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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 2:35 PM
megadude megadude is offline
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Which countries have a city or cities that dominate more than here?

Forgive me if this has been covered before, but I'm curious about this subject.

I've always heard the term "centre of the universe" for TO. It's always been in the media. I have rarely heard it spoken by someone here if at all. I actually don't remember someone saying it to me until a couple of weeks ago.

A guy from Halifax is doing consulting work in my office and goes back and forth almost weekly. He was wondering why the hotels are so booked up despite it seeming like there's no major events going on. Company had to put him a 10 minute walk away to avoid paying $700 a night. He said I guess Toronto really is the centre of the Universe.

So in what other industrialized or next tier countries, or big countries, does one city actually dominate their country in terms of politics, economy, culture and so on?

Which countries are most similar to Canada?

Toronto isn't the capital. It wasn't always the biggest city. And with Canada being so huge, there are certainly more important cities to the people in different regions of the country.


London is the capital. It is or has been the most important financial centre in the world. It's also the cultural capital of the UK. Seemingly every movie in the UK takes place in London.

Plus their national football, cricket, tennis and rugby grounds are there. I believe their biggest horse race is the Royal Ascot and it happens just outside of London. Though they have other big races outside of London, while the Canadian Triple Crown has two legs in TO and the other 1.5 hours away in Ft. Erie.

However, the British Open golf happens way up north of London usually. And Silverstone has hosted the British GP almost exclusively, but they lost those rights now. There is talk of the British GP turning into a London street race, which would be stupid.

UK is also small and so there isn't nearly the same need for regional hubs like here or the US.


Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Oslo I feel are similar to the London example. Moscow is close but is offset by St. Petersburg.

Mexico and Buenos Aires are dominant from my understanding.

In the Middle East, Riyadh, Tehran, Baghdad. Though I think Baghdad isn't quite as dominant as the others.


Australia I'd say is the closest to Canada. Sydney the big city. Melbourne the next biggest but also home to their GP (like Montreal for us), most famous cricket ground, biggest horse race and Aussie Open (Rogers Cup split between MTL and TO).

Their golf open is shared around the big cities, though Sydney gets the lion's share. Our open is mostly around TO and will be for the foreseeable future.

Perth's on the opposite side of the country and is WA's regional centre. Plus there's Adelaide. And then the capital of Canberra.


Brazil has Sao Paulo and Rio, but the capital is in Brasilia.

Paris is dominant in France, but I don't think as much as London is.

Italy has Rome, Turin and Milan as three very important centres, while Naples is the hub of the south as I understand it.

Germany has a pretty diversified portfolio of cities. I'm thinking the aftermath of WWII contributed to that.

Tokyo is probably really close to the London example as well.


Our country has important centres for different reasons from one side to the other. Obviously not as much as the US with their huge population spread around. China has the biggest population and a massive country, but there it seems their big three cities dominate way more than TOR, MTL and VAN.

Last edited by megadude; Nov 20, 2017 at 4:13 PM.
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  #2  
Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:22 PM
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What is this thread about?
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:24 PM
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What's interesting is that in terms of economic might, Toronto is fairly similar to the big cities of the monocentric countries out there where the Londons and Parises have in the 20s % of the entire country's GDP concentrated there. Toronto is in the low 20s I believe.

But for most of the other metropolis-hinterland metrics Canada is more of a polycentric country, due in large part to its huge size and the English-French divide.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:27 PM
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Other than banking, and perhaps national media, Toronto is not even close to being the centre of the universe in Canada. The national media is pretty out of touch with people who don't live in the Toronto area. This is probably a big reason why CBC and CBC News is failing so badly. Its basically a local Toronto news channel espousing downtown Toronto viewpoints and values. Aka centre of the universe.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:30 PM
megadude megadude is offline
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Originally Posted by kwoldtimer View Post
What is this thread about?
The two people above seem to understand what it's about.

Yes, the original post seems like a ramble, but that's how it is in my head. I'm basically thinking out loud. I'm not writing a dissertation on a narrowly focused subject here. It's just a post on an internet forum.

Last edited by megadude; Nov 20, 2017 at 3:47 PM.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Acajack View Post
What's interesting is that in terms of economic might, Toronto is fairly similar to the big cities of the monocentric countries out there where the Londons and Parises have in the 20s % of the entire country's GDP concentrated there. Toronto is in the low 20s I believe.

