetts who, on March 7, 1800, arrived with his own and five other families along with twenty-five labourers to start an agricultural community on the north bank of the Ottawa River (Hull, Quebec) at the portage to the Chaudière Falls.[8]


Further information: Geography of Ottawa
The Ottawa–Gatineau skyline with Autoroute 50 in the foreground

Ottawa is located in the sub-region of Southern Ontario called Eastern Ontario. Gatineau is located in southwestern Quebec. Although overall Ontario is west of Quebec, the boundary in this region is situated in such a way that Gatineau is north of Ottawa, and northwest of the city centre.

The National Capital region is situated close to where the Canadian shield and the Saint Lawrence Lowlands intersect. The area has several major fault lines[9] and small earthquakes do occur somewhat regularly, including the 2010 Central Canada earthquake that occurred in Quebec. The Gatineau Hills are the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains and located in the region. They supply great skiing and snowboarding opportunities within minutes of the city.

National Capital Commission[edit]

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is a corporation that was established by the federal government in 1959 to oversee federal buildings and land in the federally designated National Capital Region (NCR).[10] Although the NCR is not a separate political jurisdiction, the NCC has a mandate and mission to build the NCR into a source of pride and unity for Canadians[10] through involvement in political, cultural, and land use planning matters that are typically powers reserved for the provincial government under the Constitution of Canada. In the Supreme Court of Canada case of Munro v. National Capital Commission, it was decided the NCC had the power to be involved in matters relating to zoning in the NCR.

In 2006, the NCC completed work on the long-discussed Confederation Boulevard, a ceremonial route linking key attractions in the NCR on both sides of the Ottawa River.[11]

The NCC reports to Parliament through Mélanie Joly,[12] MP for Ahuntsic-Cartierville, as the NCC is normally under the purview of the Minister of Heritage, governed by the National Capital Act. Its headquarters are in the Chambers Building on Elgin Street, between Queen and Sparks Streets.


Further information: List of attractions in Ottawa
Bluesfest in LeBreton Flats Ottawa
Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata in the western part of the City of Ottawa (previously Scotiabank Place)

The NCR has numerous attractions, including world famous festivals, national museums, famous buildings and architecture, sports and entertainment. Ottawa has some of the best examples of Gothic Revival architecture in North America.


The annual music festival Bluesfest, the world-renowned winter festival Winterlude,[13] the Canadian Tulip Festival,[14] Capital Pride, RCMP musical ride,[15] Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, Buskers festival, the biggest Canada Day[16] celebrations in the Nation.

Built heritage[edit]

Ottawa and Gatineau have a number of national museums. The most prominent museums are the Canadian Museum of History, Canadian War Museum, Canadian Museum of Nature, Canada Science and Technology Museum, National Art Gallery, Canada Aviation Museum. The Canada Science and Technology Museum is closed until 2017.

Some of the region's most famous buildings are the Parliament Hill, the Prime Minister's home 24 Sussex Drive, the Governor General's home Rideau Hall, the Canadian Museum of History, the National Gallery of Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint, the American Embassy and the National Library.

There are 29 National Historic Sites of Canada within the National Capital Region: 25 sites are located in Ottawa, with the Former Almonte Post Office and Rosamond Woollen Mill in Almonte, the Gillies Grove and House in Arnprior, the Manoir Papineau in Montebello and the Symmes Hotel in the Aylmer sector of Gatineau.[17]

Sports and entertainment[edit]

The National Capital Region has many sports teams. The Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League play in the City of Ottawa's western suburban community of Kanata. The Ottawa Redblacks are members of the Canadian Football League. Ottawa is also home to a successful Ontario Hockey League club, the Ottawa 67's. Gatineau is home to the 2007-2008 QMJHL champions, the Gatineau Olympiques.

The Ottawa area has three universities, two of which, Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, compete in Canadian Interuniversity Sport. The Carleton Ravens are nationally ranked #1 in basketball, and the Ottawa Gee-Gees are nationally ranked in football and basketball. Algonquin College has also won numerous national championships.

