Why so serious? - Macleans.ca

Why so serious?


From the print edition: My trip to Calgary, featuring meditations on why the richest city in the country is a little jittery, and why its denizens are lately very interested in building a lifestyle, not just making a living.

Having written at length this summer about Quebec City and Calgary, with my latest report from Kitchener-Waterloo coming before too long, my bosses and I have decided that this is a thing and that I’ll be on the road soon to report from at least a couple of other Canadian cities facing some kind of turning point. The supply of such cities, of course, greatly outstrips my ability to visit them all.

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Why so serious?

  1. I’d offer to buy you a drink should you end up in Edmonton, but, um, this place doesn’t really do turning points.

    … does inspire me to drink, though …

  2. Maybe you could do something on how municipal mergers, provincial governments uninterested in subsidizing a region whose electoral map will never change, and the horrible Gerald Tremblay are driving Montreal into the abyss through a great combination of 10% + annual tax increases, doubling of the municipal bureaucracy, slashing services to the bone, tolerating overpaid public sector workers who do virtually no work, making the public transit network even more expensive and chaotic, and allowing the streets and the rest of the municipal infrastructure to get covered with garbage and fall apart.

  3. I would like to hear about a place that is a great city, but the habitants are modest about it. Too much boasting, propaganda, and cheer-leading takes place in so many Canadian cities. In some places the leaders whine and moan when the tourist numbers drop.

    Understated brilliance is what I like. Kingston comes to mind.

  4. Ah, sf, you wouldn’t have anything to do with Kingston, now would you? Or do you believe modesty to be only one of your oh-so-many stunning qualities?
    But, hey, when it comes to self-deprecation, I guess we Canadians have no equals…

  5. Your job rules.

  6. “I would like to hear about a place that is a great city, but the habitants are modest about it.”

    An obvious choice would be the ultra-fantastic city of Toronto. The city is so amazing that even though the rest of Canada gets tired of us Torontonians telling you all how great and wonderful this city is (especially the residents), we truly can never do it justice. Paul would have to dedicate at least four issues (more like six, but that’s Toronto modesty for you) to merely scratch the surface of our greatness.

  7. SBT – one issue could explore how the Leafs have taken the concept of a stay at home defenceman to meaning paying a defenceman a bajillion dollars to, well, stay at home.

  8. “the ultra-fantastic city of Toronto”

    Ah yes. The city that elected Mel Lastman as mayor. Twice.

  9. Another suggestion:

    A few paragraphs or a sidebar on the under-representation (probably worst in Alberta, but bad everywhere) in the respective provincial legislatures of the large cities when compared with the rural areas.
    The vote of one dairy farmer or small town electrician has much more influence than that of an urban condo-dweller or ‘soccer mom’
    It distorts policies.

  10. Imethisguy:

    Well, as a Big City Resident, I understand your frustration, but I’ve come to have a more sanguine view of the matter.  A case could be made that the rural areas are disproportionately important in representation because they’re disproportionately important in terms of their supply status: the bigger the urban area, the more of a resource sink it is, and the more dependent it is on rural areas for its resources.  Rurals ultimately supply everything that keeps cities alive, and the average large urban area wouldn’t last a week if the supply of resources were interrupted.  For instance, most cities are “food deserts,” with only a few days’ worth of stored aggregate supply.

    I like to keep the rurals happy.  That way I get to continue to enjoy my pasta, bread, meat, lattes, etc.  Because we have sophisticated supply-management and delivery chains, we tend to forget just how important supply is.

  11. I’d suggest Winnipeg, but you’ve already missed 3 or 4 festivals and the mosquito fogging. Unless you’d rather come in winter …?

  12. Paul, I’m biased, but as an Islander, I think you could make a case for Charlottetown, the cradle of Confederation, being a city on the cusp of a turning point.

    Here are some reasons:

    – PEIs usually seen as a pastoral place, but Charlottetown is increasingly becoming populated with knowledge workers thanks to the Internet and a good university.

    – How has Charlottetown (and urban PEI in general’s) growth affected Island politics. As Imethisguy might know, there was a little gerrymandering fiasco in PEI in 2006.

    – How are younger Islanders affecting politics? The Island’s new government is relatively young for the province.

    – You could get Macleans’ to pay for a trip to PEI in the summer. It really is a nice place to visit. Come play on my Island, Paul.

  13. I suggested Saint John NB

    – the on-going and future eastern energy boom that comes with a 2ND Irving Oil refinery, LNG plan, Nuclear refurbishment, pipeliens, transmission lines to US, etc etc.

    – an eastern city that is now holding job fairs in oil sands country – to get workers to flow back east

    – Cananada’s oldest incorporated city – and the region where Champlain visitied a full year earlier than Quebec – the true 1st french settlement – yet little support for 400 festivities last year.

    – Canada’s Loyalist and most Irish city

    – Get to explore a town at is all Irving, has great seafood, is at a cross roads in developing its waterfront, and can enjoy a beer from Canada oldest and now largest truly Canadian brewery!!

    – if you want to get into the politics of it all – a provincial government that lost the popular vote in the last election – and oh the history – english vs. French, Brinklin cars, Saint John shipbuilding, KC Irving’s empire, the great fire. etc etc.

    Check it out!!

  14. Ah yes, Kingston. The city that, when faced with the problems of the 21st century (slowing growth in population, a research university in need of local private-sector partners for innovation and tech transfer, the need for infrastructure renewal), boldly decided to….build a big, useless, taxpayer-subsidized arena.

    No knock on Kingston itself, or its many disproportionately excellent restaurants. And the arena, while big and useless and taxpayer-subsidized, is really quite nice. But the only things stopping it from being the most poorly-run city in Canada is the continued unfortunate existence of Ottawa municipal government.

  15. If there is any place in Canada right now that most typifies the description of being at a turning point it is Saskatchewan, and more specifically Saskatoon.

    Of course the resource sector boom is foremost on most people’s minds, but there are a lot of other changes going on here which a lot of your readers may not be aware of. Before us we have some of the largest opportunities and biggest challenges of anywhere in the country; it is not the same Saskatchewan (or Saskatoon) that it was a generation ago.

    Come visit Paul – it will make for a great story!

  16. I doubt Ralph Klein went to the King Eddy — his favourite haunt was the St. Louis.

    But the Eddy was fantastic. You could see Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, or Gatemouth Brown in a small bar with terrycloth on the tables and a biker ambience. On the dance floor you were maybe 5 feet from the band. At one point a US-based magazine rated it the #2 blues bar in North America — amen!