Metro Vancouver Is A Piece Of Trash!

I mean: “Metro Vancouver” is a piece of trash, as a name.

Because there is no “Metro Vancouver”.

Here’s how things actually are: we have these various cities in the very very large hunk of real estate called “the Lower Mainland”, and some of them (Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey, etc.) are what we call, collectively, “Greater Vancouver”. The City of Vancouver itself we simply call “Vancouver” — or “Van”, if you want to sound like a rube — and when we’re forced to make the distinction extra clear it’s been common practice for many years now to say “Vancouver proper“. Who invented this way of talking I don’t know, and I’m not trying to make any claims for it…but that’s the way we talk.

But now, we’ve got “Metro Vancouver.” I thought this expression, like the hated “YVR” that seems to have pushed out the more truthful “the airport”, had just come in through the back door of news reporting — after all, reporters are always looking for little cheap hipnesses of this kind, and it’d certainly fit with the general pattern of people coming here from Toronto and trying to replace our habitual way of speaking with their own…

Hold on, I’ll break off here to explain this phenomenon a little better. Transplanted Torontonians, don’t take offence, but many of you do in fact do this: you can’t tolerate our “#113, 2112 West 41st Avenue” style of addressing, insisting instead that the “logical” way of doing this is to say “2112 41st Avenue West, #113”; your TV script supervisors seem to think that Vancouver has “councilmen” who are answerable to their constituents, a belief whose essential wrongness is actually somewhat ironic; you are always talking about the Loblaw’s and the streetcar, and we don’t know what you’re saying. I’ve heard you talk about Seymour Mountain and Mt. Grouse. Not trying to be mean, here: I despise chauvinistic Vancouverites who give people from back East a hard time, it’s petty and small and it’s goddamn impolite, not to mention hypocritical…

But many of you do seem to ride right over the way we actually talk about this city here, and yes it’s a little annoying, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make: the point I’m trying to make is that when I hear someone tossing about neologisms for Vancouver-specific geographical features that already possess their own perfectly good and commonly-understood names, as though that is the way everybody has always talked about them anyway, I think “pretty good odds that person speaking there is from Toronto”. So my annoyance, or even lack of it, is immaterial: I’m not trying to say it bugs me, I’m just trying to say I can tell.

Which I can.

And that’s how I know that there are many, many people working in our local TV stations and newspapers who are from Toronto, because these neologisms pop up with enormously greater frequency on print and on TV, than they do on the street.

So you see, considering the fact that Torontonians have been wont to call their city “Metro Toronto” for lo these many years now, when I noticed the expression “Metro Vancouver” turning up with ever-greater regularity in the local media I immediately assumed that it was because there were expat folks from the Big Smoke who thought “Vancouver proper” sounded confusing, and decided to just plain go with what they were used to instead.

But, I think I owe you an apology, ex-Toronto folk. Because it now appears as though I leapt to conclusions about that. Mea culpa: I had forgotten that there’s another agent of neologization at work in these parts.

The government, obviously. I mean they do kooky stuff all the time to what we call the things around us, from dropping the word “General” out from the middle of our hospital’s name (goodbye, days when taxi drivers understood what “VGH” meant!), to their childlike delight in making cute little two-syllable institutional portmanteaux — “SeaCat”, “SkyTrain”, “CareCard”, “TransLink”, ga ga, goo goo, da da, pee pee…and there may be quite a few real estate agents and developers who hail from Toronto The Good, but I’m not going to blame them for the ongoing effort to rename neighbourhoods in pursuit of sexiness…at least, I’m not going to blame it on them being from Toronto. Because Vancouver’s got quite enough self-loathing “world-class-city-ism” of its own, to motivate such changes. So I blame government for the fact that people are being encouraged to miscall my beloved Yaletown by the name of (ugh) “Soho”…

And I guess I have them to blame for “Metro Vancouver”, too.

Because apparently it isn’t a replacement term for “Vancouver proper”, at all.

It’s a replacement term for “Greater Vancouver”, instead.

Which makes no sense, and so therefore must be the work of the government, see?

“Metro Vancouver”…my God, if I lived in New Westminster I’d be up in arms. I’d be taking it to the street if I lived in Surrey. In Richmond and Delta I’d be handing out the pitchforks and the torches. Who the hell do these people think they are, calling all this area “Metro Vancouver”? What’s so “Vancouver” about it? Hell, what’s so “Metro” about it?!

What does that even mean?

It’s extremely annoying. Extremely.


And I do believe it ought to be resisted.

Of course lately it seems Vancouverites (unlike Torontonians, please note!) will roll over for just about anything. People are sitting still for losing their views, these days, a development that is simply beyond shocking. If Vancouverites care about anything at all, we care about our precious views.

Our precious, precious views.

Vancouver The Vain.

But now we really are becoming Lotus-Eater Land.  I mean we don’t even care if we’re vain, anymore.

I may have to leave Vancouver, if we all cease to care about the wrong words.  And I am Dr. Vancouver, for God’s sake.

But I’m not Dr. Metro Vancouver.  And I shall never accept that ugly expression.

Why I’d rather spell my address in reverse, than do that.

So who’s up for a trip to Mt. Grouse?  Sorry:  “GrouseMount”.


Tell you what, you can’t blame the Torontonians for that.

3 responses to “Metro Vancouver Is A Piece Of Trash!

  1. Is there the same mania for amalgamation in BC that there is in Ontario?

    Toronto and its satellite cities – North York, Scarborough, etc. – were amalgamated into what we used to call ‘the megacity’ but now seems to be just ‘Toronto’.

    Hamilton and Stoney Creek and, um, some other stuff around there was amalgamated into something that they called a megacity but clearly wasn’t.

    Most silly of all… you may need to get out a map for this one… a bunch of little farming towns up in cottage country, Fenelon Falls and Lindsay and Bobcaygeon and places like that, were amalgamated into the ‘City of Kawartha Lakes’, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but now that it’s done it can’t easily or cheaply be undone.

    I don’t understand what the benefit was supposed to have been, anyway. Is it strictly an Ontario thing or has it been spotted elsewhere?

  2. I think it may be going on is small degrees across the country, but nothing like in Ontario, where it seems to’ve become a hobby. I guess that’s just straight population/tax base stuff, is it? And of course: megacity. That’s really quite the aspirational word, and I can see how it might’ve infected a fair amount of people out there.

    Every so often some loon pokes his head out and suggest a megacity for the Greater Vancouver area, but it’s a pretty absurd idea, and no one wants it. Particularly the faster-growing municipalities around here are not eager to hand over power to somebody else if they don’t have to. “TransLink” is an amalgamation of transit services under a single board staffed basically by the mayors, and no one even likes that.

    As for cottage country, much of ours (not nearly all, but much) is scattered across a bunch of islands, which are unincorporated, and governed by a little quango-type preservation council thing we’ve got out here called the Islands Trust, whose power devolves from the Province. And that’s about as close as it gets: my island just voted to incorporate a few years ago, as a matter of fact, which meant something much like leaving the Trust, only not quite really. I suppose there’s a fair chance that sort of thing might take off in the future. I have some doubts about it, but it’s possible. But anyway that’s about it, really.

  3. Sitting in Ottawa reading this whole debate is so strange. In Ottawa, no one cares enough to come up with regional slang or cutesy names for our city. Anyone trying to get away with calling Ottawa “O-Dot” or something would be a laughing stock. There is not really any such thing as Ottawa pride. Just a sort of complacency.

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