Say­ing good­bye to a chang­ing city

It’s dif­fi­cult to leave dur­ing this ex­cit­ing time, but we need to en­cour­age peo­ple to chase new op­por­tu­ni­ties while wel­com­ing those ready to make Hal­i­fax their home.

The Coast - - VOICE OF THE CITY - BY BEN WEDGE

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 in to 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).

SUB­MIT­TED

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.

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