This week the Globe and Mail did a quick switch, sending its Washington correspondent home to Ottawa, and sending an Ottawa-based reporter to Washington! The two share their pithy perspectives on leaving their respective capitals in today’s paper.
John Ibbitson, on Ottawa: “If you ask Canadians to name Canada’s major cities, as likely as not they’ll leave Ottawa off the list. This will never change. Ottawa is what it is, and will always be less than it could be. It will always be a government town, and for that reason, it will always be a conservative town, it will always be a city of unrealized potential, it will always be rather dull.
“The city is located in the middle of nowhere, and the nowhere is quite attractive.
“Ottawa and Toronto are centres of different kinds of power. Toronto is the country’s dominant financial and cultural power – that is to say, real power – while Ottawa is the centre of political power. The different nature of those two sources of power is reflected in the way the two populations entertain: In Toronto, people go out to dinner; in Ottawa, they hold dinner parties. And that really is the very heart of it. A truly great evening in Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver starts out in a restaurant and ends up in a bar, with a whole lot of great food, too much booze and adventure along the way, or to come. A truly great evening in Ottawa begins and ends in your friends’ living room, where people have gathered for dinner, and where the evening winds down over gossip and cognac”
Alan Freeman, on Washington: “In many ways, Washington is simply Ottawa on steroids, a bland company town where government is the dominant employer and seemingly the only subject of conversation. Capitals may be great when it comes to well-manicured parkland, countless statues of long-dead heroes and wide boulevards, but they’re not exactly the liveliest of places to visit and live in.
“This is a city I’ve found hard to love. Washington may be leafy, it may have great museums and even better monuments, but it’s not the kind of urban environment I find instantly exciting. It has none of the buzz of New York or London, none of the neighbourhood dynamism of Toronto, none of the lively grittiness of Montreal or Berlin, all cities I’ve lived in over the past three decades.”