Just as money can’t buy happiness, per capita GDP can’t measure it. That’s where Gross National Happiness comes in. It focuses on psychological well-being, health, time use, education, culture, good governance, ecology, community vitality and living standards. There’s more nuance and theory behind all of this but the idea intrigues. Let’s narrow the focus. Is Kitchener a happy city? I’ve been polling friends and co-workers to see what they had to say.
“Kitchener imports it’s happiness” This from a Deer Ridge native commuting into Waterloo for the ubiquitous hi-tech gig. Happiness as opportunity. While industry takes a dirt nap in town, opportunity abounds in Silicon Valley North. Waterloo is the beacon that puts the region on the map. No one explains the changing fortunes of our two cities better than our own John English in a recent Maclean’s article.
“Kitchener isn’t happy” It’s saddled with a downtown core that intimidates. Still I think it was put best recently that “the fear of crime in downtown Kitchener far outweighs the possibility of crime.” The perception that it’s a downtrodden mess still persists and the majority of people I chatted with were only too happy to dogpile on the beleaguered core. One father will pace his kids at 40 feet in downtown Waterloo while he ushers them off to the Civic square from the parking lot. In downtown Kitchener a strict arms length rule is enforced.
Hey, it’s not all doom and gloom from those that were polled. The Kitchener Rangers are a hometown pride. Victoria Park has a fantastic playground and waterpark for the kids; one that out of towners are often brought to. McClelland Park was also sited as a great spot in town. I am also now consumed by the need to visit Victoria Park’s Winter Wonderland show, painted as some surreal carny exhibit with freakish animatronics with flaking plaster faces, dead eyes and ghoulish smiles miming picturesque holiday scenes guaranteed to haunt my dreams.
Downtown Kitchener still holds a warm place in my heart and I miss the old office on Frederick, a stones throw from Walper Tobacco, a great lunch at the Xhibit Cafe or a quick run down to the Tim Hortons for a mid afternoon Cold Stone Creamery. I may joke about living in the hood of Stanley Park, but at least it’s my hood.