I get it, Bay Roberts. You people are steaming mad. In the last 24 hours I’ve been called an idiot, a moron, unethical and the list goes on. And you know what? I’m thrilled.
Sure, the ALL CAP name-calling is a little trying, but I can take it. What gets me excited is the dialogue that the list has sparked. It’s not only the galvanized folks of Bay Roberts, who are venting their frustration over their town’s last place finish on MoneySense’s Best Places to Live list, but Canadians all across the country are arguing about why their city or town didn’t rank higher (and in many cases, why it didn’t rank lower). That’s the beauty of this list — it gets people talking about the thing nearest and dearest to them, where they live.
No city is perfect. If there was a Shangri-La somewhere in the country we’d all be living there. While I understand people’s needs to vocalize their feelings, I also hope that the many people viewing the list are using it properly, by looking deep into the data to find out where a city can improve.
For Bay Roberts (and surrounding areas), it’s a fact your unemployment is high. It ranked 178 out of 179 on our list. That’s not a slight on the passionate people who live there — it’s a product of difficult economic times and an industry that’s not as diverse as the higher-ranked cities. It’s also a fact Hawkesbury, Ont., which landed a respectable 64th out of 179 spots, has the lowest average household income in all of Canada. Or our third-ranked city, Burlington, ranked an alarming 144th on our average household price rating. Nearly every place we mentioned has room for improvement.
What the list doesn’t take into account — and it’s these are the things that stir people up — is memories, families, feelings and sunsets. These difficult-to-measure characteristics are what make a city a home. These are the things we can’t quantify, the characteristics that are subjective, that Stats Canada doesn’t cover. These are the reasons why people stay in a certain city despite the faults.
If we did talk to every Canadian to find out what makes their city the best place to live, it would be impossible to come up with a ranking. I’m sure Bay Roberts is a warm, friendly place — to the person on Twitter who keeps sending me messages, thanks, the sunsets look beautiful. But the fact is, those things don’t factor in. That’s why we have comment boxes so you can tell us about the things the stats don’t pick up. And, it’s the comments and your support for your city or town that make this list worth doing.
A radio personality in St. John’s just asked me, “if you don’t take memories and feelings into account, can the list be accurate?” Yes. It would be inaccurate if we did add emotion into it. How in the world can I quantify my feelings towards Winnipeg, my hometown? The things I like about it, other people hate.
So we take hard, factual data. Our data manager, Phil Froats, pores over numbers for months. He crunches those stats and out pops a ranking based on indisputable data. If you see a mistake, let us know, but the data comes from Statistics Canada, various real estate boards, Environment Canada, the Canadian Medical Association and FP Infomart’s Canadian Demographics.
What should we all make of this? Keep talking. (Though, truthfully, I’d prefer some more impassioned debate on why your locale deserves the country’s attention than empty screams and yells. Read my blog on Toronto, which has a lot of thoughtful comments, to see what I mean.) Tell us things about your city that data doesn’t capture. Let us know what your politicians are doing about your town’s high unemployment rate, or scary crime stats, or skyrocketing household costs — and if they’re not doing anything, use this list to get their butts moving.
And if you do want to move to a new city, this will give you a guide on what to look for. If you’re concerned about how many health professionals work a town, this list will tell you. If want to know more about how people of a town support each other in the wake of major snowstorm, ask someone who lives there. Use this list to make judgments, but use your own independent analysis to add to this research.
(Also, to clarify an earlier post, I didn’t mean to lump Bay Roberts in with other cities that had high crime rates. In fact, the town is a safe place, placing 39 out of 197 in overall crime.)
If anything, this exercise has shown everyone, staff and readers alike, that Canadians are a diverse and thoughtful bunch. Even though Bay Roberts might hate me right now, I can tell that from their strong, supportive natures that they’d be happy to welcome me into their homes when I visit.
More Best Places to Live 2010
• Who made the top 25? Use our interactive map to find out.
• Find out where your city ranks. Search our interactive chart.
• Canada’s 10 worst places to live
• Best cities slideshow
• Worst cities slideshow
• Ottawa’s mayor tells us why his city is the best.
• Best Places to Live article: Who made the list and why?