Saying goodbye to a changing city

We need to encourage people to chase new opportunities, while welcoming those ready to make Halifax their home.

Saying goodbye to a changing city
Ben Wedge has lived in Halifax since 2008 and has worked to improve our transportation options with the Halifax Cycling Coalition and It’s More Than Buses.

Halifax has many rites of passage. One of them is to move to Toronto for a stint that may last forever. Five years ago, we added another rite of passage: Penning a Dear John letter about how the city has let us down and pushed us to the door. Today, the city is in the middle of an exciting period of growth and change, one that is attracting more people than we are sending away. It’s incredibly difficult to pull away from the city during this time, but we need to encourage people to chase new opportunities while welcoming those that are ready to make Halifax their home.

With the adoption last year of the Integrated Mobility Plan, and subsequent council votes to build bike lanes and bus lanes, we are starting a seismic shift on transportation. While Toronto may be able to run buses every five minutes, we will soon leapfrog them on getting our buses out of traffic. We beat them in the race to create a low-income transit pass. Maybe our next move will be fixing the problem of three buses running in the same direction in a convoy every half-hour, with nothing in between.

Farmers’ markets are sprouting like wildflowers in this city. No longer relegated to downtown, we are seeing great neighbourhood markets in Spryfield, Bedford and even inside the Woodside Ferry Terminal. These markets make it much more reasonable for families to get fresh produce in their neighbourhoods. But we have taken a step that few other cities have even contemplated, loading a Halifax Transit bus with fresh produce and rolling it into the heart of our most disadvantaged communities, helping lift residents out of the health trap that poor food options can create.

The truth is, any great city will have continual turnover. Youth have always moved away to seek new experiences, while youth from other places come here to experience our region. Halifax is a growing city; does it really matter if we grow by keeping the same people or replacing them with new neighbours? The opportunity to gain new experiences, meet new people and try new things should be celebrated. Our growing population of immigrants does this to us, flooding us with new ideas and lived experiences that will add to the fabric of the city and make it even stronger.

Every growing city in the world is currently struggling with gentrification, affordable housing, improving transit and cycling and the constant churn of talented young people coming and going. We have serious issues to confront, but we need to learn to embrace the turnover; embrace the new arrivals who want to give Halifax a go. They are our future.

While I’ve packed my bags and started my journey west, I am excited to watch Halifax go through these changes from afar. In five years the city will continue to attract new people; people eager to try the big town by the sea for the next phase of their career. With the transformation underway today, the renewal of our neighbourhoods into unique, vibrant communities, better transportation options for everyone and a council that is starting to make headway on affordability, I know that I’m leaving a great place behind. As Dartmouth’s favourite rocker said, you understand why we moved away, but you’ll hold a grudge anyway (because it’s fun).


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