Farewell (once again) to Nova Scotia

A converted, admiring Torontonian looks longingly at a culture and city that I wish I could be a part of year-round.

Ted Fraser is a Halifax native going into his third year at the University of Toronto. - SUBMITTED
Ted Fraser is a Halifax native going into his third year at the University of Toronto.

Joseph Howe said that “if you take any Nova Scotian away...where he cannot view the Atlantic, smell salt water or see the sail of a ship, the man will pine and die.”

Howe connected Nova Scotia by print and rail, secured responsible government and acted as an eloquent spokesperson for the province. He was also opinionated—in 1840, he dueled a critic at Point Pleasant Park and lost, just narrowly dodging his opponent’s bullet.

Howe’s fearlessness and patriotism make anyone else’s contributions seem minor. I’m tethered to the University of Toronto for eight months of the year, where the closest I get to promoting Halifax are my hand-trembling bids to get Joel Plaskett playing at parties.

I came back to Halifax this summer to work, see my family and smell some of that salt water. I was an outlier. Most of my friends went to Toronto for the summer. Two of my cousins worked downtown. One friend sweated it out on Bloor Street, while another worked at the university.

They’re all Haligonians and they all miss Halifax. Lake Ontario—with its boring, flat water—just isn’t the Atlantic. But they’re convinced that opportunity lies elsewhere. The exodus isn’t out of spite or cynicism or self-importance. It’s out of necessity: Toronto is the city that never sleeps, and Halifax is the city that never wakes up.

My cousin said that “though I love Halifax and the recent developments have me very excited for its future, the work opportunities for a young professional in my industry are slim to none.”

He said that if Halifax continues to grow at its current pace, “I could see a world where a Halifax finance job fulfills me.” He was echoed by the others. Maybe later on, but not now, one friend said. Would if I could, said another.

Toronto’s diversity, pace and prosperity are unprecedented. The city is the main nerve of Canadian cuisine, sports, art, education and business. But it’s unbalanced. Commutes are long, nature’s stifled, streets are busy. Noise is everywhere. The pockets where my friends and I cluster aren’t too glamorous, either. It looks like what 1970s Canada would have been under the Soviets: drab and grey and everyone dressing the same.

Coming back to Toronto’s Opposite gives you an appreciation for it all. The revamped waterfront is a seamless blend of shop, ship and sea. Point Pleasant Park is green and leafy as can be. The Public Gardens is its usual beautiful self. Cars stop for jaywalkers, instead of the other way around. The climate’s friendly and the people even more so. The city is compact, the downtown is growing, the air is clear.

There’s a reason that I love this town, but I can’t quite narrow it down. Once again, I’m an outlier. When I asked my friend what he misses most about Halifax, what’d he reply? Put down the pistol, Mr. Howe. He quickly texted back, “the ocean,” with salt water almost certainly forming around his eyes.


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