What’s so great about Vancouver? At the risk of sounding trite, there’s Earnest Ice Cream and a world-class library system. We have beaches and bike lanes that are the envy of North America. One of Canada’s most renowned DJs, Pomo, hails from these parts, as does an even more famous man of music, Michael Bublé. And, of course, Vancouver is the birthplace of Seth Rogen and Ryan Reynolds.
But when the Georgia Straight contacted some local luminaries about what they like best about our city, none mentioned any of these things. Not even the chief librarian, Sandra Singh.
“Picking one thing I like best is pretty much impossible because there is so much to like,” Singh stated, echoing the thoughts of many of us. “But if you forced me to speak to only one thing, I would say the cultural diversity of Vancouver. I am proud to work for a community with so many cultures, identities, and languages, and one in which these diverse cultures and identities are respected, celebrated, and seen as something that makes us stronger and better as a city.”
Coun. Elizabeth Ball also cherishes the way different cultures come together in Vancouver. “My family moved to Vancouver from Ottawa when I was 13,” she revealed. “I was fascinated by the wonderful diversity of people here, and my brothers and I spent every Saturday exploring Chinatown. After freezing Ottawa, the weather, especially the foghorns and the fog, seemed so romantic. Well, we rarely have fog now, but the great diversity remains and the cultural scene is exciting and varied. Still my favourite place in the world!”
Veteran broadcaster Shushma Datt, owner of Spice Radio, is similarly energized by Vancouver’s global feel. “When I came here from London, England, in the ’70s, Vancouver was a sleepy little town compared to London. It is now bursting with colour, diversity, and excitement.”
The only Green party councillor, Adriane Carr, had this to say about her best of Vancouver: "All the Vancouverites who are caring and feisty, and push for affordability and against Kinder Morgan!"
Former director of planning Brent Toderian is a fan of the various transportation options available in our town. “What I like best about Vancouver is that we’ve built a city that supports a lifestyle choice where my family can not only exist but, in fact, thrive without the need to own a car.”
Not everyone gushes about Vancouver all the time.
Writer and educator Jackie Wong readily acknowledges how difficult it is to live in our town. “So perhaps as a reflection of its endless and frustrating contradictions, what I like best about Vancouver is also what I like the least: its small-town heart despite—or perhaps because of—its big-city posturing. To me, this city will always feel like home because it suffers from a kind of insider-baseball parochialism that feels indulgently cozy at the best of times. At its worst, of course, this same community closeness is precisely what makes the place so hard for newcomers to break through or even for Tinder users to find a date.”
At the same time, Wong points out that the city is “full of generous, openhearted people who want to share of themselves and want to connect in all sorts of ways”.
Seth Klein, the B.C. director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says the Vancouver Folk Music Festival is his favourite thing about living in the city. It's because of "the combination of music, food, [and] socializing with friends, many of whom I’ve worked with in common cause".
"And when the sun goes down, our city looks spectacular, and the musicians from around the world are always stunned and jealous," Klein noted. "It is a weekend when Vancouver looks and feels its best."
Former park commissioner Constance Barnes summed up her favourite part of Vancouver this way: "My tiny quiet suite in Kits Point with its peekaboo view of the ocean, mountains and skyline. Sorry folks (last affordable one ) GONE!"
This year's Georgia Straight’s 21st annual Best of Vancouver issue clocks in at 136 pages, a testament not only to the city’s economic vitality but also to the enduring fascination with discussing what we like about living here. We've featuring the observations of several other "hometown favourites" sprinkled among our usual picks by staff writers. The public’s views are reflected in more than two dozen “readers’ choice” boxes, which were compiled from hundreds of thousands of responses to individual questions in an online survey. And various experts chime in with their choices of what’s best in their areas of prowess.
So sit back, grab your favourite beverage, and enjoy the 2016 edition of the Best of Vancouver. We hope you have as much fun reading it as we did in pulling it together.