The 20 most livable cities in Canada for newcomers

Julia Hornstein
Published: December 3, 2023

The Globe and Mail recently released a study ranking the most desirable cities for newcomers in Canada. The Globe examined how easy it was to integrate into the community, access to basic amenities and affordable housing. The ranking was meant for individuals who have arrived in Canada over the past five years.

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The Globe collected data from 439 cities across the country, each with a population over 10,000. The evaluation involved an analysis of 43 variables, which span 10 categories that were identified as crucial when a person contemplates relocating to a new city. These categories were economy, housing, demographics, health care, safety, education, community, amenities, transportation and climate.

The ranking is as follows:

  1. Pitt Meadows, BC
  2. Victoria, BC
  3. Winnipeg, MB
  4. North Vancouver, BC
  5. Saanich, BC
  6. Wellesley, ON
  7. Burlington, ON
  8. Regina, SK
  9. Delta, BC
  10. Maple Ridge, BC
  11. West Vancouver, BC
  12. Oak Bay, BC
  13. Abbotsford, BC
  14. Colwood, BC
  15. Norwich, ON
  16. Parksville, BC
  17. Fort St. John, BC
  18. Port Coquitlam, BC
  19. Middlesex Centre, ON
  20. Coldstream, BC

The study identified certain categories as more important for people selecting a community to live in, such as housing, and weighed those categories more heavily than less significant categories, such as climate.

At the end, they weighted and averaged the scores to compute a composite score for each city. No city was perfect – even Victoria, a top ranked city, received some average scores for housing and healthcare. However, the ranking offers a holistic view of the strengths of each city and overall livability.

A deep dive into the categories and variables

The economy category assessed a city’s financial health by examining the job market, income levels and tax and overall economic stability. Oak Bay, Colwood, Norwich, Middlesex Centre and Port Coquitlam were some cities that had an unemployment rate below 6%.

For housing, the category evaluates the affordability of housing, and the accessibility of housing options for seniors. They looked at average value of primary real estate, property tax and household dwelling expenditure. They also examined the senior’s housing per capita.

The demographics category looked at a city’s stability and sustainability in population growth, diversity, and cultural richness. The Globe used a diversity indicator index based on three variables: the percentage of the population whose mother tongue is not English or French, the percentage of population who are first- or second-generation immigrations and the percentage of population who are visible minorities.

Port Coquitlam, Abbotsford, West Vancouver, Delta, North Vancouver, and Winnipeg are cities that have higher diversity than the Canadian average.

As for healthcare, the Globe examined the accessibility and quality of health care services and residents’ general perception of their health status. The Globe used indicators such as the proportion of the population able to receive immediate care for minor problems within three days and the proportion of the population with a regular health care provider.

Over 88% of the population in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and North Vancouver had a regular healthcare provider.

The safety category examined the likelihood of crimes and residents’ overall confidence in public safety. Wellesley had a likelihood of crime rate that was 88% lower than the Canadian average, the lowest out of all cities. Other cities with a lower likelihood of crime than the Canadian average were Pitt Meadows, North Vancouver, Saanich and Burlington.

The education category assessed the educational qualifications of the community and the availability of schools, universities, and other educational institutions in the area.

As for community, the category looked at the city’s social engagement venues, community events, volunteer opportunities and the sense of belonging and connectivity within the city.

West Vancouver and Coldstream are the two cities with the highest sense of belonging to the local community, at 74% of the population.

For the amenities category, the Globe determined the number of recreational facilities, entertainment options, shopping centres and other leisure opportunities available for residents in the community. This included cannabis stores, gyms, movie theatres and proximity to childcare, grocery stores, libraries and parks.

In terms of transportation, the category examined the public transit system, accessibility, and overall ease of getting around the city. This included looking at the proportion of households within 45 minutes of an airport and the proportion of the population living within one kilometer of any source of public transportation.

The only cities that were more walkable than the Canadian average were North Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Victoria.

Finally, the Globe considered the climate of every city, cataloguing extreme climate and overall seasonal conditions from the past. They examined the number of days in a year when the humidex was over 35 and when the daytime low temperate was colder than -15 degrees Celsius.

The two cities with the most days where the temperature was colder than -15 degrees Celsius was Winnipeg and Regina.

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