Despite the obvious problem of sprawl still existing in a big way across Canada, Hamiltonians should take heart that the bleeding has finally stopped.
By Jason Leach
Published March 19, 2007
It's that time again: the Canadian Census results are in from 2006.
I find it incredible how our media has recently done a great job of informing people about the financial and health risks with unchecked suburban sprawl, but at census time everyone falls all over themselves proclaiming the big 'winners' based on the highest amounts of this expensive, damaging form of 'growth'.
First let me say that these censuses are not an exact science. For example, in Hamilton we're being told that the Ainslie Wood neighbourhood in West Hamilton saw a population drop of 24 percent. The reason? Single family homes were being bought by landlords who would then cram four, six, eight or ten students into each house.
I'm not too sure how taking families consisting of 2.2 people and replacing them with six people results in a population decrease. Perhaps students weren't too diligent at filling out their census forms. The horror.
Some notable quotes from the census aftermath:
Do you think? Tom only needs to look out his window in Milton to confirm that statement. Speaking of Milton, Canada's fastest growing city, here is a lovely picture of that boomtown:
Builders at work March 13, 2007 on the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Milton, Canada's fastest growing city. (Image Credit: Toronto Star)
Funny timing, but I was sitting in the Locke Street bakery on Monday reading the paper and overheard part of a conversation between two fellas beside me.
One of them lived in Ancaster and mentioned, "Up there you see people in the grocery store who won't say hi to anyone and try to wear all this fancy stuff and act rich, and then you see the regular working folks who are living insane lives trying to afford their home and cars. Down here (downtown Hamilton) you see a bit of everything. Rich, poor, young, old, hip, techies, vegans, etc..."
I wonder if I would be considered 'riff-raff' in the Meadowlands? I don't walk around (check that: drive around) wearing gaudy jewelry or have a dog with shoes and a coat on. Does that qualify?
More pictures to check out. This time there is one shot of the downtrodden slum of Ainslie Wood and the other one is of the Meadowlands:
The Ainslie Wood area of Hamilton had the city's sharpest drop. (Image Credit: Hamilton Spectator)
The Meadowlands in Ancaster was the city's fastest-growing area. (Image Credit: Hamilton Spectator)
In the Ainslie Wood photo I see a huge tree in the background behind a bus, a pedestrian, a cyclist and a pleasant streetscape. In the Meadowlands photo I see a rooftop, a rooftop, a rooftop, a car and another rooftop.
Yep, no bike-riding riff-raff there.
In other words, before you listen to Hamilton's media get crazy about how rotten our city must be, let's remember one thing: sprawl is the problem.
Cities aren't the problem. Toronto's population grew less than Hamilton's, but both cities saw their population grow just like in every other census. This isn't 1970s Detroit. People aren't running for their lives.
People are still moving into our cities and most notably – our downtowns. The key is to halt the land-wasting 'growth' in the suburbs and start building smart communities that use land, infrastructure and resources properly.
No, this isn't a Hamilton or Toronto resident talking (Hamilton has two full grocery stores, the Farmers Market and several smaller food markets downtown).
This is a resident of Canada's supposed new boomtown – Milton.
When will Canadians realize that increasing numbers doesn't always equal 'growth'? Dumb, unplanned, harmful 'growth' is just that. Put it on the front page. Call it Boomtown Ontario or Boomtown Alberta if you like.
In real life it's anything but. It's damaging socially, economically, financially and environmentally.
Finally, before you listen to nonsense like this:
Check the facts: a bright spot for Hamilton is the 2.6 per cent increase in the population of the downtown core from 2001 to 2006. That's on top of a 10 per cent rise in the five years previous to that.
"It's a great sign," Eisenberger said. "We are on the right path."
Downtown Hamilton is enjoying steady growth more than most stable, urban neighbourhoods in Hamilton or Toronto. Whew! I was starting to feel like a bad husband for allowing my wife and kids to walk down the street and play in the park with all the other kids who walked there too.
Heck, we've even walked home from the Market and Jackson Square on several occasions. We're lucky to be alive!
I think 2006 confirms the continuation of a great trend that began in 2001 in Hamilton. Every other census in my lifetime we would see many areas in the lower city with the deep orange (greater than ten percent loss) colour signaling a mass exodus from our older neighbourhoods.
It was always the suburbs and Mountain that were filled with the dark purples and boundless growth at the expense of the city.
I'm confident that Ainslie Wood has a higher population now than it did in 2001, not lower. That leaves two Mountain tracts as the only areas in the city with losses greater than ten percent.
Also, there are 11 lower city tracts (between Hwy 403 and Centennial Pkwy) with gains between zero and ten percent. Ten such tracts exist on the Mountain, north of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway where things are pretty much built out.
I believe this confirms the beginning of a more sustainable growth pattern within the older city of Hamilton. People are rediscovering our urban, lower city neighbourhoods. I truly didn't expect this to happen until the city enforced a strict urban boundary, but obviously it has begun over the past ten years.
Now would be the ideal time to enforce that boundary. People are moving back into the city and with proper leadership at city hall we could begin to see more lower city and north mountain tracts bump up their populations in future census' with proper infill and higher density development along the nodes and corridors plan put forth by GRIDS.
Despite the obvious problem of sprawl still existing in a big way across Canada, Hamiltonians should take heart that the bleeding has finally stopped. Downtown has posted gains for ten straight years and now other lower city neighbourhoods are turning around as well.
Happy Census 2006.
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