But for most of the other metropolis-hinterland metrics Canada is more of a polycentric country, due in large part to its huge size and the English-French divide.
Great points. Didn't know about the GDP thing.

Language point reminds me of Switzerland now that I think about it. Between Bern, Zurich and Geneva, etc., no city dominates that country.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:37 PM
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Great points. Didn't know about the GDP thing.

Language point reminds me of Switzerland now that I think about it. Between Bern, Zurich and Geneva, etc., no city dominates that country.
Statistically I am sure Zurich dominates as much or more than Toronto does in Canada, and in this way it's kind of similar to our situation.

When you're in French-speaking Switzerland, the "big city" is most definitely Geneva, not Zurich. (Even if Zurich isn't even that far away.) And after Geneva, Paris likely occupies a significant part of the "metropolis role" for the francophone Swiss.

Likewise, while the main Italian speaking Swiss city Lugano is quite small, for most people in that part of the country the big city for a lot of functions would be Milan.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:41 PM
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Originally Posted by b31den View Post
Other than banking, and perhaps national media, Toronto is not even close to being the centre of the universe in Canada. The national media is pretty out of touch with people who don't live in the Toronto area. This is probably a big reason why CBC and CBC News is failing so badly. Its basically a local Toronto news channel espousing downtown Toronto viewpoints and values. Aka centre of the universe.

True. On a local scale, when I watch CP24 or the local affiliates of CBC, Global and CTV, their beat reporters tend not to venture out past the core of the city despite the channel being regional. Mind you, I cut the cord a few years ago so I rarely watch the news anymore. But I assume it's still the same.

When they do yet another story on last minute Xmas shopping, they go to Eaton Centre and not Square One for example. Or if they talk to the people on the streets about the Jays' big playoff win, it's basically at Real Sports downtown instead of any of a number of bars beyond the downtown core.

It's obviously easier for the reporter and the cameraman to stick close by, but considering it's regional, I figured they'd want to venture out more. Spread things around to the other areas of the market.

In the sense you're referring to, it follows the same logic, just in national rather than local terms.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:42 PM
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Greater London has only in the 20s% range of the British GDP? I'd have guessed way higher than that.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:43 PM
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I've never quite understood that "Toronto as the centre of the universe" statement. Toronto certainly does not feel as such compared to other cities I have visited in the past.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:46 PM
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I've never quite understood that "Toronto as the centre of the universe" statement. Toronto certainly does not feel as such compared to other cities I have visited in the past.
I think the statement can easily work, it doesn't have to be rooted in reality to be valid, as long as the locals are stereotyped to believe it, it's okay. Boston is also officially known as "the center of the universe", which is kind of a jab at Bostonians.

In practice, neither comes close to the ones with the best claims (probably London at the peak of the British Empire, Rome at the peak of the Roman Empire) in terms of how they functioned as a center for a vast "universe".
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:55 PM
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Many countries have way more of a "centre of the universe" thing going on with their biggest city than Canada does with Toronto.

When you're sitting in a hotel room or a café at the southern end of Argentina and all of the breakfast morning shows on the TV have Buenos Aires traffic cameras on them, 3000 km away...

Even French-speaking Canada is more like this with Montreal.

I had breakfast at a restaurant in Tracadie NB this summer and on the TVs they had RDI or TVA Nouvelles with Montreal traffic reports and overnight fire and car crash stories from 1000 km away. This is not an exceptional occurrence in Quebec or Acadian parts of NB.

If you go to La Sarre in far NW Abitibi on the border with NE Ontario they're reading Le Journal de Montréal with RDS pumped in from the Bell Centre overlooking them from above, and mostly piped in programming from any number of Montreal-based networks on their car radios.

I don't think it's necessarily because of deliberate magnanimity on its part, but Toronto isn't really that culturally overbearing as far as national metropolises are concerned. For a variety of reasons it leaves a lot of stuff on the table that other regions and cities are free to pick up and run with.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:56 PM
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Many countries have way more of a "centre of the universe" thing going on with their biggest city than Canada does with Toronto.

