There’s a north side, west end, and south side, but nothing known as ‘the east.’ Edmontonians are broadly defined by the sector of the city in which they live. This is wrong, but I am north side proud, nonetheless.
All cities are complex, and it takes time for an individual to live in a place before they know the place. For example, I have travelled a lot, but I do not claim, for a second, to intimately know many of the cities that I have visited. How could I? I’ve spent three days in Rome, three days in Hong Kong, and three days in Auckland.
Even London, England, where I spent four months studying, or Quebec City, where I completed my naval intelligence training, also for four months, are two great cities which I do not effectively know today. Although I can get around both these locales, if I were dropped there now, I would not know the nuances of what make their neighbourhoods tick. I am not an expert in these complex places. The only city that I truly know is Edmonton.
The north side of Edmonton gets a bad rap, and I have no idea why. It is not justified. To be blunt, there are bad neighbourhoods on either side of the river. To me, the north is not materially different than other areas of the city, especially if you exclude the recent suburban growth outside of the Henday. But for native Edmontonians, there is a line in the sand.
I moved here directly from eastern Canada, and I chose the north side. I did not know the intricacies of Edmonton at that time. I moved here for work, and immediately my co-workers started giving me flak for living in the north. I’d play along, but never really understood the concern.
On several occasions, I have had taxi drivers refuse to drive me to the north side from Whyte, despite this being against the bylaw (for the record, this has never happened with Uber).
The north side has some major appeals, which include Blatchford (the former airport—which I feel should’ve continued as an airport for 25+ years), Kingsway and Londonderry malls, Commonwealth Stadium, Northlands, 124 Street, Fort Road, 118 Avenue, Chinatown, Little Italy, great parks, character homes, unique neighbourhoods, a few amazing dog parks, genuine people, military families, almost every store that is available on the south side, a good portion of the river valley, the Hotel MacDonald, the Quarters, the Yellowhead Trail and, I suppose, downtown is technically north side—and downtown is pretty awesome.
Over the years, people have told me that I should move to the south side (or to the west end), but they have yet to convince me. Even my bride, Karly, moved to the north from the south. My new mother and father-in-law constantly tease us, but we are both very happy where we are.
Now that I have been here for over a decade, I do think that residents could make slight improvements to increase the livability of the area. Let’s shovel snow for the elderly so that they do not have to move out of their homes. Let’s volunteer more with the disadvantaged so that we may have help, should we ever be down on our luck. Let’s keep our yards clean and our property presentable. Let’s be good neighbours. Let’s support local restaurants and stores.
Most importantly, let’s tell south siders that the north side is the best side.
February 2017 update: Now that I have declared that I am running in municipal election, I want to say that my standing policy is “Ward 3 First, North Side Second, The Rest of Edmonton Third.”