On a clear sunny summer day there’s only one place you’ll find Brian Cross: the 18th hole of the Burlington Golf & Country Club, soaking in its unobstructed view of Lake Ontario. “It has the best location of any golf course in Canada,” proclaims the 55-year-old retired sales agent. But plush greens and lakeside views are hardly the only selling points for his hometown of Burlington, Ont. Mild weather, low unemployment, high incomes, low crime and a thriving arts community are just some of the factors making this the best mid-sized city in Canada. In addition to ranking high in almost every category MoneySense looked at, Cross says the city also fares well when you consider intangibles like the people and sense of community. “People take a lot of pride in their homes and their lawns,” he adds.
While Burlington gets our top marks, its competition isn’t far off. Only one point separates the cities of Oakville, Ont., Saanich, B.C., and Lethbridge, Alta. Oakville earned high grades for being a safe city with plenty of high-paying jobs, mild weather and a strong arts community. Perhaps that’s not much of a surprise given that Oakville is just down the road from Burlington. Across the country, at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Saanich scored well in almost every category we tracked, including access to health care and low taxes. This suburb of Victoria would have done even better if the housing prices weren’t so high—homes in Saanich are worth an average of $560,000, making this one of the priciest housing markets in the country.
The economic strength of the West helped push several cities in Alberta to the top of our lists this year, but the economic boon isn’t limited to that one province. Saskatchewan has been enjoying a resource boom of its own and you can see the positive impact it’s having on its cities. Saskatoon reached No. 5 on the mid-sized city list, thanks in part to its healthy rate of population growth and access to health care. Regina, meanwhile, hit No. 6, aided by low unemployment and its strong artistic and athletic sectors.
Move some 3,000 km to the east and you’ll find another city worthy of high praise. Lévis, Que., is a city with low unemployment, affordable housing and breathtaking views of Quebec City. This town of 140,000 scored better than its big-city neighbour in almost every category.
Many residents of mid-sized communities appreciate the balance they offer between small-town charm and big-city amenities. They’ve got access to the cultural life of the city, while avoiding the congestion and sky-high housing prices of bigger metropolises. Burlington’s Brian Cross knew it the moment he moved into his house. His 1,300-sq-ft bungalow was meant to be a starter home, but 23 years later, he’s still there.