Edmonton on Q

I don’t know anyone who thinks about the rivalry between Edmonton and Calgary in any serious way. It’s certainly fun when the hockey and football teams play each other, and we can shout across the aspen parkland and prairie about who gets the best stores first, but they’re similar in many ways. They look and feel like twins. One has big energy head offices and the glass towers that come with them. The other has the big university and several thousand small head offices.

Like twins, they compete and adore and occasionally hate each other. One may be prettier than the other but that is a subjective matter. When Ralph Klein was the father, or king I suppose, Calgary was the favourite child. Edmonton did a lot of standing in the corner, feeling sorry for itself. But this was a relatively short, superficial episode.

Twins can have different personalities, and these cities do. A city of big head offices has a different culture than a city of small head offices, a government and university town. Both are blue-collar cities, with a lot of shiny trucks, but Edmonton is much closer to the oilsands. It is more useful for Edmonton to look at cities like Austin than little versions of Houston, for inspiration.

Jian Ghomeshi and the most popular CBC radio show of all time, Q, arrived in Edmonton last week for a live taping. Edmonton musicians and comedians and political commentators were on the show, and the consensus was that the brilliant Q producers had chosen well: Shout Out Out Out Out, Colleen Brown, the Irrelevant Show Trevor Anderson.

The podcast is available online, if you missed it.

Jian had trouble figuring out the crowd, and couldn’t help himself: he “stoked the rivalry.” He noted that Calgarians are a proud and shout-y people. He didn’t use these words, but looking out upon a theatre full of self-deprecating Edmontonians he felt something different. Were these boastful Albertans or sullen Finns? It didn’t fit, somehow, though the crowd ended up being distinctly Edmontonian.

The arc of the show was, in a sense, the theme of this blog. Edmonton is a “do it yourself with others” sort of city, a “let’s do it” sort of place. Make Something Edmonton was a spectral presence. I was briefly on the show, and missed an opportunity to talk about how beautiful magpies are, when you really look at them (I called them “dirty birds,” admiringly). I found myself unable to avoid comparing the cultures of Edmonton and Calgary, which I regret, but it was a jolly evening.

In other news, Councillor Kerry Diotte is using the word “rebranding” on his blog. I dearly hope we all stop using that word immediately.

And, from Montreal, a smart writer called Mark John Hiemstra posted a blog called “Just Keep Making Something, Edmonton.”

I spotted this on the #makesomethingyeg stream on Twitter:


5 thoughts on “Edmonton on Q

  1. Just moved here, I say to a friend “what are those beautiful blue and white birds you have everywhere?” “Blue jays?” “No with the white bellies” “oh magpies? They’re not blue.” We argued, she doesn’t like them much, but I thought their color would be an objective fact. I still like them and think they have blue on them. PS – you were great on Q
    Emilie (happily temporarily transplanted Winnerpegger)

  2. I get the physical similarity (we’re both car-era North American cities) but to me, the difference between Calgary and Edmonton is quite stark:

    – Edmonton = first mosque on the continent, women’s sufferage, first blacks as pro-football QB, Hockey HOFer, Symphony conductor, and worlds first Holodomor monunment.

    – Calgary = Rob Anders, the M.P. who, alone, prevented Canada from honouring Nelson Mandela, and has been re-elected 4 times since; William Aberhart, the premier who wanted his government to be able to control the newspapers and banks of the province (something despots do, ICYWW); and R.B. Bennet, the prime minister whose response to a hunger march in Edmonton during the Great Depression was to mount machine guns on the roof of our old post office and send in the cavalry with batons.

    I suppose I might be called melodramatic or something, except that those are actually all truths.

    • They’re all truths, but they’re all historical. As an import, I also find the current-day cities very similar (although in terms of where to live, I’m still glad it’s Edmonton).

  3. Pingback: Feminism, plastic men, and holiday giving | Edmonton Blog Watch | The Unknown Studio

  4. The Houston/Austin comparison is a really great one. I personally love the city of Austin and its unabashed sense of itself. In that case, it’s clear which city is the bigger centre for energy and commerce, but I’d pick Austin any day of the week. A city that embraces making, weirdness, creativity and technology is the kind of place where I want to be (and help make).

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