Boucherville, Québec, has topped the MoneySense 2015 List of Canada’s Best Places to Live, replacing last year’s top ranked place to live, St. Albert,Alberta. Ottawa has been ranked as the top large city, coming in at second place in the overall index.
The MoneySense index compiles data from Environics Analytics, Statistics Canada, and several other data providers, comparing several factors to assess 209 communities across the country. The greatest weighting is given to housing prices, employment and incomes, which are all given particular importance in the report, followed by factors like access to health care, low crime, good public transportation and weather. The index is broken down according to city size.
With a population of just over 43,000 inhabitants, and located across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal, top-ranked Boucherville is a predominately French-speaking community. The city boasts excellent livability ratings, scoring high marks in just about every category measured, including low unemployment, high incomes and affordable housing, as well as strong population growth, good access to transit and a vibrant arts community.
Joining St. Albert, Alberta, in its slide down the rankings are Calgary and Strathcona County, two other cities in Alberta. The decline in Alberta is due to the fact that oil prices have fallen by more than half since last year’s index, and unemployment in the province has started to rise. Several locations in the West of Canada have fallen down the rankings in 2015, reversing a trend of recent years.
This year Ottawa is ranked as the top large city (those with populations over 400,000) and second overall, earning high marks for incomes, transportation, access to health care and low taxes. Ottawa is particularly well known for its historic buildings, museums and Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill. Residents cite the farmers’ markets, the Central Experimental Farm, easy access to skiing in the Gatineau Hills, and cross-border shopping in the US as being great features of their stable and prosperous city. Though Ottawa’s average home price of $422,000 is not cheap, its affordability is on par with much smaller cities.
While Ottawa has consistently been near the top of the rankings of large cities for several years, other large cities have made dramatic improvements as well. Hamilton, Ontario, has climbed to No. 41 from No. 77 mainly due to improvements in unemployment and property tax, while Surrey, B.C., moved up the list from No. 174 to No. 141.
Mid-sized cities have also recorded gains this year. Burlington, Ontario, is top of this category, ranking No. 3 in the overall list. Its close proximity to Toronto, Hamilton and the US border is one of the main reasons families settle here, with large park spaces and the close proximity to several schools raising the appeal.
When it comes to the best places to retire, people tend to be more concerned with mild weather, low property taxes, and having good access to health care, rather than economic factors like unemployment. On that basis, MoneySense has ranked Ottawa as the Best Place to Retire in 2015.
The top slot in the Best Places to Raise Kids in 2015 goes to St. Albert in Alberta. A combination of factors makes life easier for young families, with the youth demographic being the primary one. The large young population has helped maintain the popularity of the International Children’s Festival, which has been running in the city for more than 30 years.
For immigrants, the most important factors include good job prospects, high incomes, good transit, and affordable housing, as well as existing immigrant communities that they can be a part of. While big cities are usually the first preference for immigrants, other places like Saanich, B.C., are also sensible choices. The city is safe, and boasts of low unemployment and good public transit, with more than 17% of the city’s population being of an immigrant background.
Lastly, in terms of wealthiest cities, with an average household net worth above $1 million, this year there are six cities on the list, up from only two last year. West Vancouver, B.C., tops the list, while Canmore, Alberta recorded the biggest gain in net worth, up 20% since last year.