MoneySense, a well respected Canadian online personal finance and lifestyle magazine, recently selected Oakville, Ontario as the best place to live in Canada. With that revelation in mind, has the time come to decamp to my old stomping grounds in that city, where as a wide-eyed lad just out of university I was gainfully employed for the better part of 25 years?
Undeniably, with an abundance of leafy streets, stately mansions and an impressive harbour perched on the north shore of Lake Ontario, the community is in a class of its own. In addition, Oakville is blessed with upscale restaurants, pubs, sporting opportunities of every description, and top-drawer union jobs at the Ford assembly plant. Still, Oakville’s attractiveness has to be weighed against traffic congestion, urban sprawl, record-breaking cold winters and the energy-sapping humidity of southern Ontario summers.
The folks at MoneySense ranked Squamish forty-ninth nationally as the best place to live and third provincially behind Fort St. John and Whistler. Living in Fort St. John has many advantages but the city is considerably removed from the beaten path, and the climate can be challenging. In one 24 hour period last March the amount of snow that fell almost eclipsed the average for the whole month.
According to a CBC report, Fort St. John has been re-imaging itself as a “winter city,” by “tapping into principles of urban design and community spirit to help light up the darker months.”
Closer to home, although Whistler has plenty of cachets, getting established in the local housing market is not for the faint of wallet. As well, rightly or wrongly, the question remains: what are the long-term prospects of staying put in a flashy tourist fishbowl?
All things considered, beyond its stunning natural endowment, Squamish has more than enough upside. It still bears some of the earmarks of a frontier town whose inhabitants insist on extending the boundaries of the possible. This is a place where people come to reinvent themselves and where disruptive trailblazers find their calling.
Members of that group founded Quest University and launched the highly successful Sea to Sky Gondola operation. They engineered a cutting-edge facility on the Squamish Oceanfront that captures CO₂ from the atmosphere and synthesizes it into clean, affordable transportation fuels. They have also incubated a growing number of digital enterprises, as well as traditional bricks-and-mortar start-ups. Among their ranks are niche restaurateurs, distillers, craft brewers and entrepreneurs who are ready to gain a foothold in the soon-to-be legalized billion dollar B.C. bud industry.
But let’s tiptoe that encouraging narrative back a bit. As we all know, not everyone is enthused about the rapid transformation Squamish is undergoing. Hyper development, the high cost of housing, and the proliferation of low wage retail/service sector jobs are causing more than a few disenchanted residents to head for the exits.
On their way out, they will bump into an equal or greater number of fellow travellers busting the door down to live here.