Background and History of Communities in Canada

Thunder Bay SkylineThe communities that have been established in Canada since the white man arrived follow a particular pattern. They generally have a grid layout, such as Sarnia, London and Woodstock, but some use a hub and spoke pattern, such as Guelph, where a major road comes in at an angle. The type of pattern used reflects how that city grew. If it started early in the development of pioneer settlements, the road may have taken the shortest path from one village to the next. Or it may have followed a river or the topography of the region. Roads, streets or cities built at a later time may have followed the grid pattern as planning was more intentional and organized. The resources were in place to help with a higher quality survey.

Now that these patterns have been established within this framework for some time, it is important to look at what is there and why, before attempting to change anything. I have found that the distance between communities reflects how far a horse or person could comfortably travel in a day in the past. Therefore there are generally communities within 10, 15 or 20 miles (15, 25 or 30 km) of each other in the more populated regions of Ontario. In some cases the land is covered in one continuous city. This has occured from Niagara Falls and St. Catherines at the southern tip of Lake Ontario and follows right through to Oshawa in the north - a distance of 130 miles (200 km). In other locations, such as in the drive north of Sault Ste. Marie, the population density is very low and the driver is warned to fill up with fuel before proceeding as the next gas station is more than 80 miles away (130 km).

Therefore, if one is to look at these communities in a fresh way, one needs to be aware of their history and background and whether or not the people of these communities actually want change or would be resistant to it. One would also have to look at what to do if something went wrong. Although it might seem reasonable to start with a small community, when I walked through one such small community west of Brantford early last summer (in 2016), I quickly realized that attempting to suggest change there would be futile. It would sound and feel very odd to waltz into a community like that one and state that I had something much better than they had. The other thought that came to mind as I walked through that hamlet was that the community plan had to be "kid proof" and "wife proof". That is, if my child got bored and wanted to go somewhere, I had to be able to do that. I couldn't do that if I didn't have a car or couldn't pay for fuel. The same goes through the response a wife might have. I needed to be able to provide on multiple levels year round, not just when the weather was fine on a sunny day in July. I needed to rethink this.

So, what I did was come up with a list of twenty communities in Ontario that I felt were just about right. They range from Welland in the south with a population of 51,000 to Thunder Bay in the north with a population of 108,000. The smallest community has a population of 22,000 and the largest a population of 136,000. Not only did making this list help guide my travels last summer, but I actually ended up in the city farthest away (Thunder Bay) on an expenses paid trip. This list is available on the next page.