Canada’s Best Places to Live 2013 Methodology

See how we crunched the numbers to determine Canada’s Best Places to Live 2013.

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MoneySense’s Best Places to Live 2013 is our most comprehensive data-driven snapshot of Canadian cities yet. This year, we expanded our list to 200 cities, up from 190 cities last year. We also added 11 new categories to our process, bringing the total number of categories we track to 33 to get an even better picture of what life is like in each community.

While we can’t gauge many of the elements that people enjoy in their cities, the nearness of family, the friendliness of neighbours or even great sunsets, we have measured what can be measured and compared what can be compared from towns and cities across our provinces and territories.

To come up with the ranking, we gathered information on Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA), Census Agglomeration (CA) and Census Subdivisions, (CSD) as defined by Statistics Canada. All of the demographic data was supplied by Environics Analytics, Demographic Estimates and Projections 2012. Additional data sources are noted below.

The pie chart below illustrates how we weigh each category group for the main list:

BestPlaces2013weighting

New this year

This year we ranked each city against its peers and overall. A small city is defined by a population below 100,000, a mid-size city has population of between 100,000 and 400,000 and a large city has a minimum population of 400,000.

Eleven new categories were added to help us come up with our ranking. To accommodate the new categories we have updated our scoring system. Some categories like weather for instance, now have a smaller weighting in our ranking than in previous years, while other categories have been expanded. Categories new to our list this year include: household net worth, the number of days of precipitation, the number of days where the temperature is above 20 degrees C, the five-year change in crime rate, property tax measures, movie theatres and whether a city is within close proximity to an airport serviced by Air Canada or WestJet.

Ten cities are also new to our list this year. They include: Langley, B.C., Boucherville, Que., North Vancouver, B.C., West Vancouver, B.C., Châteauguay, Que., Saint-Eustache, Que., Mascouche, Que. Georgina, Ont. Haldimand County, Ont. and Mirabel, Que.

In addition to our highly popular Best Places to Live, Best Places to Raise Kids and Best Places to Retire lists, we’ve added Best Places for New Immigrants. This list rewards communities that already have a strong immigrant population, employment opportunities, reasonable rental rates and apartment vacancies, considerations for any person looking to call Canada home. A full breakdown of our methodology is below.

And while MoneySense strongly believes air quality is an important variable in determining the quality of life within a city, we unfortunately had to drop this category from our ranking system because we were unable to find reliable and current data for each city.

The calculations

A total of 103 points was up for grabs. Each category (below) was allotted a number of points depending on the importance of the category. For example, employment statistics are worth 10 points while sales taxes are worth 1 point. 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 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, Canmore, Alta., had the lowest unemployment rate in the country (2.3%). It was ranked No. 1 in that category and received 10 points. The second-best city in the unemployment category, High River, Alta., received 9.95 points. The next city was Boucherville, Que. with 9.90 points and so on, down to the 200th city (Bay Roberts, N.L. with an unemployment rate of 22.4%), which received no points.

Calculations for some other categories follow a slightly different methodology. For example, in the category of population growth, an annual rate of 6.56% was considered ideal. Anything below or above that rate loses points and cities with a population loss receive zero. The same is true for the subcategory of precipitation, which makes up part of the weather category. (The ideal number is 700 mm a year, with anything above or below that level losing points accordingly.) As well, 5 points were awarded on the percentage of people employed in arts, culture, recreation and sports.

Here’s an example of how the scoring system works:

