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Hay’s Daze: Dreams of a Millitropolis


One MILLION! Now there’s a word that used to be mega and now seems mundane. Used to be huge and now just ho-hum. Once unreachable, unreal, and unrecognizable the concept of one million anything has become commonplace in almost every conversation around anything from the budget for Donald Trump’s orange hair dye to the projected population of Red Deer, Alberta.

“WHAT?!” I can hear you shouting at me, “You know The Donald spends all his illegal millions on porn stars and lawyers!” Just kidding – what I hear you blurting at me is: “What’s all this hoo-haa about Red Deer having 1,000,000 people!?” Well, as the saying goes, “Don’t shoot the messenger, yell at Danielle instead”.

Ok, so I’m not sure if that’s exactly how the saying goes, but my point is, if I actually have one, is that it’s our Alberta Boss(y) Lady Ms. Smith who has “challenged [our] city council to making Red Deer the next million-person city.”

According to an interesting article by CBC reporter Jason Markusoff our controversial, Federal-hating, parachute Premiere, The Smith, would like to see our Central Alberta city the size of Cowtown to the south and Edmonchuk to the north. That would mean the good ole Deer would have to increase TEN TIMES! And that would mean the need for a couple of hospitals instead the mere current (supposed) hospital expansion, maybe a university or two (that we should have had in the first place), and further development (to the development already taking place) of our little airport, just for starters.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking: If I want to live in a million-person city, I’ll move to one. Let’s call it a “Millitropolis” which is an excellent word I think I just made up. It turns out there are only six Millitroplises in Canada and two of them are in Alberta already.

And then I think of growing up in our town long ago when we counted our population in the thousands, not even tens of thousands, when it was a big deal just having an escalator at the downtown Hudson’s Bay building! Back when the old Arena in Parkvale was considered a very special destination indeed. Especially when there was Saturday Afternoon Skating and you could actually hold a girl’s soft, fuzzy-gloved hand whist skating in circles to the cheezy organ music. (Thanks for the memories, Susan!)

When Ross Street and Gaetz Avenue weren’t one way streets and downtown was booming with an Eaton’s, Kreske’s, Woolworth’s, Holmes and Valentine’s and Gaetz Cornett drug stores, not to mention Horsley’s Hardware where I got my first bike (and my second one) and Turple Brothers where I got my first motorcycle (and my second one).

And then, of course, there was the beloved Paramount Theatre with the excellent balcony where young male ruffians would sit and launch various relatively harmless items over the edge to the seats below (or so I’m told, nudge nudge, wink wink).

Back then, The Deer was a nice place we called a “town” even though it was a city. But it was a small one, where you could walk downtown and know just about everyone you met and everyone you met was as happy to be downtown as you were. Back when downtown didn’t feel like a dark and even dangerous alien apocalyptic planet of growing desperation.

I know some might feel a Millicity of a million Deerians would bring new and exciting economic and cultural opportunities, but – hey, look what happened when we reached 100,000 souls. So I’m saying “small is good too”. But it would sure be nice to get just big enough to have our own Ikea one of these days.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Reach out to Harley with any thoughts or ideas at

Byron Hackett

About the Author: Byron Hackett

I have been apart of the Red Deer Advocate Black Press Media team since 2017, starting as a sports reporter.
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