Silicon Valley North[edit]

During the decade of the 1990-2000, Ottawa was home to several very successful tech companies, including Nortel Networks, JDS Uniphase and Newbridge Networks. High-tech employment had doubled in five years to reach 80,000 by 2001.[18] With Nortel failing to meet high earnings expectations and layoffs starting in 2002, the company started to decline, a devastating shock to the tech industry in Ottawa.[19] Others described it as a 'anchor' for the industry in Ottawa, and an 'incubator' and that without it the Ottawa high-tech industry could not sustain itself.[20] By the mid 2000, other Canadian regions were competing for the title of Silicon Valley North. The term was being adopted to refer to the area between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo, which is home to Research in Motion (BlackBerry), and offices for Google, Adobe and Microsoft.[21] With companies such as Shopify, Halogen Software, and Kinaxis Inc, all headquartered in Ottawa, as well as over 1,700 other technology companies, Ottawa still has a significant high-tech presence.[22]


Ottawa's O-Train

The NCR has several major freeways including the 417, 416, 5, 50, 174, 7, and the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.

The 417 is Ottawa's major east-west commuter expressway. It begins at the Ontario-Quebec border (continuing the route of Quebec Autoroute 40), reaches the urban portion of Ottawa at the 417-174 split, bisects the urban area, and continues westward to just beyond the city boundary where it gives way to Highway 17 in Renfrew County.

The 416 starts at the 401 near the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge and continues north for 75 km until it ends at the 417 in Ottawa's west end.

The freeway section of Highway 7 branches off the 417 in Ottawa's west end near Stittsville and is currently undergoing a 4-lane expansion to reach the eastern fringe of Carleton Place at McNeely Avenue. As of July 2011, the expansion was complete through to Ashton Station Road.

Public transportation is handled by OC Transpo on the Ontario side, and the STO on the Quebec side. Together they serve a population over 1,130,761 and have an estimated annual ridership of over 113.2 million.[23][24]

OC Transpo operates a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system named the O-Train which has one line in operation and another under construction. The O-Train Trillium Line is a north-south line using diesel-powered units and has just over 2 million riders per year.[25] Ottawa is constructing the O-Train Confederation Line to link the western suburbs and the eastern suburbs via downtown, and will use electrically powered light-rail vehicles. The Confederation Line will be a 12.5 km long with 13 stations, 3 of which will be underground in downtown Ottawa.

Gatineau built a bus transitway, the Rapibus, which started operation in October 2013.

OC Transpo has about 1,050 buses which run on city streets and an expansive Transitway. The STO has around 300 buses that serve the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, some routes crossing into downtown Ottawa.

Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport is the main international airport serving the Capital Region. It handled over 4.2 million passengers in 2009, making it Canada's 6th busiest air facility and the 2nd busiest airport in Ontario. It offers non-stop flights to and from Canada, the United States, Caribbean and Europe. It is part of the three busiest air routes in the nation, with hourly flights to/from Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Area codes[edit]

The NCR uses area codes 613 and 343 on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River,[26] while on the Quebec side 819 and 873 are used.[27]

Although each region has different area codes, the pre-merger territories of Ottawa and Hull are a single local calling area. Previously, Ottawa and Hull also had exchange protection in place to preserve seven-digit dialing between the two cities. However, it was implemented in such a way that if a number was in use in Ottawa, the equivalent 819 number could not be assigned anywhere in western Quebec. Similarly, the 613 equivalent of a number used in Hull could not be assigned anywhere in eastern Ontario. This is no longer the case, as ten-digit local dialing has been in place since 2006. The sole legacy of the old system is a "dual dialability" system for federal government numbers on both sides of the provincial border; all federal government offices on the Quebec side duplicated several exchanges worth of their counterparts on the Ontario side.[citation needed]


There are three main daily local newspapers printed in Ottawa: two English newspapers, the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Sun, with 550,777 and 238,584 weekly circulation respectively, and one French newspaper, Le Droit with 204,947 weekly circulation.[28]


Most of the National Capital Region is recognized as a bilingual region for federal language-of-work purposes.[29]

In addition, the City of Ottawa has a bilingualism policy, but is not declared "officially bilingual" (which would require amendments to the provincial law). About 19% of the population of the City of Ottawa has French as their first language, while 40% of the total population of the city declares itself fluent in both languages.

