Do any places like this exist?
May 6, 2016 12:19 PM   Subscribe

What, if any, Canadian (or easily moveable-to, for a Canadian citizen) cities/towns/communities meet the following criteria?

- Reasonable COL, for the available jobs
- Has jobs. (Leaving industry/field open for now. Or - features ideally not hugely youth-biased industries in which a person with a degree and general officey experience could conceivably work their way up, i.e. to a pay grade that would allow for annual vacations of longer than 2 weeks, and regular decent haircuts)
- Within an easy & affordable 4-6 hour's journey from Toronto (should be able to go there on a weekend, comfortably, and on short notice)
- Liberal/NDP-leaning or equivalent
- Ethnically diverse
- Pretty in some way (is green, hilly, or has a well-tended body of water in which a person could e.g. swim without wearing a hazmat wetsuit)
- Has (or has neighbourhoods that have) a laid-back feel and accessible opportunities for making arty stuff. Friendly (but not cozy, e.g. "maybe your grandkids will considered locals")
- Dense-ish, walkable
- Hasn't been afflicted by horrible winters in the past 5 years, & isn't predicted to have many in future. Lots of sun & dry climate = great, great.

I speak just ok French.
posted by cotton dress sock to Society & Culture (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't been keeping track of the southern Ontario winters lately, but Hamilton, if you stick near McMaster meets most of the rest of your criteria.

I would assume similar things for other university cities: Kingston --> Queens, London --> Western, Guelph (well, maybe not Guelph).
posted by sparklemotion at 12:27 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I fear you have created an empty set. Weekend trip to Toronto and mild winters? How exactly?

I am thinking: Guelph; Hamilton; Waterloo; Kingston; or hell, Montreal.

If you can give up distance to Toronto, then maybe Vancouver, Kelowna, Penticton. In the latter two you will find your dream climate. Cost of living relative to jobs can be high in BC though.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:28 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Hamilton is a paradise
posted by PinkMoose at 12:29 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Hmm, my memories of London, Kingston, and Guelph are that they aren't super hot on the diversity criterion, but maybe I was wrong, or maybe things have changed. I guess Toronto would be my standard in terms of that point. Haven't been to Hamilton in ages... (I love Montreal but am not sure how employable I am there :/)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:32 PM on May 6, 2016

Am I missing something as to why no one suggested Ottawa?

It is really gorgeous with the Rideau canal and close to the Gatineau park where you can swim/ski/hike. Plus has good government jobs and wasn't hit very bad by the recession.

the weather is slightly better than montreal, which isn't saying much.
posted by winterportage at 12:33 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

(I forgot to mention, "vibrant nightlife / good music scene")
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:34 PM on May 6, 2016

For Toronto cost-of-living, maybe consider a rising area in Toronto like Mimico, Weston, or up near York University where the Eglinton subway line will soon improve the area?

Montreal is awesome, relatively inexpensive, and I know many anglophones who live there pretty happily.

Toronto and Montreal are probably your best bets, really. Hamilton, Kingston, Guelph, and most of Southern Ontario are not that diverse and they're kind of racist. (I'm a PoC who has been all over Ontario and I definitely feel the shitty micro/macro-aggressions in most Ontario towns outside Toronto).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:37 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not in Canada, but what you're looking for kind of sounds like Buffalo, except for the winter part. But they're not really that much worse than elsewhere in the GTA/Southern Ontario area.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:39 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

"mild winter" and "4-6 hour drive to Toronto" are mutually exclusive. "Ethnically diverse" barely exists in Ontario at all outside Toronto.

Brampton is and exception, being ethnically diverse but neither walkable nor possessed of a nightlife. Mississauga... might come close.

Hamilton is the latter two but not very much the first. It's the closest to your requirements. Generally, the further east and north you go from Toronto, the whiter and more homogenous things get. West and south is slightly more diverse for a bit, but once you're past Hamilton it's whitey mc whitersons.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:40 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

"mild winter" and "4-6 hour drive to Toronto" are mutually exclusive

Cheapish flights are ok!

