There were strange, powerful forces at work that first year. It was 1995, and a couple things happened to put Halifax in the national spotlight. First, popular local politician Alexa McDonough got elected leader of the federal NDP. Then the independent communities of Bedford, Dartmouth, Halifax and Halifax County were formally merged into the Halifax Regional Municipality, a single amalgamated entity with an area the size of PEI. People called it the SuperCity.
But Halifax didn't have much time to enjoy its growing stature in Canada, because it was receiving international attention, too. Shambhala Buddhists held a huge celebration here to crown their new leader, reminding everyone that Halifax is home to a world religion, akin to Mecca or Vatican City. And the G7 political summit brought the leaders of countries including England, the US and Germany to town, putting Halifax in the company of other G7 hosts such as Paris and Tokyo.
For Halifax's old guard of politicians and business cronies, obsessed with how Halifax measured up as a "world-class city," the external validation provided by global media was intoxicating. They forgot that the lasting greatness of any city comes from its citizens. So we at The Coast decided to remind them.
The Best of Halifax survey debuted in December 1995. The idea was to celebrate Halifax's people and places in a way that gives Haligonians—Coast readers—the power to choose the winners. Call it internal validation. Twenty-five years later, the Best of Halifax Readers' Choice Awards has become a big deal in its own right. This 25th anniversary BOH issue, featuring the winners as decided by nearly 48,000 voters, is the result of months of work by everyone in The Coast's small office. Leading this endeavour is deputy editor Allison Saunders, who earns gold for Best Colleague You Could Ever Wish For.
We believe the effort is worth it. The winners listed here are members of a community, people working hard at their craft, their small business, their art. They are part of the story of civic confidence that's emerged over the last 25 years of BOH surveys. Today we know Halifax doesn't have to measure up to anyplace else to be an amazing city. And that's the best result of all. — Kyle Shaw, editor
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