The more I travel across Canada and after living, in 3 different regions (Ontario, Pacific Coast in British Columbia and Alberta in Prairie heartland), the more I think I’m creeping closer into the heart of Canada’s soul. It’s been an amazing journey.
It’s a huge effort to figure out Canada at ground level: it’s myriad differences and similarities that bind us as a country. Yes, things hold us together –its mercurial weather patterns, daunting geography, wildlife, culture, history, politics, food, habits and quirks.
Even Canadians are sometimes freaked out over their own country’s daunting geographic distances, multiple time zones and some extreme weather conditions.
Enormous Canada Means Getting Our Act Together: 6 Time Zones
First, Canada’s huge geographic stretch across 6 different time zones, should be a clue: it’s just tougher for all of us to talk on the same page as Canadians, from Pacific to Altantic coast.
No wonder why sometimes Canadians are out of sych with one another when it comes to real-time communication. Sheesh, just organizing a business meeting in a national company means during Vancouver morning, I had to remember to schedule meetings that didn’t spoil a Quebec colleagues’ lunch hour. It’s a 3 hr. difference.
It’s amusing to hear some Albertans who believe the Canadian economy rests on the oil and gas industry. I’m sorry it’s a bit delusionary.
Nope. The Canadian economy rests on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) activity, which doesn’t care about time zones elsewhere in Canada. It is Ontario time, not Alberta nor British Columbia time. Even corporate lawyers for mergers and acquisitions in these provinces, aren’t dumb enough to challenge Toronto time.
When the TSX shuts down for the day, the rest of Canada must kow-tow to Eastern Standard Time and schedule their major financial trades accordingly. Oh I forgot, the TXS is in the same time zone, as the New York Stock Exchange. Have I said enough, how the North American financial world turns its dime on Eastern Standard Time?
But most of the time, for Canadians, it’s just scheduling phone calls and face time with family members and friends at mutually sane hours.
Awestruck By Daunting Distance and Time
Canadians forget their own country stretches over 8,000 km. from the Pacific to Atlantic coast. We have the world’s longest national highway –the Trans-Canada Highway, over 7,800 km. from Victoria, British Columbia to St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Just reading this distance is enough to give any Canadian a bout of jet lag. No wonder why Canadians are sleep-deprived and cranky, when they fly across their own country, never mind across the ocean to a foreign country.
Weather: Regional Differences in Wierdness,Toughness and Whimpiness
Unlike the U.S., Canada doesn’t have any true tropical climate areas to complement our Arctic wintery zones. The balmiest Canadian areas are the Vancouver-Victoria area in southern British Columbia with mildest winters –except for the mountain ski areas. It’s only a 25 km. bike ride from downtown Vancouver to the ski mountains. Hence, there are a few year round palm trees in Vancouver –by Stanley Park.
You can read all the Internet weather information about Canada’s regional differences. But become a resident and you will truly learn what is considered toughing it out vs. whimpiness in one province is completely reversed in another part of Canada.
Summer Heat Differences: Pacific Coast, Prairie and Ontario
For an ex-southern Ontarian, it’s strange to hear Vancouverites and Calgarians complain about their hot summers. Are you kidding me??? Toronto summers tend to be quite humid, close to 100% humidity and hitting temp. at 25-30 degrees C. with occasional smog alerts. Cycling can be a serious effort but it does toughen you into readiness for tropical vacations in Florida or Hawai’i.
Vancouver summers are perfectly lovely with a hint of Pacific ocean coolness in mornings. I can vouch that hill climbing on bike, is simply easier in Vancouver air compared toToronto. Meanwhile, Calgary simmers in dry summer heat no more than 25 degrees C. Calgary sun is blazingly brighter and more naked, with simply less trees in barren prairies and Calgary at 1,000 metres higher elevation, than Vancouver or Toronto.
Calgary is further north than either Vancouver and Toronto, which means going to bed at 10:00 pm in summer when it’s still sunny. In fact, there are regular local night group bike rides kicking off at 9:00 pm and not grinding to a halt until near midnight. Ok, whatever floats your bike or boat.
Divided by Dehumidifers, Humidifers and Lightning Storms
The heat in southern Alberta is dry enough that locals have humidifiers to ensure lovely fine wood furniture and floors stay lustrous and shiny, as well stop nosebleeds due to dried out noses. In contrast, residents in Vancouver and Toronto, are firing up home dehumidifiers during summer and winter, to suck out air moisture and prevent mold growth.
Lightning and occasional damaging hail storms, are a fact of life every Albertan summer. Except for hailstorms, equally spectacular lightning and thunder are featured in Ontario. However lightning and thunderstorms in Vancouver are so rare, that Nature’s fireworks makes local front page news. Thunderstorms don’t happen often until you venture 100 km. further inland through British Columbia.
Cold Rain or Snow-Ice: Which Province is Tougher?
The infamous grey rain that veils Vancouver on some days during fall, winter and spring, is not that horrible. At least a drizzle doesn’t stop a lot of Vancouverites from cycling, walking or socializing outdoors under a bistro canopy with a cup of coffee or cigarette. In contrast in Toronto and Calgary, die-hard smokers are having their smoke out in -15 degree C winter freeze and wind-driven snow.
Calgarian regular cyclists are a tough lot when they churn on their winter studded bike tires in -20 to -30 degrees C with wind and thick snow. Yet, during a summer light drizzle rain, paved Calgary bike-pedestrian paths, are nearly devoid of people. I live near a major bike path. Whimpy, eh?
Meanwhile, more stalwart Vancouver pedestrians with umbrellas, stroll downtown streets and cyclists spin along in their water repellant jackets or ponchos all over the city to work and other stops for their chores. These cycling folks are not athletic cyclists. Just regular folks on bikes.
But true, when it snows, Vancouver seems to grind to near halt, its commuter trains sometimes stuck at -10 degrees C because they are not fully prepared. Most definitely, I had less faith in car drivers during a Vancouver snowfall, compared to drivers in Ontario and Alberta..
Keeping or Losing My Ice Legs
When I lived in Vancouver for 8 years, it bothered me that I was losing my “ice legs” from living in Ontario for first 40 years. “Ice legs” is the ability to walk confidently across sidewalk ice and slippery winter snow without falling. Well, now that skill returned somewhat when I moved to Alberta.
I have not yet witnessed here in Calgary or Alberta, the magic of northern lights. We are in one of the prime Canadian viewing locations –if we leave the night light pollution of the city. As for northern lights in Metro Vancouver and Toronto, just forget it. We had a dim glow from the Toronto Sky Dome and B.C. Stadium night light filtering into some of our rooms.
Now if you haven’t keeled over Canadian weather follies, or vast time and space occupied by Canada, stay tuned for Part 2 on climate and local food.
P.S.: This post rightfully deserves to have been published on July 1st, Canada’s birthday when we became officially a country 147 years ago. Hey, I have no expectation people care to cruise around much or at all in blogosphere during an official summer holiday in Canada.
But yes, for all its ups and downs, I’m glad have Canada as my birth root, home and emotional touchstone.