Yellowknife, N.W.T.
Travel to Work by Bicycle % Travel to Work by Walking % Travel to Work by Public Transit % Labour Force Unemployment Rate Score
Points earned 2.83 2.95 1.83 5.63
Avail. points 3.00 3.00 5.00 10.00
Annual Rain Fall (mm) Number of Days with Rain % of Days with Precipitation (Rain or Snow) Number of Days w/ min. Temp Above 0C Score Number of Days w/ min. Temp Above 20C Score
0.20 3.00 0.87 0.03 0.03
2.00 3.00 1.00 3.00 1.00
Average Value of Primary Real Estate Score Average Time to Buy a Home Rank Average Household Income Score Average Household Discretionary Income Score Average Household Net Worth Score
0.78 2.95 4.87 4.87 2.49
6.00 6.00 5.00 5.00 5.00
% change in Population ’11 to ’12 Score 5 year Change in Crime Rate per 100,000 Score Violent Crime Rate per 100,000 Score Crime per 100,000 Score CSI Score
7.56 0.07 0.05 0.02 0.02
8.00 1.00 2.00 2.00 2.00
Total Sales Taxes Score Income Tax on $50,000 Score Property Tax (%) Score Average Property tax as a % of Household Income Score % New Cars 2010 Model Year and Up Score
1.00 2.70 0.65 0.34 1.36
1.00 3.00 2.00 1.00 2.00
Doctors per ‘000 Score % Employed in Health Care Sector Score Number of  Doctors of Medicine Offices per ‘000 Score % Employed in  Art, Culture, Recreation, Sport score Hospital
3.99 2.55 0.08 4.80 2
5.00 4.00 1.00 5.00 2
College University Movie Theatre Prox. to Major Airport FINAL
1 0 0.5 1.5 63.57
1 1 0.5 1.5 103.00

While a perfect score in all categories would give a city 103 points, the top city this year, Calgary, only garnered 75.07 points. Our lowest ranking city, Lachute, Que., scored 35.59 points.

Categories and points

WALK/BIKE TO WORK: 6 points—This represents the percentage of people who walked or took their bike to work. Source: Environics Analytics

TRANSIT: 5 points—Based on the percentage of the workforce utilizing public transit. Source: Environics Analytics

WEATHER: 10 points—(2 points for the ideal amount of precipitation, 3 points for the number of days with rain, 1 point for days with precipitation of any kind, three points for days above 0°C,  and 1 point fro days above 20°C). Ideal volume of precipitation is considered to be 700 mm per year. Source: Environment Canada

POPULATION GROWTH: 8 points—Results are based on the average Canadian population growth rate from 2001-2012 of 4.56% plus 2%. Higher growth rates create problems as cities struggle to provide services to growing populations. Lower growth rates means less opportunities. Cities with negative growth received 0 points. Source: Environics Analytics and 2011 Statistics Canada figures

UNEMPLOYMENT: 10 points—2012 estimates calculated by Environics Analytics

HOUSING: 12 points— (6 for average house prices and 6 for time to buy a house) House price data provided by Environics Analytics. Housing data is based on the census estimate for every community at the end of 2011, correcting for changes within the community including age, occupations, and information from local real estate boards. Time to buy was derived from average home price divided by average estimated household income.

HOUSEHOLD INCOME: 5 points—Source: Environics Analytics.

DISCRETIONARY INCOME: 5 points—Source: Environics Analytics.

NEW CARS: 2 points—New cars on the road as of July 2012. New cars were deemed to be vehicles with model years 2010-2012. Ranking of new cars is based on the percent total vehicles. Source: R. L. Polk Canada, Inc.

INCOME TAXES: 3 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. Source: www.taxtips.ca.

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

PROPERTY TAX RATE: 2 points—Cities with a lower property tax rate were awarded the highest marks. Source: Environics Analytics.

PROPERTY TAX PAID AS A % OF INCOME: 1 point—To determine how much of a burden the property tax was to the average homeowner we determine the how much of the average household income goes towards paying property tax.

CRIME: 7 points—Violent crime rates (2 points), total crime rates per 100,000 people (2 points), the five-year change in the crime rate (1 point) and crime severity rates (2 point) for 2010. (Lower is better in all three cases.) Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

DOCTORS: 5 points—Number of general practice and specialist physicians per community (5 points) and converted to doctors per 1,000 people. Source: Canadian Medical Association

HEALTH PROFESSIONALS: 4 points—Percentage of people in each city who are employed in health occupations. Source: Environics Analytics.

