When we speak of Canada’s diversity we refer to the geography of the land and the ethnic background of our people. Yet when you crunch the economic data, as we have for Canada’s Best Places to Live 2012, it becomes clear that how we live defines us as much as where we live. Not only is our urban experience varied depending on whether we live in downtown Montreal or in small-town Saskatchewan, but our ability to access health care or find a job or afford a home is as diverse as our land and our climate.

What is more, the economic factors that determine how we live are always evolving. Thirty years ago, the place to be for jobs would have been southern Ontario. Today, as the manufacturing sector falters, we find good jobs are becoming scarce but social services left behind from good economic times are abundant. Similarly, Alberta and Saskatchewan are being transformed by the boom in oil, gas and other commodities. This puts a strain on urban communities as services try to stay ahead of the feverish growth of resource towns, and housing prices skyrocket—witness the average cost of a home in Fort McMurray (Wood Buffalo) is now a half a million dollars.

This year, for the third year in a row, Ottawa takes top honours with a score of 74 points out of a possible 105. Perhaps most notable, however, is the number of Western cities that shot up this year’s list thanks to strong economic growth and low unemployment. Regina and Halifax catapulted up more than 15 spots each to rank 4th and 5th respectively. Similarly, Red Deer jumped from 96th to 9th on our list.

Take a close look at the data and you’ll find the top-rated cities aren’t perfect or even close to it. They are, however, above average in most categories, resulting in an overall high standard of living.

Top ten cities

1. Ottawa
2. Burlington
3. Kingston
4. Halifax
5. Regina
6. Brandon
7. Fredericton
8. Edmonton
9. Red Deer
10. Winnipeg

This year’s list has been expanded from previous years to include 190 cities and towns with populations over 10,000. To compile our list we have taken municipal data and ranked the cities in 22 categories and then given all the cities an overall ranking. Click here for a full explanation of how we crunched the numbers.

Also new this year are three additional lists: Best Places to Retire, Best Places to Raise Kids and Best Places for Jobs.


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