Top Places to Live in Canada in 2014
An analysis of Canada’s top cities to live in this year was done by MoneySense and points to small cities as the go-to hot spots. Thinking small is the new trend and most major cities have even developed tight-knit communities to give off a small town feel while keeping big-city services and amenities. These towns are ranking high on the scale of the best places to live in Canada. MoneySense’s annual Best Places to Live ranking has put St. Albert, a small town on the outskirts of Edmonton (population 64, 000), on the top of the list of 2014. Read on to find out why size is not everything.
A major trend for this year’s ranking is a shift westward. Almost half of the top 20 cities on the list are west of Winnipeg. Calgary has come in second overall because it is offering overwhelming chances for people to land high-paying jobs. The city is booming, the transit system is being updated and the cultural scene is growing immensely. La Belle Province is also ranking high because of its small town communities of Boucherville, Lévis and Rimouski which are bumping Montreal down to the bottom of the list.
Take note that MoneySense does not consider scenery or attractions as part of the ranking. It is, after all, a list of the best places to live, not visit. The methodology does prioritize access to medical care, low crime rate, good transportation and nice weather as factors in the ranking. Most important when looking for a place to live is the affordability, meaning housing cost and employment rate. After a careful look at the data, they picked out what makes each city a great place to live in and eventually decided on the winners, breaking them down by city size.
Small Town Feel
According to this study, size isn’t everything. There are several reasons why the small city of St. Albert, on the edge of Edmonton, has ranked at number one as a desirable place to live. “Unemployment sits at just above 4%, incomes are among the highest in the country, crime rates are steadily falling, and while its winters can be skin-splittingly cold (averaging 28 days a year with a minimum temperature below -20˚C), there’s plenty of sun all year round.” Above all, this small city is a safe environment for raising a family. The streets are safe for kids to play in and can easily be closed to cars for a neighborhood party or hockey game. There is a Neighborhood Watch and Citizen’s Patrol team in place as well. St. Albert really stands out because it caters to children in the community. There is tons of green space and trails and there is even the annual International Children’s Festival. Residents pay slightly more in taxes per year then in Edmonton, but the results pay off. There is no issue with snow removal in the winter and local businesses are thriving.
Small cities are not for everyone. The top middle sized city and 5th overall this year is Burlington, Ontario. Like St. Albert, it is located close to a major city, in this case Toronto (which has ranked 32nd overall) . Burlington stands out for its higher quality of life. In comparison to Toronto, Burlington has a tighter-knit community. It isn’t as busy and the town is more laid back and friendly. The streets are cleaner and it feels more homey. It is, however, one of the more expensive cities to live in on the list, with the average home costing $500, 000. Despite this, Burlington is still praised for its low unemployment, low crime rate and great weather.
While Calgary and Ottawa have ranked highly, most bigger cities (with populations over 400, 000) have suffered immensely, especially Brampton, Ontario, Surrey, B.C. and Montreal, Quebec. This is greatly due to high unemployment. Rates in these major cities are hovering between 8% and 10%! A second culprit for the decline in ranking is the increase in housing prices. Mortgage costs have been rising, but average family income is at a stand-still. Paying off a mortgage is taking longer and it is that much more difficult to put money aside for retirement. Montreal has suffered the most. It may not be as expensive to live in as Vancouver or Toronto, but the average income is much lower compared to other big cities. “About $62,000 for the average family, or about the same as they are in the small town of Summerside, P.E.I”. Despite this, housing costs are the same as in Ottawa, where average family income is about $40,000 more per year. On top of all this, there is also a huge unemployment rate. Montreal ranked at 169th this year as a desirable place to live.
Whether your city is thriving like St. Albert or going through tough times like Montreal, there’s many reasons why people love their home towns. Canada has so many beautiful cities to live in whether they be big or small. For the full article on MoneySense’s Best Places to Live ranking go here.