Small-town life has become more uncommon in part because small towns became large towns and large towns became small cities, but it is clear that the social dynamics that defined the lives of Canadians before 1921 changed dramatically in the 20th century.
Figure 9.57 The City of Surrey started as several distinct villages, and that pattern has since been overlaid with a low-density suburban grid.
Initially, what was considered “suburban” was merely the outskirts of the original city.
Suburbanization faltered in the 1930s and early 1940s and then resumed in earnest in the postwar period.
Neighbours were, therefore, not cheek-by-jowl with one another.
As suburban infrastructure grew there were highways that connected outlying areas with urban industrial nodes and the city centre.There were also new schools that were instantly a step up from the deteriorating facilities in the inner cities.Young postwar baby-boom families were attracted by all of these features.In Vancouver, the second Hotel Vancouver was turned into veterans’ housing, so pressing was the demand for accommodations.As well, the city centres and older neighbourhoods were increasingly associated (rightly or wrongly) with crime, violence, and — from the perspective of Anglo-Celtic and Francophone Canadians — the presence of new immigrants and unfamiliar visible minorities.At that time, larger and larger numbers of city dwellers evacuated old neighbourhoods for entirely new communities.Suburbanization was driven by several push factors.It is worth noting that there have been several resource extraction towns founded in the last 100 years but no new cities.The late 19th century saw the birth of every major city in western Canada (apart from slightly older Victoria and New Westminster), but the only truly new centres in the 20th century are satellites and suburbs of the largest metropolises.In 1976, nearly half of the 23 million Canadians were living in 100,000 sized cities.By contrast, the percentage of Canadians living in cities of 5,000 or fewer has fallen from 19% in 1921 to 15% in 1951 and 11% in 1971.