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Small town attitudes in a global economy…

April 22, 2013

Being from small-town rural Ontario, having grown up on a small 200 acre mixed farm situated on marginal land of the Canadian Shield of eastern Ontario, I get how small town people can get pissed off at big-city people.

When Toronto-folk think of my small town, Bancroft, (if they ever think of it at all), it is of cottages and lakes and not much else. They assume for the most part that the locals are ill-educated, in-bred, and ignorant of the latest fois gras recipe. I have heard tourists remark with surprise that we actually have a Loblaws, a Canadian Tire, and a decent sized liquor store. (Now Bancroft even has a Tim Horton’s.) 

So, I get that Haligonians have beef with Toronto. It’s big. Diverse. Multi-cultural. Self-absorbed.

But you know what, Haligonians!? You have to be able to detect the wheat from the chaff. You have to stop jumping down my throat simply because I moved here from Toronto!

Today, at the local liquor store – the NSLC at Sobey’s – the woman who works there gave us a copy of the new spring edition of NSLC’s lifestyle magazine called ‘Occasions’. When I thanked her and replied with a “Oh yea, we have a similar magazine at the liquor stores in Toronto”, she almost lost an eye socket!

Simply saying the word Toronto seemed to put her into a fever. Her eye actually started to twitch.

And at a recent job interview for the city of Halifax, when I mentioned “this was how I had approached a certain community project when I worked in Regent Park, in Toronto” one of the women actually stopped me in mid-sentence to say “I don’t care how you did things in Toronto.” (Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.)

Now, I admit that I have seen Torontonians do the same thing when you talk to them about your weekend trip to New York City, and how New York actually has museums, and interesting neighbourhoods and such, or comment that Portland is about a decade more progressive than Toronto is when it comes to environmental and cycling issues. But it is almost always cloaked with envy.

Here, there is a straight-out hostility about it. An insecurity that is deeply rooted. When we were on the bus one day going to the Value Village in Dartmouth, my girlfriend asked an older lady if she knew exactly which stop would be closest, and when the lady replied with a “Oh, where are you from dear”, and when my girlfriend said Toronto, the lady said with a snip “that’s a pity” and turned back to her friend.

Maybe the hostility comes from the fact that the Maritime economy sucks air – and that it is somehow my fault everyone is leaving for greener pastures. Maybe people here hear Toronto and think of Bay Street cockroaches and how Corporate Canada has turned its back on the Maritimes. And if you are here from Toronto, you must be one of them, for you ain’t one of us.

The sad fact is, in the current capitalist model, the Maritimes continue to be in a long slow economic decline into tourism and a retirement destination. Its population is contracting, its schools are closing, its churches are closing, the jobs are all flowing west.

But that’s not my fault! I’ve lived and worked in a lot of places besides Toronto. Toronto just happens to be the last place I worked before I was here. And I was just trying to make friendly banter while we were buying some wine for a dinner party.

Ya gotta lose the small-town chip on the shoulder Halifax. Focus more on the small town qualities that are worth sharing with the world: honesty, neighbourliness, hard work.

Lose the inferiority complex. The close-mindedness. The racism.

They’re distasteful.

And bad for business. 


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