Best Places to Live: Our Methodology

How we crunched the numbers and ranked the cities.



Online only.


Best Places to Live 2011 measures 180 cities, up from 179 last year. To come up with the ranking, we gathered information on Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomeration areas that had a population of 10,000 or greater (and for which the required data was available). We then broke up the CMAs of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Quebec City, Hamilton, St. Catharines-Niagara, Oshawa, Edmonton and Kitchener into their component cities of 50,000 or more in population.

The cities are graded in the categories below. The higher the potential points, the more weight that category had in our final ranking. Some categories are further broken into subcategories. For example, the crime category is determined by statistics in the subcategories of violent crime, crime severity and total crime.

The categories were scored out of a given number of points, for example 10 points for unemployment rate. The top city in each category received the maximum number of points, and the rest of the cities received descending incremental points based on their ranking.

For example, in the area of unemployment, Estevan, Sask. had the lowest unemployment rate in the country (1.7%). It was ranked No. 1 in that category and received 10 points. The second-best city in the unemployment category, Brandon, received 9.94 points. The next city was Swift Current with 9.88 points and so on down to the 180th city (Mirimachi, unemployment rate 19.7%) which received 0.56 points.

Calculations for some other categories follow a slightly different methodology. For example, in the category of population growth, an annual rate of 7.4% is considered ideal. Anything below or above that rate loses points. The same is true for the subcategory of precipitation which makes up part of the weather category. (The ideal number is 700 ml a year, with anything above or below that losing points accordingly).

Adding together all the category point totals gives a grand total for the top cities. The maximum total points available is 105, although the top city only garnered 71.77 points while our lowest ranking city scored 33.09 points.

WALK/BIKE TO WORK: 7 points – Data taken from 2006 Statistics Canada reports. This represents the percentage of people who walked or took their bike to work.

WEATHER: 18 points – (6 for each of: amount of precipitation, number of wet days, days below 0°C). Ideal volume of precipitation is considered to be 700 ml per year. Source: Environment Canada.

AIR QUALITY: 2 points – One point for parts per million of ozone and one point for levels of suspended fine particulate matter, both of which are major components of smog. Data was from monitoring stations in or nearest to each city as reported by the National Air Pollution Surveillance Network.

POPULATION GROWTH: 10 points – Results are based on the average Canadian population growth rate from 2001-2006 of 5.4% plus 2%. Higher creates problems, lower means less opportunities. Cities with negative growth received 0 points. 2006 figures from Statistics Canada.

UNEMPLOYMENT: 10 points – 2010 data from Statistics Canada when provided and 2011 estimates derived from Canadian Demographics.

HOUSING: 15 points – (7.5 for average house prices and 7.5 for time to buy a house) House average prices from reports and listings by MLS, Canadian Real Estate Association, and the Real Estate Boards of Toronto, Fraser Valley, Vancouver and Quebec. Time to buy was derived from average price divided by average 2011 estimated household income sourced from Canadian Demographics.

HOUSEHOLD INCOME: 4 points – 2011 estimates as per Canadian Demographics.

DISCRETIONARY INCOME: 4 points – Discretionary household income as a percentage of total household income derived from 2011 estimates as per Canadian Demographics. Using a percentage figure adjusts for higher cost of living and tax factors.

NEW CARS: 4 points – 2008-2010 model year vehicles as a percent of total vehicles as per Canadian Demographics.

INCOME TAXES: 2 points – Cities ranked (lower is better) according to the rate of combined federal and provincial (or territorial) income tax paid on a single person income of $50,000 as per

SALES TAXES: 1 point – Cities ranked (lower is better) according to the rate of provincial or territorial sales tax.

CRIME: 5 points – Violent crime rates (2 points), total crime rates per 100,000 people (2 points) and crime severity rates (1 point) for 2009 from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. (Lower is better in all three cases.)

DOCTORS: 6 points – Number of general practice and specialist physicians per community provided by the Canadian Medical Association and converted to doctors per 1,000 people.

