13 September 2003

Toronto versus Hamilton

Last evening I was in Toronto representing Redeemer University College at a banquet celebrating the 40th anniversary of Citizens for Public Justice. The event took place on the campus of the University of St. Michael's College.

I do not get to Toronto at all often these days, although I lived there for the two years I was studying at the Institute for Christian Studies. I loved living in Toronto, which is, as many Torontonians love to boast, a world class city. It is Canada's largest city and boasts a number of attractions, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, St. Lawrence Market, Kensington Market, Greektown, Chinatown, High Park, Queen's Park, and of course such popular tourist destinations as the Sky Dome and the CN Tower.

Toronto is filled with myriad ethnic neighbourhoods, along with the restaurants featuring their distinctive cuisines. There are lots of used book stores, and the University of Toronto Bookstore, right across the street from the ICS. And of course I love the public transportation system. At one time it could be said that Toronto was one of a very few North American urban centres featuring a more-or-less complete streetcar system. Now other cities have gotten back on the bandwagon with what they call light rail transit.

Then there's Hamilton, which is often thought to be Toronto's lesser, blue collar counterpart at the western end of Lake Ontario. I have lived in Hamilton for 16 years, and I do not believe this city has anything to feel inferior about. To begin with, Hamilton has more natural scenic beauty than Toronto. Most spectacularly we have the Royal Botanical Gardens, which I first visited way back in 1971. (I nearly lost my glasses at the Rock Garden!) Much of the scenery revolves around the Niagara Escarpment, a clifflike geological structure that cuts through the city on its journey from Niagara Falls to the Bruce Peninsula on Lake Huron. This makes for a large number of waterfalls located at various spots along the escarpment, including Websters Falls, Spencer Gorge and Sherman Falls.

Hamilton boasts a number of rail trails cutting through the Dundas Valley Conservation Area. These are ideal for walking and bicycling. Then there are the historic sites, such as Dundurn Castle and the Battlefield House Museum in Stoney Creek.

One can hardly beat the view from Highway 403 as one enters Hamilton from the direction of Toronto: Cootes Paradise is at the right, the escarpment is in the distance, and the neogothic spires of the Cathedral of Christ the King are at the left. Very impressive indeed.

Finally, Hamilton is a much more affordable place to live. Housing prices in Toronto are sky high, making it difficult for people from the outside to move in unless they have an exceedingly well-paying job. When all is said and done, Hamilton is a fine place to live.

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