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.

Anonymous said...

I left Toronto in February 2010 and came to Victoria BC. I don't miss Ontario weather. Finally with ICBC I can afford car insurance ($69 per month). Weather is great here compared to Toronto. For sure they hate Ontario and Ontarians out here. They say, stop telling people back east about it here, close the door behind you and don't let any more in (to BC). BC loves protests, they are religious about the environment and everyone is supposed to be 'cool' with each other. Lots of homeless folks, street people, crack heads, ex convicts and welfare types here. They say a lot of these folks come here from back east for the nice weather. At lease half the people in my building are on welfare of some kind and then they can work up to $1000 a month on top of that. Welfare continues to pay them even when they go to jail. A lot of them have cars. $40. annual bus passes, free fishing and hunting licences, free lawyer, free moving expenses. No incentive to go to work for a great many it seems. So there's a lot of that out here. One thing is for sure though. If you leave Ontario for BC, it is never home. If you leave BC for Ontario it will never be home. Like me, many of you will want to go home sooner or later no matter where you are from. If you can't find work, then you may be going back home sooner that later. Not a lot of work in Victoria. If you drove a bus in Toronto, expect to be a security guard in Victoria and be happy about it.

Bev said...

Just moved from Abbotsford to NOTL about a week ago..We are originally from Ontario (Ancaster) and lived in BC for last 22 yrs., decided to move back to be close to family. It has been a bit of a culture shock to say the least and we are still getting re-acquainted with everything. Like NOTL but St. Catherines is a bit sketchy..Not sure if we made the right decision, but only time will tell...Any suggestion for those who have moved back would be great!!..Cheers.

Harry Tournemille said...

Yes, quite different than the Fraser Valley to be sure. I'm fond of St. Catharines - I don't mind its sketchiness - but it's not a replacement for where I'm from, that's for sure.

No matter where you live, there are things to love and things to wish different. NOTL is beautiful, but can also feel like a caricature of itself. Regardless, I hope you transition to your new home with ease.

Unknown said...

Suggestions please: )
Im 29 and i will be relocating to Ontario. I currently live in Vancouver. I have 2 kids and I am looking to start a new life and somewhere more affordable. I work with the ministrt of children and families here. I work with high risk youth.
I will be first in Niagra Falls staying with friends until i get on my feet.
Anyone have any suggestions on what city I should land in or should I stay in Niagra falls? I like the smaller town feel. Anything will help! Thanks!

Harry Tournemille said...

Hi There,

It sounds like you have a pretty hectic life. Good that you have friends helping you relocate. Do you have a job lined up already? If you're flexible and can move anywhere in the province, there might be some nice opportunities. I do know that Niagara in general can be difficult to find work in at times, but maybe that's different if you are a government employee.

My vote would be to see what work-related options there are and make a choice based on that. These days, it's difficult to drop a job and move if you don't have something lined up first.

Niagara Falls is a big place. Neighboring St. Catharines is smaller, and there are even smaller municipalities nearby.

Sean Idzenga said...

St. Catharines is pretty much where I grew up so it's interesting to see an outsiders perspective on the place.

You pretty much hit the nail on the head on most of those points, if you haven't yet, check out Fine Grind for a good cup of coffee or even beantrees (assuming you've grown tired of coffee culture).

I'm gonna be going the other way, moving West, in a few years - it'll be interesting to compare notes!

Sandra said...

Are you still there? I just moved from Surrey BC to Hamilton. Would be fun to catch up ... there are some microbreweries here now :-)