HEALTH PROFESSIONALS: 4 points – Percentage of people in each city who are employed in health occupations according to the 2006 census.

TRANSIT: 5 points – Based on the percentage of the workforce utilizing public transit according to the 2006 census.

AMENITIES: 3 points – One point each for a hospital, university and college. A city’s university or college had to have an enrollment of at least 500 students to be included. Cities in a CMA area received credit if a particular institution was located anywhere in the CMA.

CULTURE: Bonus points – A city could receive up to 5 points based on the percentage of people employed in arts, culture, recreation and sports. Source 2006 Census.

82 comments on “Best Places to Live: Our Methodology

  1. So, is it Ottawa? Or is it Ottawa-Gatineau? Ottawa is one city, while Ottawa-Gatineau is TWO CITIES, with each in a separate province, i.e. Gatineau is in QUEBEC, not Ontario.

    So, is your analysis slanted to include benefits/investments from Gatineau, QC? If so, then please give credit where credit is due – list the Gatineau city’s website beside Ottawa city’s weblink. It’s only silly if you don’t.

  2. I did not see St. Thomas Ontario any where on your list?

  3. Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

  4. I agree that some sort of objective methodology is needed and a point system seems reasonable. However, when Toronto weather is considered better than Kamloops weather, one must seriously wonder how well balanced the criteria really are. Can anyone really be expected to believe Toronto’s cold winters and oppressively muggy summers are overall better than Kamloops’s more mild winters and pleasant dry sunny summers. Sure, Kamloops could use a little more rain periodically; however, when asked “how’s the weather” no one of sound mind would ever conclude there is a remote possibility that “it’s better in Toronto.” I wish this were the only case where the quantitative measures seemed out of whack with reality, so perhaps some refinements next year might bring more realistic results.

  5. Good thing you don't live here anymore — we don't miss you… or at least you attitude. As for the housing cost… well, it's supply and demand and that, my friend, says it all. It's expensive to live here because it's awesome! Sure, there are a few things I don't like about it but that would apply anywhere.

    Next month I'll be spring skiing in the morning on one of 3 hills that are literally right in the city, and in the afternoon I'll be walking along the beach. What are you going to be doing?


    Methodology page says that housing can have a total of 15 points, yet Ottawa scored 117. This flaw is throughout the table.

    Has anyone seen the print version? Maybe that is correct…

    • Hi there,

      The 117 figure refers to Ottawa's rank in the housing category, not its total points.

      MoneySense staff

  7. How and the hell did St. John's (#52 on the list) even make the list? I lived in this place for 13 years and man I can tell you, you won't find a bigger shit hole in all of North America. This is a place filled with arrogant born and breed townies that have no respect for rural Newfoundland, the backbone of the province. Rural NL built St. John's!

  8. Methodology sucks when it comes to weather. As a former resident of many cities in B.C. and Alta. I can say you got it wrong. How can any city in Alberta even compare to the southern B.C. cities? Not all have rain everyday – if that was one of the criteria. The ranking within B.C. is also wrong. Most local residents will agree that Victoria, Penticton, and Kelowna should be rated the best for weather with Quesnel not nearly as high on the list. Calgary may make the list (sunny with odd chinook during winter) but even Lethbridge and other southern Alberta cities would rate higher.

  9. Thankyou, you just gave me 5 reasons NOT to move to BC. lmfaoooo@ starbucks! Dam pot smoking rich yuppies! Anyone who goes to starbucks must be related to G Bush……get a grip! The only thing that needs de-foresting is your home made grow-opp…..go smoke another doobie and spill your 7.00 starbucks coffee on yourself.

  10. No wonder Burlington came in 3rd
    Best kept secret in GTA
    Mostly WASP

  11. Your information is inaccurate. Chatham-Kent is home to University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus. If an easily verfiable fact such as this is wrong, it makes me wonder what else is incorrect.

