this blog entry has been updated
The Spectator published an opinion column yesterday that caught my attention.
[I]s it any surprise Quebec is dying on the vine?
For the last 40 years, they have been driving everyone out of the province who didn't buy into separatist ideals and only wanted those who did. The message was quite clear. The welcome mat was in French only. If you don't buy in, we don't want you.
Families and businesses, large and small, have been quietly leaving for years; the recession has merely been the latest catalyst following anxious referendum threats, high taxes, corruption and deteriorating infrastructure.
And let's not forget the soft nationalists. Those are Quebecers who don't really want to separate from Canada but don't mind holding a gun to the head of the rest of the country, saying they'll keep it there until they get what they want.
This isn't a Hamilton-specific issue, but as an observer of urban politics and economic performance, I was kind of perplexed by the assumptions being made, especially given our own very lacklustre growth in the past few decades.
Canada is an urban nation, and for better or worse, our provinces are judged on the merits of our biggest cities. One could easily make the case that we are in much worse shape than statistics show if we were to focus on the extreme poverty, addictions and lack of education or employment in our smallest northern towns in many provinces.
The author notes that Ontario's cities, and especially Toronto, are still the dominant force in Canada. Solely based on population growth, this could seem an easy assumption. But what about economic growth, education opportunities, livability, affordability, quality of life, safety, culture, transportation and the many other factors that help determine whether 'people want to live there'?
So then, let's check a few Montreal-specific stats to gauge the heartbeat of Quebec's economy.
First, the City and its Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) continue to grow. At current rates, the CMA will pass 4 million by the next census.
Similarly, the economy continues to grow and is very diversified, with major sectors ranging from culture to education to oil refining, aerospace and technology. The city has already succeeded in revitalizing run-down neighbourhoods through the video game industry.
Montreal also enjoys higher quality-of-life rankings than any western Canadian city aside from Vancouver, which always tops the charts.
Considering this is simply an opinion piece in response to an opinion piece, let me by completely upfront and state that Montreal is, in my view, the best city in Canada. By far.
Located here in Hamilton, we should aspire to develop our city in such a human scaled, vibrant, lively model as Montreal.
The fact that its Metro still moves more people than the TTC, despite larger population numbers in Toronto, speaks to the effectiveness of their system and for their ability, for the most part, to develop and redevelop urban neighbourhoods instead of simply sprawling across the countryside endlessly.
One visit to Montreal will make it clear that you're in a Canadian city like no other.
It's easy to look simply at population numbers and assume that Toronto and Ontario have done everything right, but at ground level, the story can be much different.
Do we in Hamilton have any room to be bragging, or putting down our most storied urban city, considering the fact that our city still looks like a 1970s Soviet centre and has struggled to barely grow, all while in the heart of Canada's 'boom' region?
No city is perfect, and let's be clear, I love Hamilton. Period. But if I had to choose one city on the planet to model Hamilton's revitalization after, it would be Montreal. Heck, even our geography is similar!
Downtown Montreal from the top of Mount Royal (Image Credit: Shutterstock)
From this little corner in downtown Hamilton, I've got nothing but love for Canada's most beautiful city...and an eye to replicating some of that success here in our own stunning city
Downtown Hamilton from the Escarpment (Image Credit: Ray Love/Flickr)
Update: updated to add proper credit to Ray Love for the photograph of downtown Hamilton.
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