Opinion

Please Advise! Can I Get a Job in the Liveable City?

In Vancouver? Sure! You're an apartment-peeping drone, right?

By Steve Burgess 22 Aug 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

I am considering a move to Vancouver. I hear good things from the Economist "Most Liveable Cities" survey. So is Vancouver really a good place to live? How's the employment situation?

Signed,

Looking

Dear Looking,

Good news -- certain aspects of the economy are looking up. In particular, the "Most Livable City" surveying industry, which seems to be running full blast. Between the Economist, Mercer, Monocle, and the UN, there's always another one of these lists coming out and we keep obsessing about them like insecure teenagers. That means plenty of surveying jobs to be had.

What sorts of jobs are they? Well, there have been recent reports of drones hovering outside Vancouver condos and apartment buildings. This could mean that Vancouver is a test city for the long-awaited Google Apartment View. But I'm assuming it's connected to livability surveys. To truly understand if a city is livable, researchers must see how we are living. Healthy late-night snacks? Putting socks in the laundry hamper instead of on the floor? Regular sexual activity? Proper leisure pursuits? How can a city be truly livable if too many of its citizens are watching Bachelor in Paradise? Drones are measuring our happiness as we speak. And you can be part of it.

Other Vancouver industries are hiring too. Perhaps you'd like to work in public relations for CP Rail? I imagine that department has a high turnover these days. In the wake of CP's attack on Arbutus corridor community gardens, their PR people are likely departing for easier gigs, like training circus crabs or being Rob Ford's personal press secretary. As a CP public relations person, you'd be kept busy putting out press releases reminding people that CP owns the land and it's the city's fault for not striking a deal, hoping people wouldn't remember how much CP paid for the land in the first place. Their actions are legal, but so is farting in an elevator -- neither make you a great citizen. It's a mark of livable cities that as they grow and change, good people find space to create environments where community can flourish, and a corporation that has been part of the city as long as it has existed might be expected to recognize and support that sort of thing. On the other hand, bulldozers and excavators do need drivers, so those are more job opportunities for you.

What's liveable, anyway?

Livability rankings are problematic. A list of quantifiable factors may not reflect your personal priorities. Take Melbourne -- it's #1 on the Economist livability survey despite the presence of spiders the size of Taylor Swift's bank account. Plus, a new Australian report says city-dwelling spiders are becoming larger than their country cousins. "The fact that some spiders benefit from urbanization is a good thing," says the insane Australian scientist. So if giant spiders, mad scientists, and Vegemite are your thing, by all means choose Melbourne.

Toronto is #4 on the Economist list, perfectly sensible if you're fond of humidity and clowns. Adelaide, home to a type of cuisine known as the "pie floater," is #5, tied with Calgary, where for much of the year Starbucks will sell you an iced coffee as though there's a difference by the time you get back to the car. Ranked dead last in the survey is Damascus, Syria at #140. Yet there's plenty of work there in certain industries -- if you're a Russian arms dealer, you might want to flip that ranking on its head.

As for Vancouver, some say it is not so livable, citing the expense. A legitimate point, although there is a certain Yogi Berra-like illogic to it. "Nobody goes there anymore," Berra reportedly said. "It's too crowded." If Vancouver wasn't so attractive, it wouldn't be so expensive. Density could help that situation -- unless density turned Vancouver into London, Paris, or New York, which would apparently destroy our livability ranking since those great metropolises don't tend to do well on such surveys. People do seem to be fond of London, Paris and New York anyway though, which suggests there are certain positive qualities of urban life that surveyors don't capture. I will say this: if you enjoy bitching about goaltenders and bike lanes, welcome, friend. You're going to love it here.  [Tyee]

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