NUMBER OF DOCTORS OFFICES PER ’000: 1 point—The number of medical offices in a community divided by the population. Source: Environics Analytics.

AMENITIES: 6 points—Two points for a hospital, 1 point each for university and college. Cities in a CMA area received credit if a particular institution was located anywhere in the CMA. Half a point was given to cities with a movie theatre. Cities could also earn up to 1.5 points for being within close proximity to an airport serviced by one of Canada’s national carriers: Air Canada or WestJet. Cities within 50 km of an airport received 1.5 points, communities within 100 km received 1 point and cities within 200km received half a point.

CULTURE: 5 points—A city could receive up to 5 points based on the percentage of people employed in arts, culture, recreation and sports. Source: Environics Analytics.

Best Places to Raise Kids

This calculation included the following additional categories;

  • child care spaces
  • population 14 and under
  • percentage of students
  • the number of daycare spaces for 1,000
  • the number of regulated day care space for children aged 0 to 5
  • average day care cost
  • % of families with kids

Note some of the statistics are available only province to province instead of city by city. Sources: Canadian Demographics 2012 edition childcare space statistics 2008 report published by the Childcare Resource and Research Unit www.childcarecanada.org, Statistics Canada Summary Public School Indicators and 2010 Provincial population projections. Average daycare cost for Ontario was not available, but is widely recognized as being the most expensive in Canada so Ontario communities were awarded a tie with the next most expensive province for childcare in Canada.

The pie chart below illustrates how we weigh each category group for our Best Places to Raise Kids list:

BestPlaces2013KidsWeighting

Best Places to Retire

The calculations were adjusted to emphasize services and conditions for retirees.

The point system;

WEATHER 20
PROPERTY TAX 6
SALES TAX 1
INCOME TAXES 3
CULTURE 5
CRIME 7
HEALTH CARE 16
TRANSIT 5
HOSPITAL 4
WALK/RIDE 6
PROXIMITY TO AN AIRPORT 2
NEW CAR 1
THEATRE 1
POPULATION GROWTH 8
NET WORTH 5
HOUSING 10
TOTAL 100

Best Places for New Immigrants

The calculations were adjusted to emphasize services and conditions for immigrants.

The point system;

WALK/RIDE TO WORK 6
TRANSIT 5
WEATHER 4.5
POPULATION GROWTH 2
UNEMPLOYMENT 8
HOUSING 4
HOUSEHOLD INCOME 3
DISCRETIONARY INCOME 2
HOUSEHOLD NET WORTH 2
CRIME 3
SALES TAXES 1
INCOME TAXES 1
DOCTORS PER 1,000 2
HEALTH PROFSESIONARL 1
DOC OFF 1
UNIVERSITY 0.5
COLLEGE 0.5
CULTURE 1
PROXIMITY TO AN AIRPORT 1.5
LANGUAGE DIVERSITY 10
IMMIGRATION POPULULATION 30
AFFORDABLE RENT (1-BEDROOM APPARTMENT) 5
RENTAL VACANCIES 5
TOTAL 101

The pie chart below illustrates how we weigh each category group for our Best Places for New Immigrants list:

BestPlaces2013ImmigrantsWeighting

19 comments on “Canada’s Best Places to Live 2013 Methodology

  1. Why is North Vancouver ranked twice at #21 and #47?

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    • Hi Dietmar. #21 is the District of North Vancouver and #47 is the City of North Vancouver. Sorry for the confusion. We're working on making this more clear.

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      • Thanks for clearing that up was confused too

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  2. did wetaskiwin rate 30th small city before or after latest tax/utility increases

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  3. How does Monkeysense determine what is a "small" city. I cannot find any reference to population. Is it for the city proper, or the trading area? Why is "biking to work" such an important benchmark when so many of Canada's cities are more skiable than bikeable for much of the winter?

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  4. Why so complicate? Your calculation is false in respect of the interest priority of the population.
    Why not introduce a system where every individual can click on HER,S or HIS priority and let people decide where is best to live for them????

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  5. Is the household income based on pre-tax income or after-tax income?

