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Halifax could have been home — but wasn’t: Matt Elliott on why Toronto is better

Construction cranes feature on the skyline in Toronto on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
Construction cranes feature on the skyline in Toronto on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.

In his latest column, Metro Halifax columnist Tristan Cleveland explains why his Maritime city has the edge on Toronto. As Metro’s designated defender of the 6ix, I’ve got two words for him: little flags.

Yeah, flags. If you aren’t aware, Halifax’s approach to pedestrian safety has included installing baskets with little orange flags at busy crosswalks. To be visible to drivers, pedestrians are told to grab a flag and wave it about, as if to signal that they are very patriotic about the act of crossing the road.

I should probably end this column here. Any city that takes a flag-based approach to pedestrian mobility just can’t measure up to Canada’s largest city.

But if the flags somehow aren’t enough to convince, here are a few other reasons why the so-called “beasts in the east” have nothing on us proud inhabitants of the centre of the universe.

1. Toronto has a transit network

I spent four years living in Halifax during my time in university more than a decade ago. We were cash-strapped and car-free, but my friends and I almost never used transit to get around. Halifax buses are slow, and many take winding, circuitous routes. I’ll take streetcars over that any day.

2. A mixed-use downtown

Speaking of transit, the times I did venture onto the bus it was always to go to Bayer’s Lake, the collection of stores located in a sad Halifax industrial park. Downtown Halifax has a great bar scene, but why do you need to venture 10 kilometres outside of downtown to buy a toaster oven?

3. Not enough cranes

As a big fan of construction cranes and urban density, it’s puzzling to see only modest growth in the prime area around the Halifax harbour. A lack of new housing in the core factored into most of my Maritime friends decamping to the suburbs. A quick tip from a city with a growing core: building new downtown condos and rental apartments can help with that.

4. Big city size

It’s cute that Halifax is so proud of its new central library. It’s very nice. But Halifax has 14 library branches, while Toronto has 100. It almost seems unfair to compare these cities; they’re in entirely different weight classes.

5. Halifax could have been home — but wasn’t

I throw some shade at Halifax, but here’s my secret: for me, the most frustrating thing about Halifax is that I had to leave it. I loved my time in the city but, like so many other young people, I found there just weren’t enough job opportunities to keep me there.

I know that’s changing, and while it’s gratifying to hear about progress, it’s still bittersweet. Toronto has been so good to me, but had the timing been different — if the jobs and the growth had been there — Halifax could have been my home.

But I’d still want them to get rid of those silly flags.

This post was originally published at on 2017-07-10T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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