Alex Dines is a Master of Journalism student at Carleton University. [Photo courtesy Alex Dines]

One of the first things you learn on meeting me is that I’m from Vancouver. Without fail, it’ll come up in conversation as I wear my status as a B.C.’er with pride.

I was born and raised in Vancouver and had never lived anywhere else until I moved to Ottawa in September 2022.

I came here to complete a Master’s of Journalism at Carleton University and quickly learned Canada’s capital is very different from back home.

As my time in this city draws to a close, I wanted to give my verdict on some of the most hot topics in Ottawa and how they compare with my home city.

Transportation: Guilty as charged

Oh, OC Transpo, how I love to hate you.

Very quickly after moving to Ottawa I found out that everyone in this city has a contentious relationship with the transit system. It didn’t take long for me to figure out why.

Bus delays, bus cancelations, O-Train breakdowns, tunnel flooding and everything in between seemed to be weekly fixtures of Ottawa’s transit system.

Not to mention the elusive second line of the O-Train that has yet to open. I truly believe I’ll have graduated and we’ll get Grand Theft Auto Six before getting a train that goes directly to Carleton.

In Vancouver, there are multiple rapid and express buses that come some times every three minutes. Even the normal buses arrive every 10 minutes on weekdays and weekends.

During my undergrad, I took the bus to UBC every morning for four years. I always knew when the bus would arrive and without fail, it would show up at the same time.

It might be full and I might be stuffed in like a sardine beside the driver, but I would most definitely get to class on time. Safe, maybe not. Efficient, absolutely.

I will never understand how Canada’s capital doesn’t have an effective mode of transportation from the downtown core to the airport. With millions of visitors every year, I can’t begin to comprehend why Ottawa has yet to build some kind of train to ferry people to and from YOW. I know Vancouver only got the Canada Line because of the Olympics in 2010, so maybe that’s the only solution.

Ottawa does win some points for the double-decker buses because they make me forget I’m riding OC Transpo and can pretend I’m somewhere else like London.

An incorrect sign for Grosvenor Avenue spotted on the No. 7 bus to St. Laurent [Photo © Alex Dines]

Night life: Jury’s out

One of the big talking points I hear when people bring up Ottawa’s night life is that the capital is boring. Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has done his best to dispel this sentiment proclaiming that Ottawa isn’t boring and is consistently trying to change people’s minds through different initiatives including the new office of night mayor er nightlife commissioner. The position is held by Mathieu Grondin.

I won’t pretend that I’m a party animal or even that I leave my apartment every weekend, but in the times I have gone out, I will say the options are impressive.

I love the number of unique bars, restaurants and venues Ottawa has and I think it adds to the city’s overall character. I have finally experienced the university rite of passage of coming home at four a.m. after a night out.

Back home, it feels like everything closes at 8 p.m. Trying to find somewhere to have a late night snack or to grab one more drink is a challenge. It also doesn’t help that new places rarely survive as the cost of rent keeps rising. Every time I take the bus down Vancouver’s busy Broadway, I see another empty store/bar/restaurant/gas station with a for lease sign in the window.

I will say that Vancouver does edge Ottawa out when it comes to events, specifically events for someone my age. The advantage of being a big city is that more artists and bands stop by on tours. For some reason, Ottawa seems to get skipped despite its proximity to Montreal and Toronto.

I haven’t gone to a single concert during my time in Ottawa because none of the artists or bands that are playing here have interested me. I concede that my music taste isn’t for everyone and I’m not expecting artists to come to Ottawa just for me.

So while Ottawa has allowed me to stay out far past my bedtime, it’s hard to beat screaming along to a song at B.C. Place with 50,000 other people back home.

Weather: Acquitted, much to the jury’s surprise

When I told people I was moving to Ottawa, I was told repeatedly that I would “perish” once the winter came.

It’s rare back home to see more than three days of snow all winter. We get the occasional snow dump, but it usually melts within the next 36 hours. Vancouver snow has no staying power, so every time it snowed and stuck in Ottawa I got very excited.

I’ll admit I never had to shovel snow off my car, defrost my windshield or drive through streets covered in a thick layer of white powder. From an aesthetic perspective, I was delighted every time I stomped around in my snow boots, finally feeling like a real Canadian.

Similarly, it doesn’t get that frigid in Vancouver. Even though you can feel the cold in your bones, it doesn’t stray that far below from zero.

In some strange twist, I experienced two of the mildest winters Ottawa has ever had. There were a couple of days I thought I was going to freeze to death, but it wasn’t like the horror stories I’d be told.

One of the most refreshing things about moving to Ottawa was being able to see the sun.

In Vancouver, the sun rarely makes an appearance from October to April. You are trapped in an endless cycle of waking up in the dark, going to work or school in the dark, spending all day inside and coming home in the dark.

Being able to open my blinds most winter days and have the sun shine through my window was one of the highlights living here. After all, decreased exposure to sunlight can lead to lower levels of serotonin which acts as a natural mood stabilizer. The less serotonin you have, the more likely you are to experience lower moods or even depression.

As someone who has been diagnosed with depression and frequently struggles to keep my mood elevated, Ottawa’s sunshine brought more than light into my life.