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Ottawa-bashing needs to stop

Illustration by Tina Wallace

LET’S START OFF  with a little honesty. We’ve all done it. Perhaps it was late, and we were freezing, waiting for a bus that would inevitably arrive 20 minutes late. Perhaps we were at a party, surrounded by a gaggle of overly excited Montrealers, boasting about the many perks of what they refer to as “the best city in the world.” Or maybe we just had a bad day, and our grey, quiet, minimalistic surroundings weren’t cutting it. But we did it.

We Ottawa-bashed.

We were feeling lonely and desperate and we couldn’t help it. We whined about the absence of well-dressed, sufficiently attractive potential mates, or we complained about the lack of cutting-edge artistic diversity, the scarcity of original places to go, or the absence of innovation and excitement.

Heck, some of us even wished for a few politically charged protesters to march out and block the circulation down Slater Street just to spice up our drab daily commute. And don’t even get us started on the lameness of the Parliament’s heavily marketed, painfully nationalistic and unintentionally psychedelic light show. We just can’t handle it at this point.

We have made a habit of referring to Ottawa as the boring capital where nothing ever happens—where life is but a drab sequence of repetitive routines. But with Ottawans’ bitterness toward their hometown comparable to Montrealers’ pompous pride, it’s time we capital city dwellers try to get a little perspective and give our bustling metropolis some of the credit it deserves.

This city is much more than the nation’s centre of political action, although it is pretty cool that this is where all the big political decisions are made. Ottawa might maintain the outwardly appearance of a well-disciplined princess, ably welcoming foreign diplomats with dignity and decorum, but the great thing about Ottawa is that this little princess hides special brownies under the floorboards and blasts angry, rebellious metal in her bedroom late at night when all the public servants have gone to bed.

Believe it or not the capital does have a beating heart. There is life in Ottawa—gritty, vibrant, and rich life. It’s there, hidden under the facades of government buildings and coffee shops; a panoply of entertaining events, incredible artists, wild creativity and budding cultural and political movements. Unlike its loud, bubbly, and well-dressed French cousin, Ottawa hides its cultural jewels behind a wall of tiresome administration, mid-’90s functionalist architecture, and maple leaf tourist shop kitsch.

If Ottawans reallocated half the time we squander complaining about the capital’s lack of zest, and instead got out there and explored its hidden treasures, we might see just how much it truly has to offer.