Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Too Much Anne of Green Gables Filter:: Charlottetown's One Trick Pony?


Maclean's loves its lists. Best Canadian universities. Smartest cities. Best-run cities. In a recent issue, Charlottetown was on the bottom of the list in Maclean's first annual best-run cities list, conducted by a Halifax think tank, AIMS. Another capital city was at the bottom of the list, Victoria, BC, which is another city in the periphery. While Charlottetown is deemed as a liveable city with solid governance and finance, the problems stem from the following::

  1. Hard to start businesses there
  2. Low numbers of immigrants per capita
  3. Shortage of outdoor space
  4. Over-reliance on seasonal tourism
  5. Relatively low business revenues
  6. Poor public transportation
One Charlottetown native was perturbed by the commercial onslaught known as the Anne of Green gables machine:: “It’s Anne chocolates, Anne shops, Anne everything." A friend of mine in college would complain about cinematography making quips like, "too much blue filter," when a scene was overly saturated with a colour and this turned into a meme for many years. I'm sure he would say upon visiting the capital of PEI, "too much Anne filter," and I might tend to agree, but oddly I wouldn't feel the same way about seeing commercialized Trailer Park Boys cash-grabs in Halifax/Dartmouth. Speaking of the TPB, Charlottetown is the birthplace of J-Roc. You can see him interviewing Sarah Polley on this blog post.

In terms of what I would call cultural capital {the basis for another Maclean's list on the smartness of cities}, Charlottetown is perfectly average {pdf of scorecard}.
What is interesting to me about these lists is how cultural capital is often linked to growth and financial capital, albeit with notable exceptions like Windsor, ON.

The city's defenders are right to claim that Charlottetown shouldn't be compared to cities like Toronto, Montréal, or Vancouver. It's a small city with a population of 32,000 and while the extent and usage of public transit might seem disappointing, the city core is fairly compact and walkable.

I'm thinking that Charlottetown is not one of the worst-run cities. It's economy is dominated by tourism, agriculture, fishing, and the public sector, which isn't surprising given that it's in the periphery. There is a small tech. sector there, which the government is investing R&D money in, but in order to be a vibrant and diversified economy, there will have to be strategic investments in local institutions and infrastructure, as the cultural capital indicators show. At the end of the day, residents of Charlottetown and PEI may not be interested in more business and growth.

Twitterversion:: Charlottetown,PEI @ bottom Maclean's Best-runCitiesList.AnneofGrnGables tourist mecca not biz friendly,whichMayBeSavingIt @Prof_K

Song:: Stuck For The Summer - Two Hours Traffic {Charlottetown, PE}

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