If there is ever a place that I am passionate about it is Southwest Ontario. I have learned through my life that wherever you call home is a place for the most part that you feel comfortable to live in. I’ve always felt that Southwestern Ontario was a bit of an ignored place. It always seems to be getting the short end of the stick whether that is media attention or economic development money.
In my mind one of the warmest places in Canada with the best climate has a lot of advantages versus the rest of the country. When you add the low cost of living that we have here in southwestern Ontario it adds a pretty good one-two punch for anybody who lives here. All you have to do is read about the cost of living in places like Vancouver Montréal and Toronto to realize you have a pretty good deal by living in southwestern Ontario.
Of course I am very sensitive about being a homer when it comes to boosting your own area. When I go to family events I hear from people who live near the greater Toronto area who tell me they would never want to live here. To them it is a bit like southwestern Siberia instead of southwestern Ontario. Where would we work? That is often the question. It’s a hard one for me to argue with, as our unemployment in southwestern Ontario is usually much higher than the greater Toronto area. I always shoot back that they could sell her house in Toronto and retire in southwestern Ontario. The conversation usually ends with the realization that there is no greater place than living close to the greater Toronto area.
They may be right, I don’t know. My day job farming soils of Southwestern Ontario gives me an unusual tie to the land, something maybe not everybody would understand. When I am in foreign lands or even in other parts of Canada I often like to walk out into the fields and touch the soil. I just like to see what it looks like and see how it feels. I’ve often wondered how it would feel to farm the land far from southwestern Ontario. Even thinking about it seems so foreign.
The climate here in southwestern Ontario is much warmer than the rest of the country. Yes, my friends in BC’s lower mainland and Vancouver Island might have an argument with that. Look at any weather map of Ontario and you will consistently see that southwestern Ontario has the warmest climate by a long shot. That fact alone in this very cold country should count for something.
However, despite how much I like this place and even with all its advantages it isn’t heaven. I remember very clearly coming out of the doctor’s office one day, having been told that I have spots on my lungs. However, the doctor said don’t worry, everybody in southwestern Ontario does. It was something about the pollution in the air we breathe coming from the United States. I guess that is a hazard of living here that I never expected.
There are probably quite a few things wrong with Southwestern Ontario. Southwestern Ontario to me is west of London, so that is a bit of a restrictive geographic definition. One of the greatest challenges we have is the lack of immigration. Most immigrants to Canada fly to Toronto Montréal or Vancouver and stay there. They bring with them all their entrepreneurial skills and of course their money. In my mind they could always make those skills and there money go so much farther in southwestern Ontario. However, that has never happened. However, if I were a politician in southwestern Ontario it would be my main priority.
Chatham-Kent is a laboratory for outmigration in southwestern Ontario. It is the only area in southern Ontario, which consistently loses population. So the great challenge is always how many schools to close or how to ration health care. I ask could you ever imagine a day in Chatham Kent when the challenge would be to build more schools and to build several more hospitals? That’s the direction that I would like to go and immigration is key, in fact it’s the only answer to make that happen.
Voices expressing this idea are few and far between. It is what it is. Even my voice is growing much more weary. It’s almost like people in southwestern Ontario want to keep it a secret. The problem is no growth means fewer jobs, less economic activity and eventually a lower standard of living. Well, we don’t want to go there. If you are new to Canada, come on down. Southwestern Ontario is the place for you.