He’s a fifth-generation Ottawan, but Michel Bellemare is still discovering new things about the city he loves most.
“It’s amazing how much you can discover exploring the city where you live,” said the acting mayor, who is replacing Mayor Larry O'Brien until July 7.
“I encourage everyone to be a tourist in your own city.”
For instance, the city recently introduced double-decker buses and Bellemare, a father of three, took his kids for a ride.
If the nation’s capital still holds so many charms for someone who has such deep roots here, the possibilities must be endless for any tourist or visitor lucky enough to come here. And they are, said Bellemare, who is also the councillor for Beacon Hill-Cyrville.
“There’s so much to discover that you need to come back again and again to discover all the aspects of the nation’s capital,” he said.
When asked about the five best things about Ottawa, Bellemare is hard pressed to narrow it down to just five. But he cites two major rivers — the Ottawa and the Rideau — in addition to the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO world heritage site, as one of the best things, and Ottawa’s “proudly bilingual and multicultural” character as another.
The region’s greenspace, “including the green belt, beautiful parks and ski hills and hiking and nature trails,” is another big perk of living here, Bellemare said.
“I think Ottawa is known for its high quality of life,” he said, “and the people who come here hear from family and friends about all the amenities we have in the capital — world-class museums, like the war museum, the museum of civilization and the National Arts Centre.”
More than 35 big festivals in the city — Bellemare names the Canadian Tulip Festival, Bluesfest and Winterlude as examples — is another plus.
“All these festivals attract thousands of tourists,” he said. “They breathe life into our city.”
Number five, he said, is “one of the best transit systems in the world that is about to get a makeover with a subway.
“It’s going to transform it,” he said. “It's going to create a bit of an underground city, which is appropriate for our northern climate, hopefully with all sorts of shops and things to do beneath our streets.”
If you ask Bellemare, life in Ottawa is pretty good. Indeed, one of the reasons is because the federal government is a major employer here.
“I think Ottawa is a bit insulated from the ups and downs of the economy,” he said. “And we are weathering the economic downturn much better than other urban centres.”