Opinions

Calgary nowhere near world class

Re: "Enjoy it while it lasts," Aug. 14, 2003,

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Calgary has a very serious problem. You called this the "biggest small town in the world" and that is the complete truth. Calgary is not a city. Having a large population doesn't guarantee you a seat in the league of world class cities. Calgary is lacking in culture, counterculture and tolerance towards diversity. The core of the city seems to shut down at about 8 p.m. Everywhere you look you see very young families, doing what every other very young family is doing--from my suite's window that seems to be floating down the Bow River sideways in an inflatable Canadian Tire $15 special.

World class cities do better than this.

They create new experiences, new art, new knowledge. People flock to them because they offer more than mere commerce, which, in Calgary, is centred solely around the petroleum-junkies. People stay out late, walk on the side walks, explore the independent shops. People graffiti! People have messages to spread and art to create, yet every week those messages are white washed to keep the look of the city "pure." Life is harsh and beautiful, but it is safe.

I have personally never been more scared in a city than I am at 2 a.m. walking down 4 Ave. This is due to a lack of eyeballs. People keep a city safe, not extreme numbers of police, special constables, transit police, by-law officers and who knows what other form of law enforcement I have yet to encounter. People walking on the sidewalks, looking out their windows, driving their cars--these people keep the city safe. Without the diversity of non-nine-to-five-businesses in the core, open late, Calgary's violence will continue to escalate.

Recent stabbings and drive-by shootings are not the beginning, they're not even the chill you feel before a thunderstorm.

I left Toronto because I didn't believe in it. After recently moving to Calgary (for work and school) I discovered my negative feelings for Toronto were due to a lack of understanding. Yes, I know most people west of Ontario loathe Toronto, but I have yet to figure out why. Perhaps they don't understand it.

After moving here, I now understand why Toronto is safe (both in my mind and according to Stats Canada), why the people are truly amazing in their social interactions such that they transcend culture, and why it is considered by some to be a world class city.

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Really, how can you not beleive in Toronto? I'm 100% certain it exists.

v. intr.
To have firm faith, especially religious faith.

To have faith, confidence, or trust: I believe in your ability to solve the problem.

To have confidence in the truth or value of something: We believe in free speech.

There is little basis for argument that Calgary is not as 'world class' of a city as Toronto. While there is equally little grounds to call Calgary a tiny hick town in the praries (1988, The Exhibition & Stampede, etc.), in terms of sheer size we just can't compare to T.Dot. Hell, a great number of people not well acquainted with Canada think of Toronto as our capital city; I think that says something about how it is seen in the world.

I will concede that Calgary is lacking in tolerance of diversity. It isn't a big secret that Alberta is the home of social conservatism in this country. Claiming we are lacking in culture and counterculture is a little tenuous, but I guess that all depends on your definition right?

What I really wanted to point out with this comment is the hypocritical loophole in the last parts of your letter. You thought so negatively of Toronto that you left it for (of all places) Calgary, only to discover afterwards that your disdain for your home city was because of a lack of understanding. Don't you then think it's possible that your fears and belittling of Calgary might also be due in part to you not understanding IT either?

I've lived in Calgary all my life, and also have family that I've visited in Toronto. I've seen the differences between the cities, and it's apples and oranges to me. They both offer things the other doesn't, and they both have problems the other doesn't.

Calgary may not be a world class city, but it is certainly a city. Maybe if you can get over your prejudices about this place, and explore a little bit, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find. After all, we're really talking about tolerance for diversity, aren't we?

Sorry - should learn to edit. The first line in my above comment should read:

"There is little basis for argument that Calgary IS AS 'world class' of a city as Toronto."

Sorry again for confusion.

This piece was written in response to an editorial raising questions about why the the City of Calgary was changing for the worse as urban sprawl and population growth climbs. The argument made in my response was not that Toronto is superior, but that there are things to be learnt to help Calgary develop in the right direction or possibly face a severe decline in the quality of life.

Of course even the smallest towns have pockets of counterculture. But the way that they fit in and interact with the city is important. The strongest political dissidence comes from the members of the countercultures, yet their messages are barely visible. Some of the tolerance that I speak of includes the courage of the city to allow these voices to be heard.

It should be made clear that I have been a resident of Toronto only over the past 7 years and that I grew up in a city 1/3 the size of Calgary. The negative feelings are for the superficial, greedy, capitalistic nature of Toronto. This is something that is not about to change. My epiphany occurred when I was able to see beyond the obvious. I agree that I do not yet fully understand or appreciate Calgary. But my message relative to the editorial piece was that Calgary needs to become conscious of the changes occurring, population and otherwise, and that trying to keep things like the good old days is dangerous to everyones safety. Duplicating Toronto is not something to strive towards, I am merely suggesting that observing other large and safe cities will help individuals appreciate the transformation that has been taking place in Calgary.

Until I move on to a new city I fully intend to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of Calgary. For those who intend to stay and develop this city I sincerely hope that they do this without blinders and without clinging to the past.

Calgary needs more graffiti, while we're at it why don't we recruit more asian gangs, murders, and drug addicts. No thanks I think Calgary is doing just fine. Besides I could care less if we have fewer of those artsy fartsy arts and culture kind of people in Calgary anyway.

Kris Foster, panderer of attention. I would just like to add in that by me responding to this letter does not mean that I don't realize this guy is pandering for attention. I probably should have known better and ignored his request for attention, but I thought I'd put my 2 bits in anyway.

Hey Kris, I was checking out transitory.org, and somehow ended up reading this feed. I must say I fully agree with the point you made so eloquently, about subculture and the integration of community and commerce - as opposed to a sterile static industry based economy.

ONE LOVE KIDD