  12. I was looking for this kind of review for about 1 hour.. i’m glad i found it. Great piece of work, continue it. Best Regards.

  13. How did you miss Milton? Canada's fasting growing town and a wonderful place to live!

  14. To claim that a 7.4% growth rate is ideal is ridiculous. This means that a city's population doubles in 10 years. In 20 years you have 4x the population, and in 30 years you have 8x. So Ottawa-Gatineau in 30 years, at such a growth rate, would be 8 million instead of the current 1 milliion. This is a good thing? Traffic right now is intolerable in the rush hour, and the infrastructure such the water mains is in some cases 100 years old, crumbling and unable to keep up with the current 1 million. Demand for resources in 30 years would go up by a factor of 800%. Thirty years is a short time by human standards. Unfortunately our politicians have only a 4-year time horizon. In the long term, the only ideal growth rate is ZERO.


  15. Right on bro… Vancouver was the "best place to live" in the 70's when it was a "working man's city" with lots of well paying jobs in many resource based industries. Politicians sold us out to Asia after Expo 86 and what we have today is an economy based on Asian greed, Asian crime and total disrespect for the Canadian culture we once had.

  16. Boy someone is bitter. It is not a dive, why is liberalism a bad thing or did u foget where u forget your history on who started our healthcare and pension plan. Your beliefs are nothing more than the social construction from media influences and if u had a degree you would be able to criticlly analyze this. If you dont like it then make improvements or move.

  17. Yah Calgary Alberta!! =P

  18. Vancouver has ALOT of flaws though I mean what isn't wrong with the place….and Edmonton on the other hand has alot of postives to it…just b/c you live somwhere dosen't mean it's the best place ever…gosh I don't live in any of those places but I've seen most of Canada so it's easy to say that Edmonton is somwhere I'd rather live then Vancouver

  19. Lol Calgary is awesome despite the fact that the snow this year has been AWFUL!…But we still love it =P

  20. Well this is a load of crap were in Cape Breton is ranked 170. Cape Breton is an island Sydney is the main city on the island and just last year Cape Breton was ranked in the top 10 in the world. So in short I've been to alot of city's in Canada Ottawa #1 wow you must be based there.

  21. How did Winnipeg end up as #10 on the list for best cities to live in?
    -the weather is horrible in winter… -40!
    -the crime rate is through the roof!
    -some of the people on bicycles sometimes intentionally ram into vehicles…and claim its the person driving the vehicles fault..its true!
    -minimum wage is a joke!
    -and last but not least this city gets a helicopter…but doesnt have money for proper road repair or keeping up facilites like community centers!…
    -auto thieves get coverage (mpi) for vehicle accidents, um thats not a good idea…i have plenty more to say about mpi, but i shouldnt…hint hint…

  22. Want to see another reason why Bay Roberts, Newfoundland is really ranking so low ? Go to Facebook and look for ' Coley's Point North concerned citizens group '

  23. yes kelowna is beautiful we lived there for a year. It does have lakes,mountains, fishing, etc but it also has
    a drug trade, crime rate, people getting mugged in the park in other words don't go out at night.
    Grant you while we were there it had snow once in the morning melted by noon and the days are sunny
    but jobs are not easy to find and the cost of living is enoromous. Try and buy a house there if you want near
    the water it will be a million otherwise it will be at least 500,000. I don't believe the pay rates are high enough
    to justify living there and buying an expensive house.

    • oops you said kamloops well that place is cold and hard to get to because of the highway to it
      which is mostly covered in snow most of the time been there too. my friend lives near there.
      It does have snow in winter and lots of it.

  24. I live in a Vancouver suburb and I admit that the rain can get to me even though I was born here. However, Burnaby is a suburb and so is Surrey so how canthe weather be different? Forgetting that you have a HUGE percentage of Ontario cities in the top 50 weather category?????? Are you insane???? You left out the stat about days of shoveling snow!!!! Most of Ontario is snow, poor sledding or slush for 9 months of the year! I agree with most others on here, I would never buy your magazine and base my investment decisions on such an obviously biased publication. It reminds me of TSN the network that has forecast the Maple Leafs as one of the 4 top teams in the NHL for 3 years in a row!!! You guys must be smoking some cheap bud imported from somewhere else!!!!

