Best place to live? Don’t look far

An annual busker’s festival in Uptown Waterloo.  • ELLI GARLIN FILE PHOTO
An annual busker’s festival in Uptown Waterloo. • ELLI GARLIN FILE PHOTO

Why doesn’t Kitchener-Waterloo get the respect it deserves?

Mark Shiffer
CCE CONTRIBUTOR has posted a list of “Canada’s Best Places to Live in 2013.” There were 200 cities categorized. Calgary, Ab., was named number one while Lachute, Que., placed last.

The city of Waterloo came in at number 46, Kitchener at 68 and Cambridge took the 82nd spot. Well I don’t agree. I think we’re number one — or closer to it at least.
When I moved here from Toronto in late 2005, I had some initial reservations. Okay, in reality I was scared. There were questions. What is there to do here? Will I ever feel at home? Will friends and family come to visit?

The cities of Waterloo Region are not huge. But combining them makes it one of the larger metropolitan areas in Canada. We are close to the largest city in the country, yet there is also easy access to smaller towns and rural areas. It’s a nice mix.

Employment prospects are better than in much of the country. This is especially true for entrepreneurs and innovators. BlackBerry is rebounding in Waterloo and the future looks promising. Google has an office in Kitchener. Toyota has a production plant in Cambridge.

Our educational institutions are academic leaders. With two excellent universities and one college, student life is vibrant. The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics is generating cutting edge research. There is also the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

The area is a great place to work and study. But there is much more to do here, including arts and culture. There are major events like Oktoberfest and the Elmira maple syrup festival. Music lovers flock to the annual Jazz and Blues festivals. Buskers perform every summer in Uptown Waterloo. Fresh local food is available at the lively farmers’ markets in St. Jacobs and Kitchener. The Shaw and Stratford festivals as well as African Lion Safari are nearby tourist attractions.

Even celebrities like to visit. The Queen herself has dropped by. Elton John played here and Sting is coming. Stephen Hawking likes to visit once in a while.
So why aren’t we rated higher in the listings? Some categories are simply out of our control. Rankings were lowered for things like days without rain per year and days above zero degrees Celsius. Winters are typically cold and damp while summers tend to be hot and humid.

The family doctor shortage hasn’t helped our cause. We are not close to any large bodies of water, with all due respect to the Grand River and Bingemans Big Splash water park. Our water is hard and living here was the first time I was introduced to the need for water softeners and heavy softener pellet bags. Public transportation within and between cities can be improved, as well as having more bike lanes installed. Downtown cores can be upgraded, particularly in Kitchener and Cambridge.

Still, I think the Moneysense rankings for the region should have been higher. I can confidently say that I am glad I made the move to this area. It has been a good place to live and raise a family.

To answer my earlier questions, there are lots of things to do here. I have come to feel that this is my home.

Sadly, rarely do friends and family visit from Toronto. Apparently it is a lot farther to drive here then to go see them.