Which Canadian big city has the best flag?

The meeting earlier this year of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM) Big City Mayors’ Caucus, and subsequent media coverage, had me wondering about the designs of municipal flags. In many cases they are the result of local, modern design competitions; in others they are simply the municipality’s coat of arms plastered on a coloured banner.

So, out of the municipalities represented at the FCM’s Big City Mayors’ Caucus, which has the best-designed flag? Here is my ranking, based purely upon my own design opinion:

1. Quebec City
The simplicity of the design really works here. I might have selected a different symbol to represent a city with so much history, but the ship is well-designed and simple enough to be recognized from a distance.

2. Regina
Again, simplicity works wonders for a flag. A crown is the perfect symbol for this city, and the colour combination is great.

3. Halifax
I had this at the top of my list originally– I really like the flag, but the arrows do not belong here. I love the bold-looking kingfish as the centrepiece, and something about the muted colour combination really works.

4. Calgary
CalgaryInstantly recognizable as Calgary. Some might find it a bit hokey, but I think Calgarians are reasonably proud of this one.

5. Hamilton
The dimensions of the flag are the same as the Canadian flag. Designed by Bishop Ralph Spence, who is apparently Canada’s leading expert in Vexillology (the science of flags). It’s certainly better than steel-plant smokestacks, which is what I think of every time I think of Hamilton.

6. Surrey
Anything with a beaver is cool in my books. This is a well-executed flag, for one that includes smaller symbols.

7. Vancouver
I was going to rank this higher, but the symbols on the shield feel incomplete and not nearly bold enough. An axe and a paddle are neat symbols of the city’s past (and present, for that matter) and they should be more prominent.

8. Toronto
Something about this flag design has always bothered me. I’m not sure if it would be better if the bottom of the “T” and the maple leaf were centered. As much as I like the idea of using Toronto’s city hall to make a “T”, I feel that Toronto has a lot more symbols that could have been used instead.

9. Montreal
I think this is an example of one that actually looks better on a flagpole. I appreciate the symbology of the various plants, however they are poorly rendered which muddles an otherwise good flag.

10. Ottawa
Really just a corporate logo placed on a flag (placed well, but still). It’s a decent logo, but I would prefer something more representative of Ottawa’s long history and Capital status.

11. London
A pretty typical rule suggests that good flags don’t have text on them. I agree with this, but I like London’s city logo so much that I had to push this further up the list, despite the text. Wouldn’t the tree look good along with green bars on each side?

The rest of this list comprises flags that desperately need a re-design, in my opinion.

12. Windsor
The so-called “City of Roses” wants you to use that nickname so badly they have two roses on their flag. The Windsor has some pretty cool symbols– plenty to extract from there. (The stylized “W” or the crest’s rose would be a good place to start).

13. Mississauga
Lose the text and it’s OK– but still not great for the country’s 6th-largest city, and one with such a dynamic economy.

14. Edmonton
Luckily Edmonton has a great coat of arms. It’s history as a trading post should be celebrated.

15. Saskatoon
What is with the weird stenciled graphics? Also why is the coat of arms so small? You’d have to be right in front of the flag to know what is symbolized.

16. Winnipeg
Meh. Just nothing inspiring about this.

17. St. John’s
So much to celebrate and symbolize in St. John’s. Hell, put a silhouette of Signal Hill on a white background and it would be better than this.

18. Brampton
Like Mississauga, I’m actually shocked this is Brampton’s flag. How many farms do you think are left in Brampton? Granted, nothing comes to mind to distinguish Brampton from its other bland, suburban neighbours, so maybe this is all they’ve got.

19. Laval
I love the 70’s rec-room vibe of this– I sort of want to go play Tetris now. As a flag though? No.

20. Kitchener
This Ontario city tore down its historic city hall, but saved the clock tower, and now use it as a corporate symbol. The flag sucks. Surely we are far enough away from the world wars (when the city changed its name from Berlin to Kitchener) that we could use some German-related symbology (black, red, and gold perhaps?)

21. Gatineau
Boring. Just boring.

22. Longueuil
Hard to call this a flag, really. Maybe they just decided anglophones had such a hard time remembering how to spell it, it would be good to have a handy reminder.

That’s my list– what do you think? Are there any other really good Canadian municipal flags?

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