I’m also from Ottawa, so I might be able to help.
I would avoid Powersports. I bought my bike there, and when their mechanic screwed up (in truth, the bike they sold me should never have been put on sale, it had seen too much previous damage) they did NOT stand behind their product or work. They told me I had a “paper weight”… a paper weight _they_ sold me. I am not pleased with the experience at all.
We actually have a fair number of dealerships around. Gearhead in the west end, Wheelsport in the east end, and Motorsport World near Powersports and OGTC.
You have a couple of options for bikes smaller than the 650s.
You can buy a used ZZR-250 (what I ride, it is a really good bike in my biased opinion). I think powersports may still have one or two. I know OGTC had a few 07s at huge discounts in May, no idea if they’ve sold them yet or not.
You can buy either a used or a new CBR125. While it looks small sitting beside another bike, it doesn’t look too small under a rider when in motion. And if you don’t plan on riding the queensway or 416, then it is a really good bike. I took my experienced rider’s course with a few guys on them. They loved thier CBR125s, and they could really throw the bikes around.
You can buy a Hyosung 250 from gearhead. Truthfully, I’m not 100% convinced these are stellar bikes. If they were cheaper, then I think they’d be good deals, but right now a Ninja 250 (if you can find one) or a ZZR-250 seem like better deals.
You can also get a Ninja 500. I know OGTC had a couple of 07s recently that they were selling with a steep discount. The Ninja 500 is a really good bike. Faster than the 250s (so perhaps not as great to learn on) but more forgiving than the 650s. Really, the only downside to them is the dated look – which is only apparent when they are sitting still. Moving with a rider on them, they look pretty sharp.
As a final note about the “powering out of a situation”. When I did avoidance in both the “gearing up” Ottawa Safety Council (OSC) course (MSF equivilant) and the experienced rider’s course with them (I highly recommend OCS, great instructors!) we never practiced “speed up to get out of trouble”.
Basically, no matter how fast the bike, it is faster and safer to decelerate one car length than to accelerate one car length (ie fall behind the car instead of jumping ahead of the car). If you are in a situation where you can’t brake safely (and emergency braking is actually pretty rare), you can do an emergency avoidance (which happens much more often on the real road). Emergency avoidance (swerving around an object and straightening out again afterwards) is very fast on a bike, any bike (even a huge cruiser) and is independant of horsepower. If you are in a situation where you are boxed in on both sides and behind, and your only option is to accelerate forward, then you’ve already made so many mistakes you’re pretty boned no matter what you do.
The logic that a faster bike is a safer bike seems to be an excuse to justify a want for a faster bike.