The National Capital Region includes the English-speaking (Ottawa) and French-speaking (Gatineau) cores. The metro region has a bilingual population of 496,025, an English-only population of 507,175, and a French-only population of 102,375.[30]

Ottawa–Gatineau CMA[edit]

Source: 2011 Census of Canada[3]

Downtown Ottawa
Hull sector of Gatineau
City or Town Population
Ottawa 883,391
Clarence-Rockland 23,185
Russell 15,247
Gatineau 265,349
Val-des-Monts 10,420
Cantley 9,888
La Pêche 7,619
Chelsea 6,977
Pontiac 5,681
L'Ange-Gardien 5,051

Capital district proposals[edit]

Proposals have sometimes been made to separate the National Capital Region from its two respective provinces, and transform it into a separate capital district, like the District of Columbia in the United States or the Australian Capital Territory.[31] Such proposals tend to be more common when the sovereigntist Parti Québécois holds power in Quebec, owing in part to the Gatineau region's more strongly federalist orientation;[31] however, the proposal has never come close to fruition and there is no such movement currently active.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Population and dwelling counts, for Canada and census subdivisions (municipalities), 2006 and 2001 censuses – 100% data". 2006 Canadian Census. Retrieved 2007-07-20. 
  2. ^ "Community Highlights for Ottawa (CMA)". 2001 Canadian Census. Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  3. ^ a b c "Population and dwelling counts, for census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations, 2011 and 2006 censuses". Statistics Canada. January 30, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Telecom Decision CRTC 2008-89". 2008-09-10. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  5. ^ "About Canada's Capital". National Capital Commission. 30 September 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  6. ^ full text of "National Capital Act" (R.S.C., 1985, c. N-4)
  7. ^ a b "Creating Plans". National Capital Commission. Retrieved August 5, 2013. 
  8. ^ Keshen, Jeff; Nicole St-Onge (2001), Ottawa--making a capital, University of Ottawa Press, ISBN 978-0-7766-0521-0 
  9. ^ "Urban Geology of the National Capital Area – Bedrock topography". 2009-04-14. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  10. ^ a b "About the NCC". National Capital Commission. 2009-02-24. Retrieved 2010-11-06. 
  11. ^ "Confederation Boulevard, National Capital Commission Web site". Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  12. ^ McGregor, Janyce (7 November 2015). "Justin Trudeau's cabinet: 6 changes found in the fine print". CBC News. Retrieved 7 November 2015. 
  13. ^ "Winterlude – National Capital Commission ::". 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  14. ^ Wednesday, 10 February 2010 13:49 (2010-02-10). "The Canadian Tulip Festival |". Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  15. ^ "RCMP Musical Ride". 2007-04-18. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  16. ^ "Celebrate Canada Day in Canada's Capital Region (Ottawa – Gatineau)". Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  17. ^ "Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada". Parks Canada, Directory of Designations of National Historic Significance of Canada. 2008-10-10. Retrieved 2011-06-08. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Archived from the original on January 14, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2010.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ i4 Design. "STO – About the STO". Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  25. ^ "Light Rail Rapid Transit". 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  26. ^ "Hey, Ottawa, we've got your number: 343". 2008-01-10. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  27. ^ "New area code assigned to Quebec". CBC News. 2011-07-20. 
  28. ^ "2015 Daily Newspaper Circulation Report Newspapers Canada" (XLSX). Retrieved 2016-11-16. 
  29. ^ Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. "List of Bilingual Regions of Canada for Language-of-Work Purposes". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  30. ^ Statistics Canada (2010-02-05). "2006 Community Profiles – Ottawa–Gatineau (Census metropolitan area)". Retrieved 2010-11-06. 
  31. ^ a b c "Ottawa and Gatineau need not be two solitudes". Ottawa Citizen, April 9, 2014.

External links[edit]