(Yeah I'm dreaming here, aren't I)
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:44 PM on May 6, 2016

Your memories are correct cotton dress sock: London, Kingston and Guelph are not diverse. Hamilton (also not that diverse) might be a good bet -- real estate prices/rents are not insane. And it's supposed to be getting cooler.
posted by Lescha at 12:50 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

You will have to rank your criteria to help you know which one to give up. You say you don't like horrible winters, but what about the winter bothers you. It is wet feet and damp coldness? Ice storms? length? Lack of sunlight? Halifax winters are messy but the fall is long and can be nice. Saskatoon winters are long and cold but sunny everyday and very dry!

Ethnically diverse is going to be hard - a university might help. A vibrant downtown is better.

Music and nightlife - you may be surprised about some places. Ottawa seems like a sleepy town, but it isn't if you know where to go. Plus Montreal is 2 hours away by drive - with daily car-sharing and buses! Even Saskatoon gets a nice selection of Canadian bands on a western tour. It just may be middle of the week so they can be somewhere bigger for a weekend show.

Think about Windsor! It isn't dry - actually quite sticky in the summer with winters mild but snowy. It is across the river from Detroit - amazing food, music, etc. but without costs and dangers of living in a big city. Windsor has a tight little historic downtown which appeals to me.
posted by Gor-ella at 12:54 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I guess Toronto would be my standard in terms of that point.

The only places in Canada that come close to TO in terms of diversity (6.9% new Canadians) are Vancouver (at #2, 6.8%) and Montreal (at #3, 5.1%). Most migration happens to the bigger centres and most happens in particular to Toronto.
posted by bonehead at 12:56 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

(Yeah I'm dreaming here, aren't I)

Yep. It might be useful for you to reframe your question in terms of Must Have, Would be Great, and Nice Bonus.

And maybe figure out for yourself which of the Must Haves you could live without if you had enough of the Would Be Greats. Taking "mild winters don't exist" as read, if you remove the diversity requirement then Hamilton is pretty much ideal. Smallish, swimming nearby, short trip to the Niagara Escarpment and the Bruce Trail and wine region, cheap trains to Toronto (and down to Niagara Falls/NOTL/Buffalo). Employment is okay, there's officey jobs though perhaps not quite jumping up levels quickly. Nightlife exists (McMaster university students ensure that, and people allergic to partying with students ensure some grownup nightlife too). Left leaning.

Cheap flights in Canada are pretty much only the domain of Porter, which limits your options. Ottawa has awful winters (though climate change is somewhat helping there), but is a cheap flight or train from Toronto.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:57 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes you are dreaming! Look....Canada is not that big (city-wise) and not that wordly. After Toronto and Montreal things drop off rather steeply. We are a small country. That's not to say these smaller cities have nothing to offer. But it's not like the US. Canada has no Austin, no Oakland, no Pittsburgh, no Madison. It has Toronto, Hamilton, Halifax, Kingston, etc; they can be great places, bit they can't be more than they are. It's no use looking for Shangri-la. Canada is Canada.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:58 PM on May 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

UNESCO considers TO the most diverse city in the world, btw.
posted by bonehead at 12:58 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Winter - ok, at some point, I'm going to have to come to terms with it. Walkability, diversity, and nightlife are not negotiable. Ok. I'll spend some time in Hamilton... and maybe look at what's possible for me in Montreal. Thanks, guys.

(Haven't we got agreements with warmer places?)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:02 PM on May 6, 2016

Based on your criteria so far, I'd suggest looking closely at either Stratford or Niagara-on-the-Lake/Queensland area. Both very arts/tourism/foodie based, both highly walkable, both with mild winters (by Canadian standards). And they do both have nightlife.

You're not going to get the diversity of Toronto anywhere else outside of Vancouver (a 5-hour plane ride, but not exactly affordable).
posted by bonehead at 1:03 PM on May 6, 2016

Hamilton [...] are not that diverse and they're kind of racist.

