Note: Following the bruising Sarnia’s image took in the national media last week I have been asked to republish this opinion piece, which first appeared April 10, 2014.
Sarnia often gets kicked in the teeth, and frankly I’m sick of it.
I tire of the naysayers and Internet trolls who run the city down at every opportunity. If they got out more they’d realize just how good we have it.
So I’m coming to my city’s defence. Here, in no particular order, are a few things I love about Sarnia.
1 – People
Sarnians are good people. By and large they are the sort you want to live and work with and raise a family among. They give generously. They clear snow from others’ sidewalks. They don’t butt in line. Yes, we have cretins and criminals too. But the vast majority of Sarnians are hard-working, attention-shy folk who help out by organizing kids’ sports, running service clubs and volunteering like crazy.
2 – Size
You can drive just about anywhere in Sarnia in 20 minutes. Parking, essentially, is free. It’s small enough to greet friends at the supermarket but big enough for cultural relevance – latest movies, recording artists, professional theatre. And if you need it mega-shopping is an hour away in London and Detroit. Call me a heretic, but I don’t get all bent out of shape because Sarnia isn’t growing rapidly. I prefer not to live in a megalopolis that spills endlessly outward gobbling up farms and forest.
3 – Tradition
Sarnia has its own conventions, which surprise newcomers. To most Canadians ‘Happy Friday’ is a friendly co-worker greeting before the weekend, a spin-off on TGIF. Sarnia’s is much better – a rotating Friday off work. The unbalanced week began generations ago through negotiated contracts for shift workers in the 24/7 Chemical Valley. Over time, other workplaces synched up and Happy Friday was born.
Respect for funerals is another Sarnianism. Motorists pull over here and wait patiently for mourners’ vehicles to pass. Men doff hats and kids on bikes have been seen to stop and stand at attention. It’s a simple act of decency, and it reigns here.
4 – Liveability
Sarnia is a safe city, media impressions to the contrary. The crime rate is five percentage points below the national average, and falling.
Sarnians are good drivers. With 3.4 collisions per 100 cars the city is second in Canada’s top 50 cities, according to the insurance industry.
We have an airport, a thriving community college and a lively arts and culture scene, which aren’t givens in many small cities.
And the climate is great, this brutal winter notwithstanding. Weather-wise, Southwestern Ontario is second only to southern B.C., and our Carolinian ecosystem (think North Carolina and Virginia) is the envy of Canadian gardeners.
5 – Cost of living
Rent prices in Sarnia are 56% lower than in Toronto. A meal for two in a mid-range restaurant here costs half as much, according to the cost-of-living website Numbeo. Ask any seasoned realtor about local housing prices. A monthly transit pass is 42% cheaper. A pair of Levis 501 is 38% cheaper. And on it goes. Yes, some goods are cheaper in Michigan, but border competition helps force prices down. For Canada, Sarnia is fantastic value.
6 – Water
Sarnia is the largest Canadian city on the fifth-largest freshwater lake on the planet, with excellent boating, exceptional fishing and a major river thrown in for good measure. Some days the colour and clarity of the water (thank you zebra mussels) is as bright and blue as the Bahamas, with Lake Huron’s bottom visible at 30 feet.
These are just a few things I love about our city. If you have your own, I’d like to hear about them. Send your thoughts to [email protected]