Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ottawa: Second-best town in Canada

It's my home town, and my family has lived in the area since the 1850s.
It has three and a half wonderful months of the year (the summer). It's a great place for boating, though that part of Georgian Bay is getting pretty crowded. House prices are low. But it rains constantly in the spring and fall and has an incredible snowfall in the winter. No jobs. No higher education. A great place for retired snowbirds and not much else. The temptation to go back hits every few months, but Moneysense is right to rank it 140 out of 145 Canadian communities.
But you have to take all these surveys with a grain of salt. I loved living in Midland. Yea, the weather tends to be dreary but I like the history of the region and its natural beauty (which, I'm afraid, is quickly getting built over and fenced off). I just don't want my kids to have to leave home at 18 to go to university. The nearest one is 90 miles away, in Toronto. And it's York, for God's sake.
But I have friends who moved to the Midland area and probably will never leave. They are self-employed, well-connected to the community, and somewhat out-doorsy. They aren't victims of Midland-Penetang's dying manufacturing sector, and they take advantage of the natural assets of the region. As the Hurons said about Huronia, it really is a land apart.
A good friend of mine lives in Terrace BC, pegged by Moneysense as the worst town in Canada. He loves it. He works on fossils, fishes salmon in the Skeena River, and never has a bad thing to say about the place.
I like Ottawa. It has everything I need. It's not cheap and it's not warm and friendly. The civil service mentality and the sense of entitlement of middle-class Ottawans is hard to take. So is the ignorance of the inbred local population. There's lots of Francophone attitude, especially on the Hill, where speaking English is discouraged. The cabbies are scary, and, if you're a good looking female university student wanting a ride home from a bar, they're dangerous. The winters are far colder than Midland's. I'd take the snow in Midland over the subzero temperatures of Ottawa any day. But with the incredible beauty of the Gatineau Hills twenty minutes away, two universities, Parliament, great career opportunities for my wife and me, and the National Archives just up the street, this place works for me.

As for Victoria, which placed No. 1: I would be bored out of my skull there, although, yes, I would enjoy the cooler summers and the milder winters.


Anonymous said...

Hey Mark. I'm still in Midland. Everything you say about the place is correct, of course. I will have to check how those rankings were arrived at, but I am surprised that both my home town of Thunder Bay and the good city of Cornwall, which I have spent a hell of a lot of time in over the years (lot of family there) had a better showing. I might think differently if we depended on the now-miniscule industrial base in Midland for our livelihoods ... but there thousands in Cornwall and the Lakehead who can say the same thing.

Anonymous said...

I think Midland is the 9-th worst town because the index goes down to 155 with Port Alberni at rock bottom. Victoria was the most pleasant cities I visited but Kingston is way over-rated with little industry, a rapidly detoriating downtown, and a bunch of snotty civil servants. Winnipeg is very crime-ridden and you don't want to live in the North end or even park your car there.

bookwoman said...

Hey Mark: Victoria is great if you are rich. I was there last May and found it scuzzy. I'm not a Midland fan, but very keen on the Georgian Bay area, including Penetangushene. But don't tell anyone. We have all the people we need. Don't know what your issue is about the kids leaving. I think that's the plus of living in a small town. Love you kids, bye, bye.

Peter Dudley said...


There are many things about Ottawa I dislike, but now that I am mortgage free, I can live with them. Not about to take out a life-sucking bank loan to live in the centre of the universe (or anywhere else for that matter). I'll spend that money on travel.

Anonymous said...

Find it odd that Midland ranks so far behind Barrie, Orillia and Collingwood. Midland is a worse place to live than Kenora, Baie Comeau or Val D'or. Hard to fathom.

Realtor in Canada said...

I love visiting Ottawa in the summers, it truly is a beautiful place and there is loads of stuff to do. Love it!

Take care, Julie

Anonymous said...

Continuing the "Dowsett Johnson" style of top 10 list journalism just debases the complexity of the subject they are covering.

Check out this dreck on why they think Ottawa has "buzz": "The secret source of Ottawa’s buzz? Probably its two major universities. Unlike bureaucrats, students definitely know how to have fun."

Ottawa Watch said...

Actually, they don't. They get drunk. They puke. They fall down.
The student joints don't add much to the community and student ghettos are dreadful places to live. Student rentals have a corrosive effect on neighbourhoods. The kids are loud, they're often inconsiderate, and landlords let student rental properties fall apart.

Ottawa Watch said...

And I would much rather live in Midland than Barrie, a truly ugly and souless town, Orillia, a pretty but impoverished and culturally arid place, and Collingwood, which has been over-built with ugly, tacky ski condos.
I spent a big part of my childhood in Collingwood. It was a great working community, with a cannery, a big shipyard, a distillery and many other industries. Now it's just crappy, and the tourists are annoying and insipid.