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Finding Collingwood by E.H. Scott

Posted by Sherry Rioux on June 5, 2008

Many of my real estate clients move to the area from somewhere else; some near and some far. I’m always interested to know why they chose South Georgian Bay and the stories they tell are always fascinating. So, I’ve decided to start a new section on the blog called, Your Stories.

Today, we have a guest post from clients of mine who have moved here from the U.K.  Here is their story.

How do you emigrate from one country to another? I’m not talking about the mundane, technical aspects of paperwork and visas, I’m specifically asking: how do you find where to live?

I mean, really think about it. Canada is the second largest country in the world. It’s enormous! How do you narrow down the vast choice of locations to one region, let alone a specific town to call home?

The waiting time in Britain for a Canadian Permanent Resident Visa is currently approximately 4 to 5 years (yes, really!) This gives you a lot of time to ponder, and research, the question of location.

Having lived in London (England!) for most of our lives, we knew that we didn’t want the big city life any longer. Initially, we had been fairly fixed on Alberta. Somewhere near Calgary, in the foothills of the Rockies, snow in winter, sun in summer, streams, brooks, rolling hillsides of pine trees – the picture postcard Canada that we all think of. What could be better? So we concentrated all our research on Alberta. Ask me a question on Alberta, go on – any question and I’d bet I answer it and then reel off a whole bunch of statistics about it too!

But, to us, there’s one problem with Alberta – its economy. In the time since we applied for our visas, the rising price of oil has meant that it is now economical to process the oil sands in Alberta (did you know that there’s more oil in Alberta than in Saudi Arabia?). This has lead to a booming economy with negative unemployment. “Great”, you might think, “the perfect place to live”. But wait: boom economics is cyclic – with every up, there eventually comes a down. Did we really want to move to somewhere that in 10 or 20 years is going to be in depression, with mass unemployment?

The massive influx of workers to Alberta has led to a housing shortage. Inevitably, this leads to a rise in house prices. What was selling for $250k when we applied for our visas 4 years ago, is now selling for $700k! To illustrate the housing problem, here’s a story I read in an Edmonton newspaper. Police in Edmonton recently raided a bunch of vagrants who were sleeping in tents in a local park. During the raid the police found many kit bags, full of professional craftsmen’s tools. They thought that they had uncovered a major burglary ring. But no: the “vagrants” were actually construction workers employed in the huge amount of new buildings going up in and around Edmonton. They were forced to sleep in the parks because there was no rental property available, other than the major hotels!

So, we decided against Alberta.

But where now? We still wanted somewhere that was a bit like Alberta: mountains, lakes, snow, good summers.  Vancouver? Too wet. The Prairies – Saskatchewan, Manitoba? Too flat. Quebec? We don’t speak French! The Maritimes? Too stormy and remote. The North? Too cold. I know that we generalised, and I’m sure some will take issue with those labels, but it worked for us, as it left only Ontario.

So, after nearly 4 years of researching Alberta, we switched, and started to research Ontario. But, having narrowed it down to Ontario, there was still an issue. Let me try and put some perspective on the situation. At over a million km, Ontario is over 4 times the size of the whole of Britain. And with a population of 12 million, Ontario has less than a fifth the population of Britain (which is currently over 60 million)!

So, where to live? We went through the same process as we did for Alberta: looking at physical geography, proximity to a major conurbation, near a lake, near “mountains”, employment prospects, infrastructure, etc. After a while, Barrie started to move to the top of the list. It ticked a lot of our boxes (this is still all just on paper, you understand).

As we had not yet even visited Ontario, after our visas were eventually issued, we flew from London Gatwick into Toronto, officially landed as Canadian Permanent Immigrants, and went to Barrie for a 2 week reconnaissance trip. We literally stuck a pin in a map, drew a 1 hour circle from Barrie, and then visited every town from Owen Sound to Peterborough and from Huntsville down into North Toronto, and everywhere in between.

Including Collingwood.

Boy, did we fall in love with Collingwood! It ticked every box. Close to the lake, close to the “mountains” (nice though it is, I think that we can all agree that Blue is not quite the Rockies!), close to a big city, good infrastructure. And, let’s face it, Collingwood is a really attractive town, with such great people! The Canadians are generally nice; but Collingwooders just make you feel so welcome! Any time we went into a store, we’d end up having a 30 minute conversation with people. You just can’t imagine that happening in England!

After the 2 week trip, we went home, and excitedly made the final arrangements for our permanent departure, looking forward to the next step of our amazing adventure. We successfully emigrated from England to Canada last October.

Since we moved here, many people have asked us how we chose Collingwood, and I always tell them this story. Without even one exception, each and everyone in Collingwood who has heard the story has been immensely proud that out of the whole world, we chose their town (now our town too!)

We found Collingwood. We found Home.

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Related Posts:
South Georgian Bay Growth Continues In Record Numbers
Then and Now: Two Decades of Change

When it’s time to buy or sell real estate in the Collingwood, Blue Mountain or Georgian Triangle area, contact Marg, an experienced and competent Broker who’s ready whenever you are!

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