November 6, 2010

Ontario versus B.C. -- What Happens When one Moves to St. Catharines from Surrey?

Three weeks in and the initial "oh man, what have we done?" phase is beginning to subside. A move from B.C. to Ontario, benign as it may sound, is a bit like changing worlds. Politics, social concerns, health, awareness...all different.

And while I by no means have a concrete grasp on the varying climes of St. Catharines, where I now live -- it's not too difficult to point out the immediate differences

The Good: 

  • Homes are affordable. Yes, there are still those $700k+ ones that illicit double-takes, but a nice home by the lake, with great walking trails and a cozy neighborhood pub can be found. And for a far better price than you'd imagine. 
  • A great recycling program out here that reduces weekly garbage to roughly one small bag per week. Everything gets recycled, including food waste.
  • Vinyl stores are abundant. You heard me. Vinyl in downtown St. Catharines  (almost an oxymoron). Dusty, cramped stores with meager furnishings. Brilliant.
  • Pay parking does not require third-party financing. I dropped a Loonie into a meter and it almost gave me an hour. Unheard of in downtown Vancouver. 
  • Farmers' Markets and Local Natural Meats. Because of the surrounding farm areas, the downtown farmers' market boasts some great grocery. Not to mention local chefs who make outstanding food, and probably the best cup of organic coffee I've ever had.  
  • Wineries are abundant, and there are some cool little greasy-spoon diners. 
  • Older towns mean older buildings. Some amazing churches and abandoned factories, old city architecture. 
The Bad:
  • Everyone smokes. Nurses, doctors, magicians, bishops -- you name it. I've seen fathers strapping their kids into baby seats with lit cigarettes pooched on their bottom lips. Crazy. Unlike B.C.'s adamant move towards making smokers social pariah, St. Catharines appears to be their haven. 
  • A good cup of coffee is hard to find. Seriously. Everything is Tim Horton's out here, and even the "urban coffee shops" are a bit lacking. I did find a few Starbucks, but that's only a modest improvement. One exception (aside from the aforementioned farmers' market coffee purveyor) is an old bank that has been converted into Coffee Culture. It's no JJ Bean or Small Ritual, but it's about as close as I'll get out here. Better luck in Toronto, I bet. 
  • Transit is awful. This isn't Ontario in general, mind you. But the buses in St. Kitts are lousy, with limited routes and access. Even if you find yourself in close proximity to a bus stop, don't expect yourself to catch a B-line straight to your work. Say what you will about Trans-link, but their buses seemed to be reasonably accessible. 
  • Property Taxes! Good Lord. Let's say at least double what we pay in B.C., and with no residence discount. 
  • Eco-conscious people are few and far between. It's a city of big trucks and disregard. The "how dare you tell me what to do" mentality. When we finally found a Montessori school for our daughter that exhibited the holistic principles we find important, the relief was palpable. Aside from that, it's been a series of disappointments. 
  • No good, objective news radio. Zilch. It's enough to make you shake your head. So glad I can get Bill Good's shows on the Internet. CKNW, you are missed. 
  • No microbreweries. The madness of this phrase requires no further elaboration. 
Who knows how much this list will change in a few months -- especially if I become more familiar with the  municipal politics. But we're here now, for good or ill. Now lets get back to more frivolous topics. 


burnsjes said...

I came across your post here. I am actually in the process of moving from Thorold to Abbotsford!

Just a note on the microbreweries. Check out Oast House and Silversmith, both in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Hope you enjoy it here, but I can't wait to get the hell out! Haha

Harry Tournemille said...

Thanks for the tips. Safe travels on your move. I miss BC, to be sure. Lived a few years in Abbotsford.

Raiana Schwenker said...

I found your post looking for photos of downtown st. catharines! I am born and raised in st. catharines - also lived in Ottawa and Toronto for a while. So many of your points are so correct! I noticed this post is older, and I see someone has mentioned the microbreweries. If you haven't already you should also check out Dillons Small Batch Distillery. Also Mahtay Cafe on St. Paul street sounds like exactly the coffee shop your looking for, unreal coffee and good practices - amazing food all local and all prepared fresh.I pray our city gets a better transit system, and also know we are about 5-6 years from having the TO GOtrain come right to us.
There is also a new cooperative grocery store opening up downtown that will be all organic and mostly local!
It seems like St. Catharine's is steadily improving in so many aspects!
Hope your still enjoying living here :)

Harry Tournemille said...

Thanks for the tips. Yes the post is a bit old. I discovered Cafesito - by far the best coffee in St. Catharines. Mahtay's gone downhill a bit.

Good call on Dillon's. Have been, have partaken, have enjoyed.

Lynne Atkinson said...

Hi there, I have a question for you regarding relocation...I'm looking at the opposite of you, moving from Ontario to BC. I've been applying to jobs out there but I've put in my cover letter that I currently reside in Ontario and I'm looking to make a permanent move to BC. Do you think that will work against me? Sorry to hijack the post...just didn't know where else to ask and I came across your site. Thank you.

Harry Tournemille said...

Hi Lynne,

Interesting question. Currently residing in Ontario is probably information a potential employer would need to know - especially if they call you in for an interview and you tell them the bus trip will take six days. *chuckle*

Finding the perfect job is tough work - regardless of where you are. Perhaps some temp or employment agencies out there would be of use?

Good luck!


Lynne Atkinson said...

Thank you, and to you as well!

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
We are looking at the opposite of you as well. Tired of Ont. weather. I am a outdoor person and can not take this cold anymore. We have two kids age as 10 & 7. Looking for the best city for our family environment . Also, reasonable house pricing for single home. Pls. Share any ideas with us. Really appreciate. Thank you.

Harry Tournemille said...

I'm not sure I have much advice here. Living in BC is not cheap, and the closer you are to the Coast the higher prices get. If you're looking for smaller towns in BC, you may have luck - but I suppose that depends on what kind of job you have and how mobile you can be with it. I've heard nice things about Kimberly, Vernon, Cranbrook, Fernie. The Sunshine Coast is amazing. The Okanagan does not disappoint. But "reasonable house pricing" is a relative term.