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  6. I just moved from Cranbrook Bc last year, The city is dying , low unemployment ? of course, anyone that wanted a job has left town, Crime is very high, drug dealers murders, The down town is turning into a ghost town, the malls are empty, House prices are still high but no one is buying…..

    It was a nice place to live,,,, But your rating system is way out of whack,,,,,

    I now live near Calgary and it is in no way the best place in canada to live,,,,,I have to work there every day….and cant wait for quitting time to leave,

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  7. I think the idea of 'quality of life' is very subjective, and your methodology is seriously flawed. If you are looking at it from an urban perspective, like say, Montreal, of course public transit ranks high on your list. But what if you live in a place like Newfoundland, where it's easy to drive to work and find parking? Public transit doesn't rank high on my list of 'quality of life' items. Then there's the question of weather. I enjoy snowshoeing, skiing, ice skating and snowmobiling. For me, great quality of life includes MORE days where the temperature is below zero and there is precipitation falling! I like fly fishing, hiking and tending my backyard vegetable garden – can't do those things in a highrise in Calgary!

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  8. A few questions about ranking. Which were twigged by this tweet a short while ago:

    “@bossyfemme: "@Ptbo_Canada – highest # of wage hours required to rent
    a 2 bedroom apt in Canada." Thx @cfgp_ I had no idea this was true.”

    1. Surprised Peterborough ranked as high as it did considering the results of their quality of life report 2012 http://www.pspc.on.ca/pdf/QOL_Report_2012.pdf

    Why the discrepency in rate of population growth stats ? Theirs state 4.3 %

    2. When determining unemployment what measure is used? Number of people on the EI role? If so this is an incomplete picture. Although those eligible for EI may decrease, the number still requiring financial assitance can increase. To truly examine the economic factors, the number of people needing financial assitance, might be a better indicator of the financial health of a community: ie Number of recipients of all government funded programs: EI, Welfare, CPP, Disability, Old Age Supplement http://www.peterborough.ca/Assets/City+Assets/Soc

    3. When determining the number of people employed in culture, Was the leading economist Richard Florida, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute in Toronto definition of the “creative class" used, which are high paid positions, or are we looking at theatre concession attendants?

    4. Will MoneySense include stats showing the relative health/happiness of people next year? ie mental health of its residents, and emergency room visits due to substance abuse?

    "The rate of hospitalization for mental illness in Peterborough is 549/100,000 [almost double the province of Ontario whose rate is] 392/100,000."

    5, Will emergency room wait times be considered as an indicator next year?

    6. If air quality were factored into the stats, how might this change these rankings?

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  9. Will you be posting a spreadsheet of data as you have all other years? Thanks.

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  10. Why does the point system for Best Places to retire list crime twice at 5 points and at 6 points for a total of 105 points?

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    • Murray, thanks for your note. We've posted the correct point break down used when determining Canada's Best Places to Retire.

      Reply

  11. I'm surprised, that there was not mention of the Maritime provinces. Low crime rate, affordable housing, laid back lifestyle. We didn't make any list.

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  12. I know there's no way to please everyone, but the weights you give to your categories are seriously different from what I would give them. I think Arthur has an excellent suggestion — "introduce a system where every individual can click on HER,S or HIS priority and let people decide where is best to live for them".
    BTW: A lot of us don't care for cold and snow. You don't any category for that. I do care a LOT how much crime is in my city and I think is crime category is terribly under-weighted in your present system, as is recreation opportunities. How about readjusting the weights or allowing us to do so?

    Reply

  13. My father was from Crete and I am a Kanakis :)
    if I ever get my business running so that it dont need me (hopefully soon) I will definately visit Greece. Can't wait to go!!! . And btw it being crowded wont bother me I was born and raised in NYC and doubt it can be that busy. Just get a rental and travel around. AWESOME and looking forward to it.

    Reply

  14. Pls help me in selecting city to migrate from india , preference to city with indian surroundings , good education / university , business prospects , quality of life of course with least crime rate

    Reply

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