Why Hal­i­fax is bet­ter than Toronto

No, Toronto is not bet­ter than Hal­i­fax.



month in The Coast I read again, with dis­may, an­other opin­ion piece that con­cluded that, while Hal­i­fax is cer­tainly a pretty lit­tle city by the sea, it’s not the city of op­por­tu­nity that Toronto is.

While this neg­a­tive type of opin­ion piece is fairly com­mon, what was un­usual was the state­ment that our Joseph Howe had “lost” the fa­mous duel in Point Pleas­ant Park, held in 1840 near the Martello Tower.

I would re­spect­fully ar­gue that the au­thor, Mr. Ted Fraser, is wrong about both his con­clu­sions.

First, a bit about Joseph Howe. In a fa­mous trial held in Hal­i­fax in 1835, Howe won free­dom of the press, still en­joyed here some 183 years later! He had pub­lished an opin­ion piece about govern­ment cor­rup­tion and was charged with sedi­tious li­bel by the non-elected power struc­ture of the day. At that time, truth was not a de­fence to th­ese charges. Af­ter a spec­tac­u­lar trial, held in what is now the li­brary at Prov­ince House, the jury ac­quit­ted him. Five years later, the son of the judge who presided over the li­bel trial chal­lenged him to the fa­mous duel. Howe let the man take his shot first, which missed. Then Howe, known to be pos­sessed with a deadly aim, raised his pis­tol and fired harm­lessly into the air. Far from los­ing the duel, Howe’s ac­tions gave him the right to refuse fu­ture chal­lenges. With­out the con­tin­u­ous threat of du­els from mem­bers of the Nova Sco­tian rul­ing class of the day, Howe was even­tu­ally able to achieve a full tran­si­tion to re­spon­si­ble govern­ment and the first peace­ful tran­si­tion to democ­racy in the his­tory of the world.

Now, about Toronto be­ing the place to go over Hal­i­fax, this is also com­pletely un­true by many mea­sures. The first is that peo­ple in Toronto ac­tu­ally make sig­nif­i­cantly less money than those in Hal­i­fax. Me­dian fam­ily in­come in Hal­i­fax in 2016 was $85,940. In Toronto, it’s only $78,373. As for job op­por­tu­ni­ties, the unem­ploy­ment rate this past June in Toronto was 6.3 per­cent. It was lower in Hal­i­fax, at six per­cent.

An­other big stake in the heart of the idea of mov­ing to Toronto is the cost of hous­ing. As of April 2018 the av­er­age house in Toronto costs $766,000. In Hal­i­fax, way lower at $316,000. The com­bi­na­tion of lower fam­ily in­come and higher hous­ing prices is highly detri­men­tal to the Toronto city choice. Based on CMHC guide­lines of no more than 30 per­cent of fam­ily in­come spent on mort­gages, the me­dian in­come fam­ily in Hal­i­fax can af­ford a $430,000 mort­gage com­bined with the com­pul­sory 20-per­cent down pay­ment, al­low­ing the pur­chase of an awe­some house in the $538,000 range. In Toronto, the me­dian fam­ily in­come only sup­ports a mort­gage of $390,000, sug­gest­ing a max­i­mum house pur­chase of only $487,500.

Th­ese av­er­ages, how­ever, in no way re­flect the cur­rent ac­tual dis­mal hous­ing choices in Toronto as com­pared to Hal­i­fax. Right now, in the north end, a fam­ily could easily buy a house in move-in con­di­tion for around $400,000. This house would be less than a 10-minute bus ride from down­town Hal­i­fax, the uni­ver­si­ties and the hos­pi­tal dis­trict. In Toronto, a sim­i­lar size and qual­ity of house, within the same walk­a­ble dis­tance to the down­town, could easily cost well in ex­cess of $2 mil­lion. Toron­to­ni­ans have Canada’s long­est com­mute time at 36 min­utes; in Hal­i­fax it’s only 24 min­utes. Again the raw num­bers dis­guise the re­al­ity. The 36-minute com­mute from down­town will of­ten land you at a dodgy ’60s apart­ment build­ing in Toronto, while in Hal­i­fax a 24-minute com­mute easily lands you in a ru­ral par­adise of trees with lakes to swim in.

In con­clu­sion, my ad­vice to Mr. Fraser is fin­ish your stud­ies and move back to Hal­i­fax as soon as you can! You will make more money and you can easily buy an awe­some house with a much shorter com­mute. Quite sim­ply, the qual­ity of life in Hal­i­fax for the av­er­age ci­ti­zen is far su­pe­rior to that in Toronto. As Joel Plas­kett most fa­mously wrote in his song, “There’s a rea­son why I love this town.” Com­pared to Toronto, there are lots of rea­sons! An­drew Mur­phy is an ac­coun­tant and de­vel­oper from

Hal­i­fax. He has been as­so­ci­ated with a num­ber of non­profit boards in the past, in­clud­ing a 15-year as­so­ci­a­tion with Phoenix Youth Pro­grams. He is cur­rently

pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Trust of Nova Sco­tia.

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