(this was written last winter)
WEST, NOT NORTH
I just came back from freezing my butt off, as usual, on a trip to the golden east; their humid cold bites every bit as hard as our dry air on our coldest days. If you want a horrible climate, pick a place surrounded with big lakes that do not freeze over, that’s the golden east. I was attending what I expect will be my last Ontario-wide conference where I wear a badge saying ‘Kenora District’. I found it just too stressful to not tear a strip off the majority of delegates I came in contact with, who would say something like “so, how much snow have you got?”, or “bet you are glad to get down here and escape the cold”. This from mostly rural delegates, who I would expect to have more common sense than the city crowd.
I restricted myself to saying that our climate is actually quite comparable to Ottawa, or we are pretty much on the same latitude as Sudbury, even these mild responses result in a look which says ‘you lying SOB, Kenora is near the north pole’, and a sidling away from me.
This ignorance is in spite of the fact that most have actually travelled through here (once, after that they travel through the US); they seem to not have noticed that they were travelling west, not north, for most of the trip. The good news is that I did not hear one remark about how bad Dryden smells, I guess we have that problem fixed.
This becomes more important as our lives become more and more dominated by the province, which following these prejudices seems to want to turn the whole north into a park. We are beating up our local politicians (although their posturing doesn’t help them) when they have little leeway, much of the municipal budget is dictated by provincial edicts, not least the policy decision that industrial assessments would be dramatically reduced without offsetting revenue sources.
One of the ways we can separate our district in the minds of the city folk from ‘the Great White north’ is to promote the notion that we are not ‘north’, but ‘west’. North means north of Toronto, of course, and if we are 800 miles past Sudbury, we must indeed be in an uninhabitable wilderness. West means something else, the city folk do not seem to have any trouble getting their head around the notion that the western provinces might actually be habitable.
In support of this notion, it could be pointed out that the most southwesterly portion of our district, the Rainy River valley, is –
– South of the entire mainland of the four western provinces,
– South of parts of 5 of the United States (in addition to Alaska)
– South of all of the British Isles, the low countries, Poland, part of Germany and on a latitude with Paris, France
– West of Chicago, closer to Texas than to Cornwall
– 600 miles west of Windsor (more than the distance from Windsor to Montreal).
What is commonly called Western Ontario, that is, Windsor, is
– south of all of 12 of the United States and south of parts of 10 more –
– south of most of Europe, on a latitude with Rome, Italy
– on a latitude with northern California
– Over 600 miles EAST of the west boundary of Ontario. A huge distance, the other provinces (except Quebec) are not even 600 miles wide!
Perhaps if we pound away that we are ‘Western Ontario’, and the Windsor area is ‘southwestern Ontario’ for a few decades, that frozen north pole prejudice will go the way of the Dryden Smell.