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Quick Ottawa Facts

Fast Facts on  Ottawa and Canada's Capital Region    

Population – one million 

Structure – two provinces – Ontario and Quebec; two cities – Ottawa and Hull;  
27 municipalities 

Area – 1,800 square miles 

Languages – English and French 
Key Economic Sectors –  

  • High technology 
  • Federal government 
  • Tourism industry 
  • Health, biotechnology and life sciences 
  • Research and development 
Education – three universities (Carleton, University of Ottawa and Université du Québec à Hull) and two community colleges (Algonquin College and La Cité Collégiale). 

Emergency Numbers 

Ambulance, Fire, Police (Ottawa-Carleton and Hull) - 911 
Ontario Provincial Police - 1-800-267-2677 
Quebec Police Force (819) 770-9111  

General Information  

Driving Information   

Gasoline: Gasoline is sold by the litre in Canada. Four litters are approximately equivalent to one U.S. gallon. 

Headlights: In Ontario, headlight use is mandatory from dusk until sunrise. Exact times are published in the daily newspapers. 

Pedestrian Crossings: In Ontario, pedestrian crossings are marked by flashing lights and buzzers over the crosswalk. Warnings are indicated by a large X across the lane approximately half a block ahead. It is mandatory to stop and wait until the pedestrian has completed the crossing. 

Right Turn on Red Light: In Ontario, motorists may make a right turn while the light is red, after coming to a complete stop. Oncoming traffic and pedestrians have the right-of-way. Right turns on red lights are not permitted in Quebec. 

Seatbelts: In both Ontario and Quebec, the wearing of seatbelts is required by law, and fines for not wearing them are considerable. Small children must wear safety restraints and be seated in approved car seats. 

Speed Limits: The speed limit is posted in kilometers. 100km/h equals approximately 60 miles per hour. In the city, the speed limit is 50 km/h (approximately 30 mph), unless otherwise posted. Through rural areas, the speed limit is generally 80 km/h (50 mph), and on highways 100 km/h is the usual maximum. In Quebec, a minimum speed of 60 km/h (approximately 38 mph) is in effect on many highways. 

Traffic Accidents: In both Ontario and Quebec, no-fault insurance is in effect. Either municipal or provincial police should be called; in Ontario, police need to called only if there is more than $700 damage or there are injuries or an offence under the Highway Traffic Act or Criminal Code of Canada. 

Electricity: Electric current in Canada is 60 cycles, 110 volts. An adapter is required for an electric shaver or other personal appliances using other currents, such as the European 220 volts. 

Financial Services and Banking Hours: Regular banking hours are Monday to Friday, 10am to 5:30pm (some branches until 8:00pm). Many banks are open Saturdays until 2 or 3pm, and closed Sundays and holidays. Many have 24-hour instant banking machines. Trust companies and currency exchanges may be open longer, as well as Saturdays. 

Traveller’s cheques in Canadian dollars are the best way to carry currency. They are accepted everywhere. Major credit cards are honoured in most business establishments. 

The U.S. dollar has a favourable exchange rate in Canada – at the time of printing, $1.00 US = $1.35 CDN. Many stores participate in a Fair Exchange Program, sponsored by AT&T, where a good rate of exchange is offered on the U.S. dollar. Another good idea is to exchange any foreign currency into Canadian Dollars upon arrival in Canada, or prior to coming, for the best exchange rate. This can be done at any bank, trust company or currency exchange. Foreign exchange services are listed here.  

Holidays: Most businesses, government offices, banks and liquor stores are closed on the following days in 1999: 

  • New Year’s Day (January 1; also January 2 in Quebec)
  • Good Friday (April 2), Easter Sunday (April 4), Easter Monday (April 5 – banks and government (stores are open Good Friday in Quebec)
  • Victoria Day (May 24)
  • Fete de la St-Jean (June 24) – Quebec
  • Canada Day (July 1)
  • Civic Holiday (August 2) – Ontario
  • Labour Day (September 6)
  • Canadian Thanksgiving Day (October 11)
  • Remembrance Day (November 11) – banks and government
  • Christmas Day (December 25)
  • Boxing Day (December 26) – stores may be open in Ontario; they are open in the afternoon in Quebec 
Liquor Laws: Ontario: Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) outlets are sales agents for wine and spirits in Ontario. Wine, liquor, foreign and a small selection of Canadian beers are available. Wine is also available at several stores run by individual wineries. Domestic beer may be purchased in Ontario at The Beer Store. Both LCBO outlets and beer stores are open weekdays and Saturdays, except for holidays. Drinking hours are from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. The legal drinking age is 19 years. 

Quebec: In Quebec, wines and liquors may be purchased at Société des alcools du Quebec (SAQ) outlets. Beer and some wines are available at grocery and convenience stores. The legal drinking age is 18. 
There are stiff penalties for drinking and driving in both Ontario and Quebec. 

Local Transportation  

Air Service: The West Carleton Municipal Airport [(613) 839-5276] is located west of Ottawa on Highway 17. It is a small airport, used primarily by charter airlines and private aircraft. The regional air ambulance service is also based here. 

The Gatineau-Ottawa Executive Airport is across the Ottawa River in Quebec, close to Hull. It is used for private aircraft. Charter sightseeing flights of the region are available; Tel: (819) 663-0737. 

Automobile Rentals: Prices vary and change frequently. See here. 

Taxis: $2.00 for the first 85 metres and 10 cents for each additional 85 metres. Click here for taxis. 

Public Transportation: There are two city bus systems in Canada’s Capital region. OC Transpo [(613) 741-4390] operates buses in Ottawa-Carleton on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, the Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO) [(819)770-3242] operates buses in the Outaouais region on the Quebec side f the Ottawa River. You can transfer between them along Rideau and Wellington Streets in Ottawa and around the Portage Bridge area and at Place d’Accueil on Maisonneuve Boulevard in Hull. 

Bus tickets may be purchased from authorized dealers, some shopping malls and lottery outlets, or at OC Transpo and STO offices. Bus fare is exact change only. OC Transpo fares vary between regular and express routes. 

Taxes and Rebates: Goods and Services Tax (GST): Please see here
Ontario: Retail sales tax is 8 per cent; restaurant tax is 8 per cent on food and 10 percent on alcoholic beverages; accommodation tax is 5 per cent. You may apply for a rebate of retail sales tax for purchases of at least $50 on one receipt provided that the goods leave the province. Information: Tel: (613) 523-9760 

Quebec: In Quebec, there is a 6.5 per cent tax on food, liquor, merchandise and accommodations. Visitors may claim a tax refund by submitting a rebate form, available by calling 1-800- 770-8504 locally. Receipts are required for reimbursement. 

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