Setting Ourselves Apart

By Jason Leach
Published June 30, 2005

We regularly hear about how Vancouver, BC is ranked the most livable city in the world, but too many folks in Ontario are quick to dismiss this prestigious award as 'luck' by the proximity of the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Ocean.

Make no mistake:­ Vancouver isn't great just because of its natural setting. The people and the high standards of urban development are what set this city apart from most others.

Certainly it sets them apart from all others in Canada and light years ahead of us in Ontario, where we still drool over big box stores and cardboard box suburban homes sprawling across the countryside.

Vancouver decided years ago to focus on light rail and creating walkable, cycling friendly neighbourhoods instead of mega-highways like L.A. or the Golden Horseshoe here in Ontario.

Now, 30 years later,­ they are basking in the beauty of the most livable city on earth, while we shatter records for smog alerts, traffic congestion and paved-over farmland.

It doesn't take a genius to see the correlation between the development practices of each region as the singularly biggest reason for Hamilton's downtown to be in the condition it is in, while Vancouver thrives.

Past articles on RTH showed how narrow-minded and illogical the thought process has become in our city,. The head of our Home Builders Association continues to argue against urban infill and intensification with the following logic: "it will harm and destabilize existing neighbourhoods."

Is this guy for real? Unfortunately, yes he is. And furthermore, Hamilton city council seems to agree with him.

While Toronto acknowledges its lack of proper growth and planning in recent decades and now pledges to add its next one million residents within the existing urban boundary, Hamilton council is pushing, poking and prodding the province at all angles to allow us to house less than the required 40 percent of future growth in the existing urban area.

In other words,­ they want more sprawl. Despite all the evidence to show the devastating effects of sprawl on health, social development, crime, downtown decay and pollution, Hamilton council wants to continue as much as possible in the same manner as the past 25 years.

I believe there are two main reasons for this.

  1. The homebuilders want it that way, and they ultimately run city hall since they fund the election campaigns of pro-sprawl councillors.
  2. You and I, the electorate ­the ones who are supposed to be in charge, continue to allow them to destroy our city.

Why? I suppose most Hamiltonians don't care about the future of our city. It's really that simple. Sure, there may be other factors involved, but at the end of the day, if we could get Hamiltonians off their duffs and actually toss out these ancient wonders from city hall, our city would have a fighting chance.

Vancouver is the second most densely populated city in North America after Manhattan, yet it continues to be voted the most livable city in the world. Hmmm, so much for Mr. DeSantis' theory about "destabilizing" neighbourhoods.

Let's put aside the rhetoric for a moment and look at the facts:­ the practices of Hamilton's developers have destabilized urban neighbourhoods all throughout this city for the past 20 years, while Vancouver continues to shore up the livability factor in their already great neighbourhoods, and now begins to turn their attention to the neglected downtown eastside.

Will Hamilton ever learn?

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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