Playing catch-up with other cities

Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

As John Gushue points out in a recent article on the CBC website, the transformation St. John’s has undergone in the past few years has not quite matched the revolution we were led to expect after Hebron came through.

I propose, however, that the presence or absence of money was never going to be the sole source of change; rather, once the population of this city swells with young workers from outside Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada, combined with the children of families now able to stay to work, this city could become unrecognizable, in a good way.

A look at other cities of comparable size in Canada gives us a taste of what we might look forward to.

There could be more science museums (Regina has two), more art museums and galleries (Kelowna has four), and small cinemas (Barrie has two).

Canadian music rivals the world’s best, but St. John’s has not yet had a glimpse of Japandroids, Purity Ring (both have played Saskatoon), or Crystal Castles (who have played Halifax).

Kingston’s FM dial enjoys a healthy variety.

Kelowna’s public transit is admirably adaptive.

Regina and Kingston have both ranked highly on “quality of life” lists, due to characteristics (such as vitality and after hours activities) we can and should emulate.

Most galling, given that St. John’s is partly a college town and should want to capitalize on it, are the seven universities residing in a city merely twice our size: Halifax.

If that seems like a high bar, we can settle for a mere two (like Sherbrooke and Kingston).

Beyond that, more beautiful architecture (such as Sherbrooke’s Vieux-Nord), carefully sculpted green spaces (like Regina’s), and an innovative and competitive economy (such as Kelowna’s) should be on our wish lists.

These are the privileges enjoyed by Canadian cities that match our current size.

Soon we may outgrow them and set our sights even higher. But first, time to catch up.

Keith Hannaford

St. John’s

Organizations: CBC

Geographic location: Kelowna, Canada, Kingston Newfoundland and Labrador Barrie Saskatoon

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Willy
    April 16, 2013 - 05:06

    Catch up to what sounds like a lot of blind ambition to me.

  • Brian
    April 15, 2013 - 09:03

    Most of these examples cities are near-by urban centres, such as Vancouver and Toronto, which externalizes the urban core decline for which St. John's is predictably going through now. St. John's will bleed income while supporting the suburbs, whose particular American-style fear of taxation and refusal to work on regional development (particularly transit) means a lot of pressure within the city limits proper. Poverty related incidents are (and will continue to) be on the rise, which moves middle earners and families outward while the downtown ages stratify to the old and young. The area between the highway and downtown will rise in value as the richer move into this belt, which holds the seat of government and the colleges/university. Mount Pearl will probably benefit the most, likely to see rapidly increasing density as they run out of land - maybe they'll even clean-up the mess that is Commonwealth Ave.

    • Keith Hannaford
      April 15, 2013 - 11:00

      You are wrong about the location of the cities I chose; I did so precisely because they are largely standalone, as is St. John's. Regina and Saskatoon are somewhat near each other, but do not share an economic area as they are roughly similar in size. Kelowna is isolated, as is Halifax. Kingston is a fair distance from Ottawa and Toronto, as is Sherbrooke from Montreal. Nothing can stand in exactly, but I think these are the best examples.

  • Ken Collis
    April 15, 2013 - 07:49

    People will come from near and far to witness the million dollar waterfront fence. It will be a marvel to behold. The rooms will be crowded with visitors due to shortened opening times because of the cutbacks by government. Engineers will flock to the city to learn how not to develop a major sewer handling facility. The potholes will become tourist attractions due to size and numbers. Our downtown green spaces will be freshly painted that colour every spring. Oh, my. I just can't wait for the wonderful changes that make everything so much better for the folks who pay for this.

  • Copes
    April 14, 2013 - 09:51

    We have a major advantage only have 1 larger University instead of seven. The provincial governments funding is all poured into one institution, where as in Nova Scotia it is split among many. Due to the much smaller amounts of funding each NS school gets, they have to make money other ways. How? Tuition. Memorial is drawing a HUGE number of out-of-province students, many of whom end up staying (myself included. I came from Nova Scotia because tuition is too high. I graduated, not I work here.) Suggesting more Universities would be a good thing, just for the sake of having more, is a bit silly.

  • cashin
    April 14, 2013 - 07:05

    Since I moved here 2 years ago I have met extremely motivated people who can do little because of the tangle weave that is the government here. Big business has it's had so deep in the governments pockets it's like provincial government is it's own business. City hall is the main store and like most big business very little is seen from their profits. Red tape prevents much happening, besides sheer exhaustion that comes with dealing with their undereducated officials who got their jobs via friends or family back in the day when their was no one else qualified to take it. There is also the problem that this is now most older business is run in the city.

    • Redgrave
      April 15, 2013 - 10:05

      I noticed that the first week I arrived in Newfoundland . Protectionism, grandfathering, families holding onto key positions with whatever tactics necessary for self preservation. All this will change over time. China will make sure of that.

  • Phil C
    April 13, 2013 - 22:36

    I want mustard.

  • The Red Flag
    April 13, 2013 - 16:23

    Yet we have more culture and more sights to see in St.Johns then even Toronto does. While we are lagging behind miserably in terms of public transit and art museums we do have something that none of these cities have or could ever buy. Which is a distinct culture with a very long tradition and one that is very different from any other place in Canada. We could do with a larger variety of restaurants, having a much later closing hour for bars or neither one at all, and slashing the cost of cabs wouldn't hurt either as St.Johns is the most expensive city to get into a cab in all of Canada. But on the whole ask people where they would rather visit Toronto or St.Johns and 9 out of 10 people will answer St.Johns.

  • Christopher Chafe
    April 13, 2013 - 13:49

    But you are forgetting that the select clique ruining this city care not about catching up to other cities, all they care for is becoming more like quaint European post cards.

  • saelcove
    April 13, 2013 - 10:24

    But people do not want catch up