OK, granted, that Hamilton cops card people is a shitty, racist thing and it has to go. OTOH, Hamiltonians have stood up to racists by punching them in the face. Hamilton can be a pretty great place in spite of its municipal government -- which is not to discount your own experiences, of course.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:27 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

- Reasonable COL, for the available jobs

This is the big problem with TO (news to all of you, I'm sure :/).

This has been a useful reality check. (Which may lead to a different question in another category next week.) Thanks, everyone, again.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:39 PM on May 6, 2016

Windsor resident here.

- housing prices among some of the cheapest in the country - lots of nice homes for sale currently
- 4 hour drive to Toronto on the 401
- VERY NDP here
- very ethnically diverse
- pretty - beautiful, walkable waterfront, lots of parkland, Lakes St. Clair and Erie within a short drive (no hills though)
- some great neighbourhoods, especially if you are into history - I live in Walkerville and it's fantastic, very Toronto-like, with the restaurants and the feel, plus very arty
- last winter, we had snow for about 1 week; some winters we hardly get any at all - very humid in the summertime though
- events - spring/summer there is something going on just about every weekend - also, 5 minute drive to Detroit for sports, concerts, and events

Jobs? ehhh.... that could be the spanner in the works. We've always been a very industrial focused town, with the auto plants and various spin offs from that. But not so much any more. Lots of tool and die type shops are often looking for people for office-y positions (that's what my husband does), so it's possible to find something if you're willing to have a look.

Ontario doesn't stop at London!
posted by Aunt Slappy at 2:04 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

London is a lot more ethnically diverse than it used to be. Most of my neighbors are various shades of brown.

Old East here in London is going through a phase of developpment, mostly due to a market and arts projects. Port Stanly is 30 mins away and Lake Huron is 45 in the other direction. Winter is standard Southern Ontario although on the milder side.

We do have 3 hospitals a University and a College. My house cost 195000$ but that was 10 years ago.

The job market is dicey if you are looking for manufacturing but not so bad for professionals.

London - better than you think!
posted by csmithrim at 3:27 PM on May 6, 2016

I'm a Hamiltonian! I grew up here, and have lived Here, Kingston and London.

London: my husband and I LOVED Western but really did not enjoy living in London. It was so hard to get around. For that reason alone I would not move there.

Kingston: Gorgeous but cost of living is high, and there are NO JOBS. Zip, zilch, none unless you are an academic superstar, in health care or in the army. My husband and I lived there as grad students for 6 years and they were definitely some of the best years of my life, but it wasn't feasible for us to start a life there.

Hamilton: Grew up "on the mountain" - When I left Hamilton in 2004 it was really sad. The stores I loved downtown were closed (and downtown was very shady), and there wasn't much doin...

Fast Forward to 2012 - Hamilton is completely on the up-and-up. Housing is RIDICULOUSLY affordable compared to anything near Toronto (Burlington, Oakville). We live "Down the mountain" now in one of the up-coming wards of the city - the counselor linked to above, is the counselor of our ward. In 2012 we bought a house built in 1917, solid condition, for a fifth of what you would pay in Toronto for a detached home. It is gentrifying quickly which has its pros and cons. We live within 5 minutes from a city park 1/10th the size of Central Park, and it is beautiful, with a gorgeous view of "the mountain" (Niagara Escarpment).

We have community newspapers and a healthy and engaged city strategy for resident-led neighborhood planning. A few weekends ago, something like a thousand volunteers came out to clean our stunning alleyways that criss-cross through the city. There are new shops and stores popping up everywhere.

There are multiple active hot-spots - here's from east to west.

In the East End (where we are) you have housing that is still affordable but going quickly (prices rose 23% in one year). There's a LOT of talk about a LRT going in within 10 years, that could take you from the east end to a Train Station that will take you to Toronto within ... probably an hour? It takes longer than that to get from one end of Toronto to the other!

Oh, we live near a large open stadium and when the Ti-Cats (Football) team play, we hear big bursts of cheering. It's one of the unexpected perks that brings me so much joy when I'm sipping a drink enjoying BBQ with hubby.

There's the Fabric district on Ottawa St. in the east end - lots of antique and fabric stores... slowly accumulating boutiques.