  25. Ottawa is beautiful and Vancouver is definitely warmer and hardly any winter. But remember they are taking
    various variables into consideration in their analysis such as unemployment, crime rates, house prices

  26. have you ever lived or been to both places. They say New Glasgow has a crime rate could be but it is pretty
    and I imagine no work but Fort McMurray has lots of work due to the oil rigs but it also has crime rate.
    Try going there on a Saturday night and see all the tires on cars slashed and beer bottles thrown all over
    parking lots disguisting. My daughter lived in Fort Mcmurray once and thankfully is not there now.

  27. So let's see…Surrey borders on Delta but weatherwise Surrey is 109 and Delta is 32???? But worse yet you have Thunder Bay at 36th and Kelowna, in the valley of the best wine country in Canada, you rate at 48th for weather????? trying growing grapes in Thunder bay you crackheads!!!!!

  28. dire que la ville d'Halifax est mieux pour le vélo est totalement faux…j'Habite halifax et les pistes cyclables ici sont quasiment inexistentes…Conduire un vélo ici est à vos risques et périls…Les vélos n'ont même pas un espaces sur le côté de la rues (vous savez la petite ligne blanche…pas là….en revanche Québec dispose de rues plus large avec des pistes cyclables très sécuritaires.

    Pour ce qui est de la température, c'est encore faux…il fais un peu plus chaud ici l'hiver mais le vent et la pluie sont presque toujours au rendez-vous…(et je parle ici de vents forts) L'Humidité de toute facon nous donne l'impression qu'un -10 est aussi froid qu'un – 30 à québec A part quelques mois d'été, le reste de l'année ressemble à un mélange d'autômne,de printemps et d'hiver…pas vraiment de saisons…asser dépriment merci.
    Il y a beaucoup de crime à halifax (cette fois-ci vous l'avez mentionnée) mais je crois que Québec a été négligé et devrait être dans le top 10 elle qui est connu pour son charme dans toute l'europe et ailleurs dans le monde…

  29. 31 of the first 50 in your weather list are Ontario cities?????? Sorry, but even Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg have more hours of sunshine than any of these Ontario cities and that info came from the StatsCanada website so if you can't get that part correct, I'm skeptical of the balance of your report….

  30. I don't live in Vancouver but I agree with this poster. Vancouver was ranked most liveable city and is well known for being bike friendly and having moderate weather. Not being in the top 25 is way off base.

  31. Whiotehorse? You've got to be kidding! Cost of living is out of sight!!! head downtown on Welfare day and see the lineup outside the Welfare office! And sure it's sunny but trying doing anything when it's minus 50 C! I lived and worked there and it is a struggle for most people…and Wood Buffalo or Grande Prairie???? sorry, wrong again if you need to work and the cost of living???? well…. (let's not go there even)…and all those Ontario cities have better weather than the Okanagan Valley? Do you even know where Kelowna, Vernon or Penticton are???? Time to rename your publication…how about Money Senseless or better yet…Senseless Money!

  32. From source:
    Avg annual precipitation, # of days: Avg high in summer: Avg low in January:
    Ottawa: 162.6 +26.5 -15
    Montreal: 163 +26.2 -14
    Vancouver: 166 +22 +1

    You guys obviously do not like Montrealers or Vancouverites…what else is new…keep your magazine in Ontario, it reminds me of the Globe and Mail, Canada's Newspaper (not)!!! like the Leafs and Blue Jays are Canada's teams (sic)…

  33. Very poor choice of criteria and poor detail from my experience – I've done national and international studies. For example a bias against rain (-12/18). Therefore a place like Port Alberni which has mild wet winters and hot summers with a climate similar to West Vancouver comes out 128/180. New cars on the road can also be misleading. Some towns have a high proportion of collectors with expensive older vehicles – but maybe a shortage of new Kias. etc…

  34. Move to Yarmouth. Let's see, in the last 25 years, we've lost our train service, air service,and now our ferry. We are literally being cut off AND being left to die. To add insult to injury, what was once the largest town south of the province of Halifax, isn't even worthy of being polled! No wonder 'we can't get no-o satisfaction'!

