Lively, Lovable, and One of Canada’s Most Liveable

Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ontario
Written by Allison Dempsey

Set amidst abundant greenery and the rolling hills of a glacial moraine, Whitchurch-Stouffville offers a peaceful escape from hectic urban life while beckoning visitors with a unique blend of tranquil landscapes, prosperity, and a truly hospitable and welcoming community.

Voted by The Globe and Mail in late 2023 as one of Canada’s “most liveable cities,” Whitchurch-Stouffville—mostly simply called Stouffville—comprises a township of 205 square kilometres in Ontario’s Greenbelt on the north side of Toronto.

The Globe and Mail’s evaluation considered 43 characteristics spread across 10 distinct categories including economy, housing, population, health care, safety, education, community, amenities, transportation, and climate. The town was ranked the 79th most liveable city for newcomers and the 32nd best place to retire in Canada based on the same criteria.

“The recognition echoes what we as residents have known all along—that Stouffville is an incredible place to live, work, and raise a family,” says Mayor Iain Lovatt.

With most of the town contained in the Oak Ridges Moraine—part of Ontario’s provincially designated Greenbelt—the region’s picturesque surroundings, undulating hills, and numerous kettle lakes entice thousands of tourists each year to make the trek to the town and also visit its wineries, golf courses, and equestrian facilities.

In addition, Stouffville is home to three conservation areas, one national park, and the verdant York Regional Forest. It is home to more than half of York Forest’s trails, which include three accessible routes.

The town’s local economy is varied and diverse, with thriving manufacturing, construction, agriculture, tech and knowledge-based sectors, and a robust tourism industry. With more than 26,000 workers, Stouffville’s robust labour force drives economic growth. The town expects a substantial rise in work prospects in the area and expansion to 28,400 jobs; an approximate increase of 11,400 jobs by 2051; and a 1.7 percent average yearly growth rate during that time. At the end of 2023, Stouffville boasted 964 physical businesses in addition to 350 online, home-based, and agricultural enterprises, with exciting growth anticipated for 2024.

This growth includes a strong focus on diversity. It is predicted that by 2051 the town’s population will be approximately 103,500 individuals, with various minority groups including South Asian, Chinese, Black, and Filipino comprising 46 percent of the population, a truly diverse community.

Alongside Stouffville’s population growth and dedication to promoting tourism, the town embraces an ongoing commitment to sustainability and green initiatives. By way of provincial land use policies, almost 90 percent of the town’s area is protected greenspace. A landscape of fun, Stouffville hosts more than 750,000 visitors annually who take advantage of its 16 golf courses, 160 kilometres of trails, and numerous horse farms. Treetop Trekking and UPLA—North America’s largest aerial trampoline—alone attract more than 200,000 people annually.

Despite growth constraints, Stouffville’s settlement areas have densified. The town is home to 52,000 people, which reflects a 300 percent increase since 1990. Nearly 11,000 new residential units were in Stouffville’s development pipeline by the close of 2023, ranging from compact townhome communities to 18-storey condominium buildings.

The town staffing complement too has had to keep pace with rapid growth. In recent years, 10 municipal planners have been hired, while back in 2016, Stouffville had only two staff members dedicated to Communications and Economic Development.

“We were short on help and long on tasks,” says David Tuley, Economic Development Officer, whose responsibilities include attracting new industries and retaining local businesses.

Tuley’s approach is simple: “We realized we needed to build the message from the inside out, arming our citizenry with information to disseminate within and beyond our borders.”

Consequently, the leadership of the town supported the launching of a local newspaper, On the Road, to communicate with residents, promote local businesses, support agriculture, develop tourism, and, most importantly, build community.

On the Road (OTR) originally began as an eight-page newspaper and has since evolved into a 32-page magazine. OTR is printed and mailed to every home, totalling 20,100, at the cost of approximately $.82 apiece.

In the last year, the magazine featured 337 businesses, 184 special events, and 123 matters of community importance. Tuley reports that when a business or event is featured, it results in increased sales or greater participation.

Local businesses agree. “OTR wrote a great feature on my clinic last fall. Almost immediately, we received calls asking to book as new patients,” says Dr. Trina Ting of Advanced Chiropractic + Wellness Centre.

“That effect continued for the rest of the year as the magazine circulated in town. I believe we got at least 10 new patients from that feature alone. Week after week, I couldn’t believe how many people found us through the magazine article; I truly did not expect such a response. This feature gave our business a boost when we needed it most, as we experienced a sharp decline during COVID.”

Each edition of OTR is developed organically through community demand, requests, and referrals, adds Tuley. Often, a common thread appears, embracing themes including heritage, food, environment, and events.

The most frequently recurring theme, dating back to the third edition, has been women in business, particularly women as entrepreneurs leading the way.

At the start of 2024, 12 women of influence, including authors, CEOs, clinicians, and global retailers, stepped forward with a request for coverage. The January edition was titled “Women of Influence” and contained an eight-page article on the subject.

Tuley attributes the community’s high ratio of female entrepreneurs to both the pandemic and time. “A lot of people opted out of the commute and generally lost the desire to spend that much time in a big city,” he says.

In another instance of unforeseen good results, the team from economic development posted a full-page recruitment advertisement in OTR—“Craft Brewery Wanted”—as the community seemed to be one of the few without a brewery. As a result, it received five inquiries from across the province.

“An internal advertisement never should have worked,” says Tuley, “but it did.”

He adds that many wondered if the original goal of arming the citizenry with information to disseminate beyond town borders was somewhat lofty and idealistic. It proved not to be: it turns out that those featured in the magazine often share their articles with relatives across Canada, something Tuley describes as a hidden distribution system.

In the end, the town did land a brewery—and not just any, but the one that took the “Brewery of the Year” title in 2023 at the Canadian Brewing Awards in Halifax. Muddy York Brewery is expected to open in Stouffville by April 2024.

Tuley says that a large part of Stouffville’s economic development portfolio is business retention and that economic developers spend a lot of time with the business community to assess their needs.

“One day I thought, ‘Why not share what I’ve learned with everyone?’” When interviewing businesses, Tuley guarantees them one new customer, although he understands that the wealth-building potential extends well beyond that.

“I haven’t found another community in North America that publishes a monthly,” he says. “There are plenty of e-newsletters, but these are limited in scope and distribution. People and their inboxes are e-fatigued, so instead of more e-news, we give them a high-quality, diverse magazine to read at their leisure.” It’s an old-school tactic, but something that’s working for Stouffville.

Although being editor, writer, and graphic designer all in one seems a tough call for one person, Tuley says that it only requires 22 percent of his time at work. “I still have my ‘day job’—rural broadband, downtown redevelopment, site selection, and recruitment—all these things and more need to be looked after too.”

While its rapid growth may mean Stouffville is moving beyond its small-town nature, publishing the magazine has enabled the town to maintain its sense of community and identity. And economic development by way of storytelling continues as Tuley begins work on Stouffville’s 80th edition of OTR.

It seems The Globe and Mail’s statistics and accolades continue to resonate. “We’re honoured to be on this list alongside so many other beautiful communities across the country,” says Mayor Lovatt. “I’m so grateful for the dedication and commitment of everyone in Stouffville who helps create a welcoming and thriving community for all.”



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