Downtown: BOOMING. Prices going up fast, but still not nearly as bananas as Toronto or Burlington. Citi-bikes are popular and being used everywhere, and we are really trying to become Bike-friendly (there are great two-way bright-green lanes that stretch from one end of the city all the way to the university way in Westdale.

Back to downtown: James St. North is WAY more adorable than anything in Kingston and leads directly to the waterfront. (also for a sense of scale, I can bike from my house in the east end to the waterfront within 15 min). There are tons of galleries, coffee shops and boutiques and there are monthly Art Crawls. My absolute favorite place is the historic farmers market in Jackson Square.

Oh! And did you know that Hamilton has more than 100 waterfalls? The Bruce Trail cuts RIGHT through Hamilton along the escarpment. You can get to most of them off the trail.

Hess St. is a street filled with many many bars with kids that are young (okay like in their 20s). It is a street of bars. It's hopping if you're into that kind of thing! If not, it's a great place to grab dinner and a beer with a colleague on a weeknight .

Moving Westward: Locke St. is very trendy, with lots of very expensive (BUT OH SO AWESOME) luxury goods stores. There's also over-priced cupcakes and toy stores. It's a fun place to walk around and spend an afternoon.

And Further West: McMaster area - Westdale with much higher prices, but its own little village, basically.

I haven't even gotten to "The Mountain" yet! MeMail me if you want to know more!

TL:DR; Hamilton is having the best Renaissance right now and is a super-exciting place to live. :)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 4:08 PM on May 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

Cobourg is pretty small, and not especially diverse (though it's getting better), but it's cheap, close to Toronto, and has a fantastic beach as well as incredible drumlin hills in the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Failing that, possible consider Aruba? English speaking, diverse, cheap flights, no winter.
posted by 256 at 4:48 PM on May 6, 2016

I'm shocked Dressed to Kill didn't mention Dundas (although I think Ottawa st and Gage park is awesome too). Dundas is kinda a small village, surrounded by conservation, minutes away from Hamilton downtown and the 403.
posted by saucysault at 7:01 PM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

I found as an anglophone, Montreal incredibly hostile, and talking to POC friends, they find it incredibly racist--think of the recent laws about cultural purity. I hated Montreal. Hamilton could be more diverse but I find it working on it. Im not POC
posted by PinkMoose at 10:50 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am on the East Mountain, cheap real estate--excellent Mideaster grocery stores, good resturants, and 20 minutes to downtown. Also, the walk/drive downtown is without exception, some of the most beautiful scenery i've seen in Ontario.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:53 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I asked a similar question a few years ago, but sadly, as much as I love Kingston, it's true that unless you are employed by Queen's/RMC/KGH, you'll find employment here hard. However, we have a hella cute downtown, we bought a nice house in a downtown neighbourhood for cheap, and we've been able to ditch the car for everyday living. I like being in between Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal for weekend trips. We've been here two years and really like it, but the hardest part is employment. I still feel it's worth considering as it seems to be getting better all the time.
posted by Kitteh at 8:13 AM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Edmonton has lots of sun & a dry climate. Temperatures are another matter!
posted by yarntheory at 7:47 PM on May 9, 2016

The winters are... a wee bit colder than Toronto though.

Vancouver and possibly Victoria are the answers the OP really wants, and tick all their boxes enthusiastically but two: Nearness to Toronto and cost of living. Mostly, sadly not with their present housing markets. Not in any of our lifetimes.
posted by bonehead at 2:22 PM on May 10, 2016

Comparing apartment rents across Ontario, they seem generally very high to me and I don't find that any of the other COL metrics are much different than living in Toronto. When I was looking for an apartment recently, my search area was all the way from Beamsville to Mississauga. Every one of the cheaper apartment buildings in Hamilton had fairly recent bedbug reports, so I didn't bother checking any out. Everything east of the Skyway seemed nearly the same price as anything in the cheaper parts of Toronto. I wound up in Swansea in a smaller, mid-priced building near the Queensway. I'd check out Mimico or New Toronto because you'd still be on the streetcar line. Or the Danforth, to be near the subway.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:28 AM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

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