When you're sitting in a hotel room or a café at the southern end of Argentina and all of the breakfast morning shows on the TV have Buenos Aires traffic cameras on them, 3000 km away...

Even French-speaking Canada is more like this with Montreal.

I had breakfast at a restaurant in Tracadie NB this summer and on the TVs they had RDI or TVA Nouvelles with Montreal traffic reports and overnight fire and car crash stories from 1000 km away. This is not an exceptional occurrence in Quebec or Acadian parts of NB.

If you go to La Sarre in far NW Abitibi on the border with NE Ontario they're reading Le Journal de Montréal with RDS pumped in from the Bell Centre overlooking them from above, and mostly piped in programming from any number of Montreal-based networks on their car radios.
That was kind of my point: whether or not a given city is officially nicknamed the center of the universe seems to have more to do with the locals' opinion of their importance than anything else.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:57 PM
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Internally, I think the United Kingdom and Ireland are the best comparison to Canada. Toronto is London, if only economically - and Canada also has its Glasgows and Edinburghs and Dublins and Belfasts.

Externally, I think Australia is the best comparison - certainly London's worldwide significance is beyond any Canadian city. Canada has a lot of Perths.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:59 PM
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Internally, I think the United Kingdom and Ireland are the best comparison to Canada. Toronto is London, if only economically - and Canada also has its Glasgows and Edinburghs and Dublins and Belfasts.
I think Switzerland is a better match, with both Bern as Ottawa and Zurich as Toronto located in the #1 (by far) linguistic/cultural area, and Geneva as Montreal in the #2 linguistic/cultural area.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 4:00 PM
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I think the statement can easily work, it doesn't have to be rooted in reality to be valid, as long as the locals are stereotyped to believe it, it's okay. Boston is also officially known as "the center of the universe", which is kind of a jab at Bostonians.

In practice, neither comes close to the ones with the best claims (probably London at the peak of the British Empire, Rome at the peak of the Roman Empire) in terms of how they functioned as a center for a vast "universe".
Boston is the center of the universe in New England, and is probably resented as such by denizens of neighbouring states (NH, VT, ME etc). It's similar to the situation with Halifax, the citizens of which are convinced that their city is the centre of the universe for all of Atlantic Canada (when it is blatantly not). The regional media is based there, but I can assure you that I can go for years without visiting Halifax and not feel deprived. I grew up on PEI and only moved to Halifax for med school at age 22, and had only visited the city three times before that (and only once overnight). My upbringing was not stunted by this wonton cultural deprivation.

I have visited a number of world cities, and London seems to me (despite the loss of empire) to continue to have the gravitas of the capital of the world.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 4:02 PM
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Halifax is the Toronto of Atlantic Canada. We're the Quebec. New Brunswick is the West. PEI is the Newfoundland.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 4:12 PM
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Has any Torontonian ever actually used the phrase other than in jest?

Although many a truth was said in jest ...
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 4:13 PM
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I have visited a number of world cities, and London seems to me (despite the loss of empire) to continue to have the gravitas of the capital of the world.
There is still some of that residual mystique in London for sure but (for all its faults and those of the country it is in) it's still hard for me to see any city but New York having "capital of the world" status at this point in history.
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Old Posted Nov 20, 2017, 4:21 PM
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That was kind of my point: whether or not a given city is officially nicknamed the center of the universe seems to have more to do with the locals' opinion of their importance than anything else.
Most of the time it's sarcastic.

If you lived in an 18th century colonial mercantile economy then maybe you really did deal with a single urban centre where the king decided how to run everything and most enterprises were deliberately concentrated.

Today a lot of companies are multinationals and it's easy to share information around the world. People bring up news media but, well, I don't even watch TV anymore. About a quarter of Canadians don't now and the number is growing. There is no Canadian media monopoly or English language monopoly centered in Toronto when it comes to internet-based content.

More and more of the employers setting up shop here in Vancouver have headquarters somewhere in the US rather than Toronto. Most of the resource companies seem to be provincially based, so if you're working at an oil and gas company in Calgary for example chances are you're not working at a place with a Toronto HQ. Meanwhile the physical goods we use can be manufactured anywhere in the world, like in China. Those goods come directly from China to here, they don't pass through Toronto.
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