  35. East Vancouver is the worst place in North America, (not just Canada) for homelessness, drug abuse, prostituition and crime.

  36. Ha Ha I knew British Columbia sucked!

  37. I have lived in every province in Canada, and these stats are absolutely not right…. Best city should be Calgary , best Job opertunities , best people ,not so much crime and is growing and has room to grow . As well as its closness to moutains, and weather wise whats up with that Edmonton better , no way

  38. yeah…. you can't really expect this to be all accurate really, just not possible, that's why.

    also, why the heck to cold cities get a penalty and hot ones get a bonus?
    there are people who actually like it cold, and just can't stand even mildly warm temperatures…
    and i'm certainly not the only one either. (i know others)…. i mean, not all canadians wish they could go to
    brazil you know? i'd rather visit nunavut, or maybe russia, now there's a vacation to hit the spot eh?

  39. What happened to Thompson, Manitoba? 8 hours from anything and health care professionals that cycle every 16 months…winter that lasts about 8 months of the year and dust everywhere from the mines. Plus the social problems that exist are driving everyone new to the place away from it.

  40. Cape Breton is not a city. Article must have been done up by foreigners.

  41. I could not agree more, watching Toronto become a cesspool is sad.

  42. What part of Ottawa is ugly? Granted it is cold, but we're talking about Canada. If you consider an overpopulated, immigrant overrun, heroin central to be above it, then I must question your criteria

  43. There is a huge difference between what it is like to live in a city or town, and what that place looks like to an "outsider". Using criteria such as those selected for this survey, and then creating artifical weighting that somehow determines, for example, that optimal population growth is 7.4%, is of no real value to anyone. For all of the numbers that were crunched, I see no indication that anyone who actually lives in one of these places was ever interviewed. I doubt very much if anyone living in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, would agree with the ranking it receives, any more than I would agree with the notion that Ottawa, where I live, deserves to be #1.In the end this is is proof of only one thing – that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

  44. I am just wondering where Fort Macmurray is fitting into all this, kind of interesting that places like Wiliams Lake are on this list but not Fort Mac, or Nelson b.c. , it seems kind of skewed towards Ontario and Quebec, actually that is kind of normal for a Canadian survey/study

  45. I cannot believe that Ottawa ranked number 1. I've lived i Ottawa since 1977 and while I liked it at first I now find Ottawa less and less attractive as a city with each passing year. Unless the area is managed by the National Capital Commission, it is dirty and falling apart. As the Capital of Canada, Ottawa is an embarrassment to Canada. Time for me to move back to Quebec.

  46. I have lived in many cities so experience speaks better than formulas,Calgary is tops and the bottom is among others I'm sure, Midland ont.

  47. I agree jake

  48. I agree jake

  49. You should call yourselves Monkey Sense, or nonsense, or no sense at all…What a crock

  50. How does Burlington, ON end up being #3 in weather and neighbouring Hamilton end up #40? Is there some kind of invisible "weather line" between the two cities or something?

  51. Atleast Canadians are reading something for a change. And finally realizing that statistics lie. Just like the Statistcs about Canada being the best place, with the highest standard of living etc.. etc.. etc… I was born and raised in Canada as were my parents and grandparents…. so on, and so on…. And I am sick of listening Canadians preach to the world about how great Canada is…. I left Canada by choice over 10 years ago. To begin a life in Russia. Because I have a much better, greater and more satisfying quallity of life there. And I have met people from Canada all over the world. Who have left to live in other countries. It is time Canadians in general stop believing statistics about Canada and Western World in general. Start traveling the world. And you'll realize most statistics from the Canadian Government and Magazines and Media all lie. And mostly to fool Canadians into thinking their life is so good. And in effect causing Canadians to be rude and ram these statistics down peoples throats when they travel to other Countries. Quality of life, is where the sole is happy. Quality of living is just a term. It has no true value on life. Because is rated mostly by Financial markers.

