Canada's Best Places to Live 2012 Methodology - MoneySense

Canada’s Best Places to Live 2012 Methodology

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Canada’s Best Places to Live 2012 compiles, weighs and ranks 190 cities and towns in Canada by 22 separate categories, for a comprehensive data-driven snapshot of the benefits and drawbacks of our urban communities in Canada. Here’s how we crunched the numbers.

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.

What’s New This Year

Best Places to Live 2012 measures 190 cities, up from 180 last year. To come up with the ranking, we gathered information on Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA) and Census Agglomeration (CA) areas as defined by Statistics Canada. We then broke up the CMAs of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Quebec City, Hamilton, Ottawa-Gatineau, St. Catharines-Niagara, Oshawa, Edmonton, Victoria and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo into their component cities of 50,000 or more in population.

In 2012, we added the new CAs of Steinbach, Man., and High River, Lacombe, Strathmore and Sylvan Lake, all in Alberta. New suburban cities are Aurora, Ont., Strathcona County, Alta., Blainville and Dollard des Ormeaux, both Que. In addition, Gatineau, Que. and Saanich, B.C. are split out from their CMA areas for the first time. Lastly, La Tuque, Que. was removed from the CA cities designation by Statistics Canada.

We have also included breakout lists; Best Places to Retire, Best Places to Raise Kids and Best Places to Find Jobs.

How We Ranked the Cities – The Calculations

A total of 105 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, Estevan, Sask. had the lowest unemployment rate in the country (1.6%). It was ranked No. 1 in that category and received 10 points. The second-best city in the unemployment category, Wetaskiwin, Alta., received 9.95 points. The next city was Swift Current, Sask. with 9.89 points and so on down to the 190th city (Bay Roberts, N.L. unemployment rate 16.8%), which received 0.53 points.

Calculations for some other categories follow a slightly different methodology. For example, in the category of population growth, an annual rate of 7.9% was considered ideal. Anything below or above that rate loses points and cities with a population loss got 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 losing points accordingly)

As well, 5 bonus points have been added based on the percentage of people employed in arts, culture, recreation and sports.

Example: Oshawa, Ont.

Oshawa scored the following in these categories;

While a perfect score in all categories would give a city 105 points, the top city this year, Ottawa, only garnered 74.11 points. Our lowest ranking city, New Glasgow, N.S., scored 33.8 points.

A city’s points are then ranked with all other cities to determine the best places to live overall.

Categories and Points

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

WEATHER: 18 points – (6 for each : amount of precipitation, number of wet days, days below 0°C). Ideal volume of precipitation is considered to be 700 mm 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. Source: 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 2006-2011 of 5.9% 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: 2011 Statistics Canada figures

UNEMPLOYMENT: 10 points – 2011 data from Statistics Canada when provided and 2012 estimates derived from Canadian Demographics.

HOUSING: 15 points – (7.5 for average house prices and 7.5 for time to buy a house) House price averages from reports and listings by MLS, Canadian Real Estate Association, and the Real Estate Boards of Toronto, Fraser Valley, Vancouver, Edmonton and Quebec. Time to buy was derived from average price divided by average 2012 estimated household income sourced from Canadian Demographics.

HOUSEHOLD INCOME: 4 points – Based on 2012 estimates. Source: Canadian Demographics.

DISCRETIONARY INCOME: 4 points – Discretionary household income as a percentage of total household income derived from 2012 estimates. Using a percentage figure adjusts for higher cost of living and tax factors. Source: Canadian Demographics.

NEW CARS: 4 points – 2009-2011 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. Source: www.taxtips.ca.

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 2010. (Lower is better in all three cases.) Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

DOCTORS: 6 points – Number of general practice and specialist physicians per community 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: 2006 Census

TRANSIT: 5 points – Based on the percentage of the workforce utilizing public transit. Source: 2006 Census

AMENITIES: 3 points – One point each for a hospital, university and college. 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

Best Places to Live 2012 displays cities’ rankings in each category and total rankings out of 190 cities, not points.

All data and calculations are on this downloadable spreadsheet.

Sub-list: Best Places for Jobs

This calculation was adjusted to account for services and requirements for those looking for work. The list eliminates weather, air quality, walk/ bike to work, new cars, culture and crime categories.

The point system;

Employment 25
Housing 15
Income 15
Discret. Income 15
Taxes 10
Transit 7
Doctors 6
Population 5
Health Pros 4
Ammenities 3
Total 105

Sub-list: Best Places to Raise Kids

This calculation included the following additional categories;

  • child care spaces
  • population 14 and under
  • percentage of students

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

The point system;

POPULATION 14 AND UNDER 7
DAYCARE SPACES 5
STUDENT AS A % POPULATION 3
AVERAGE HOUSE PRICE 9
TIME TO BUY A HOUSE 9
HOUSEHOLD INCOME 6
DISCRETIONARY INCOME 4
INCOME TAXES 2
SALES TAXES 1
POPULATION GROWTH 5
CRIME 5
DOCTORS 6
HEALTH PROFESSIONALS 4
UNEMPLOYMENT 10
WEATHER 12
AIR QUALITY 2
TRANSIT 7
AMENITIES 3
CULTURE (Bonus) 5
TOTAL 105

Sub-list: Best Places to Retire

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

The point system;

WALK/BIKE TO WORK 7
CLIMATE 30
POP. GROWTH 10
HOUSING 15
INCOME TAXES 3
SALES TAXES 2
CRIME 5
DOCTORS/1000 12
HEALTH PROS 8
TRANSIT 5
AMENITIES 3
CULTURE (Bonus) 5
TOTAL 105

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