Although the neighbouring municipality of Kanata formed the entrepreneurial and high tech center of the region, Nepean hosted noted industries such as Nortel Networks, JDS Uniphase and Gandalf Technologies. As with the rest of the National Capital Region, however, Nepean’s economy was also heavily dependent on federal government employment. Most of Nepean’s employed residents commute to downtown Ottawa or Kanata for work.
Nepean’s policies of operational and capital budgeting prudence contrasted with the budget philosophies of some other municipalities in the area. Nepean instituted a strict ‘pay-as-you-go’ budgeting scheme. The city entered amalgamation with a large surplus and a record of tax restraint. However, most big-ticket municipal infrastructure items (transit, garbage collection, sanitary sewers, water, arterial roads, police, social services) were the responsibility of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, not the former City of Nepean.
Prior to amalgamation, Nepean’s City Council spent many tax dollars aggressively campaigning against what they (and their allies) referred to as the “megacity” model. The central plank of the strategy was to promote a tri-city model, which would have seen the 10 municipalities of the Ottawa region reduced to three: one in the west (comprising Nepean, Kanata and the western rural municipalities), one in the east (comprising Gloucester, Cumberland and the eastern rural municipalities) and one in the centre (comprising Ottawa, Vanier and Rockcliffe Park). These efforts were in vain, as the one-city model eventually prevailed. (The one-city model was recommended by Glen Shortliffe, who was appointed by the Government of Ontario to study the issue of municipal reform in Ottawa-Carleton.)