By: Roslyn Kunin
A new list of the world’s most livable cities has just been released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). With three cities in the top 10 (Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary) and four in the top 20 (Montreal, ranked 16th) Canadians can be proud. Proportionally, western Canada can be even more proud. And Vancouver, the highest on the list for Canada, can be proudest of all, even if it is in the now familiar bronze position in world rankings.
Vancouver has a long history in the top ten of this list, often in the first position, but petty crime, traffic congestion and housing affordability have now pushed it down to third place.
But some readers may recall another headline just this past July saying that Vancouver was no longer in the top 10 of the world’s best cities. The confusion is due to the fact that the EIU’s list of “best” cities is different from its list of “most livable.” The list of cities examined for the “best” list is much shorter (70 compared to 140), and does not currently include Calgary or Vancouver. Toronto was the only Canadian city included in the best cities competition (it ranked eighth).
This points to the importance of understanding the methodology behind these lists.
For example, neither the livability index nor the best city index includes consideration of the opportunity to make a living. Since everyone who is not independently wealthy must take this into account, often before all other factors, when choosing where to live, this strikes me as a significant oversight.
This is the reason why Dacca in Bangladesh sees streams of incoming population in spite of the fact that it is at the very bottom of the livability list. Many Bangladeshis see Dacca as the place where they have the best economic prospects. And this strong in-migration no doubt contributes to reduced livability as congestion increases and infrastructure is strained.
Closer to home, Vancouver consistently outranks Calgary on the livability index, but does not appear to be keeping up when it comes to opportunities for making a living. Those who vote with their feet seem to be choosing Calgary. Over the last year in Vancouver, house prices, which have been largely unaffordable, have fallen 12%. This would not be consistent with a strong influx of population. Calgary, on the other hand, has seen house prices rise by 27% over the same time period.
Maybe we need an index that looks at making a living as well as enjoying living?