  52. You can't rate quality of living or comfort. Some people would sooner live in a grass hut, then in a brick mansion. Some people like living in apartments. Some people want a house…. So live where you love. And where you are welcomed. Not where finances and statistics judge your life. Why would anyone base their position in life and success by statistics and numbers???

  53. Right on the noze my friend! Les francophones sont en Outaouais!! Less than 20% english speaking only knows (noze again?) what it means or where it is.

    • A. Chennault pour être précis.

  54. Trolled Hard

  55. Roflcopter wewowewo

  56. Bro why isn't California on here?

  57. lol @ winnipeg

  58. Your criteria is unbelievable. If NO one wants to live in Estevan and that results in a low unemployment, why would they have the highest marks? Thanks to your flawed criteria for your survey I will not consider reading anything with your name. Do you actually earn a wage to do this?

  59. Sometimes when i walk to Gatineau i find the weather is warmer…but at other times when i walk the bridge to Ottawa i find its also warmer…so who know for sure?

  60. Seems your data is off somewhat, the City of Corner Brook is home to Grenfell Campus of Memorial University – home of the Fine Arts School, a campus of the College of the North Atlantic, and private college Academy Canada….yet you indicate there is no college, I wonder how precise the other information you have included in this ranking would measure if you missed such a large factor such as post secondary institutions.
    Sandy Goulding
    ReMax Realty Professionals

  61. I would like to point out that Norfolk is a County. It is NOT a municipality and therefore cannot be viewed as such.

  62. I wonder how accurate your analysis is, considering that even a community name is not correctly spelt – check your spelling of Mirimachi.

  63. great blog! keep up the great work!

  64. I agree, chico!

  65. You sum it up nicely. Solution: Increase property tax on non residents 10 fold.

  66. Interesting that weather is the highest value criteria. When we moved to Vancouver Island, I was advised by a friend that you don't count it as raining unless it stops you from doing something. Same thing applies to cold, snow or even heat for that matter. I thought we Canadians were tough!
    What seems to be missing are recreational opportunities and "buzz," a sense of community and joy of living. Although, to some extent, these are where you find them, certain locations are so full of buzz (think of Montreal, Nelson BC, or anywhere in PEI) that many people gladly sacrifice the reputed bad weather to travel there!
    I suggest the authors do some research on quality of life by visiting the Genuine Wealth website by Mark Anielski before next year's update.

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  73. I left Honcouver in 2010, moved to rual Prince George. feels like your camping out every day during the summer n fall,very little rain. But here it comes the Friggin Winter Is Fn Cold.almost 6 months of the Shit. and all I hear on the Local News another Grow Op Busted with affiliates to Vancouver. and the only Hwys get shut down due to snow or accidents, the employment sucks. My worst mistake of my life moved to a town full of hillbillies that grow the shit. Property values 300 to 5 acers all going for same price range average 250000. Im Still Scratching n Shaking my head. wheres the economic growth. Im rating #2 Hillbilly Town not worthy of being a City, Prince George.

  74. Your comment on port alberni.bc is misleading and erroneous, I think your system in reaching this conclusion is flawed.If someone does not drive a new car is certainly a dumb reason.Perhaps you should add other categories like the homeless,crime, education,health,retired etc.I guess 'Money Sense is your Methodology' and value,it leaves a lot to be desired.

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  77. I live in Fredericton and Love it!!, Fun, Friendly, Clean, Safe. Everyone dosn't start art the top of the ladder when finding work…i'm sure by your use of the word "plethora" that you are probably a neusance anyway :-)

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