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Home » Immigration, Travel

Best Places to Live: Canada’s Top 10 Cities (2011)

Submitted by on April 28, 2011 – 2:40 pm11 Comments

New condos rise above Ottawa's ByWard MarketWhere are the best places to live in Canada?

Every year, MoneySense mag­a­zine weighs in on the best-places-to-live ques­tion, and this year was no exception.

The MoneySense 2011 Best Places to Live sur­vey rat­ed 180 Canadian com­mu­ni­ties with at least 10,000 res­i­dents, com­par­ing such fac­tors as cli­mate, incomes, job prospects, access to health care, home afford­abil­i­ty, crime rates, and over­all lifestyle.

And for the sec­ond year in a row, the top city was… Ottawa, Canada’s capital.

Why Ottawa? Ottawa’s major ben­e­fit was its con­sis­ten­cy, with decent, if not stel­lar, rat­ings in all categories:

There are jobs to be had, house­hold incomes and real estate are not dras­ti­cal­ly mis­aligned, doc­tors are acces­si­ble, and crime is bare­ly a con­cern. Temperate sum­mers make up for the bone-chill­ing winters…There are plen­ty of muse­ums and galleries…to keep the cul­ture-lover occupied.

Of course, much of the city’s suc­cess is due to the fact that it is home to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. Bureaucracy, for all of its unsex­i­ness, means jobs, healthy incomes, local busi­ness devel­op­ment, and amenities.

Ranked sec­ond, despite the high cost of hous­ing, was Victoria, British Columbia, which earned points for its improv­ing job mar­ket and its com­pact, walk­a­ble city cen­ter, as well as its com­par­a­tive­ly mild climate.

But it’s not just tem­per­ate B.C. that scored well for weath­er. In Southern Ontario out­side of Toronto, Burlington scored third, pair­ing high incomes and respectable job prospects, with a low crime rate and (sur­prise!) a gen­er­al­ly decent climate.

Here’s the com­plete MoneySense Top 10:

  1. Ottawa-Gatineau, ON
  2. Victoria, BC
  3. Burlington, ON
  4. Kingston, ON
  5. St. Albert, AB
  6. Fredericton, NB
  7. Brandon, MB
  8. Edmonton, AB
  9. Repentigny, QC
  10. Winnipeg, MB

In gen­er­al, small­er cities and sub­ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties scored high­er than Canada’s larg­er cities, with Toronto ranked #88 and Montreal at #123. For many peo­ple, though, par­tic­u­lar­ly new­com­ers to Canada, the vibrant cul­tur­al life and over­all career prospects in the major cities out­weighs some of the drawbacks.

Among the bet­ter-scor­ing large cities, beyond the Top 10, were London (ON) at #14, Calgary at #16, Halifax (NS) at #21, Quebec City at #25, and Vancouver at #29.

What do you think? Would you rather live in a large city, despite the has­sles of urban life? Or do you think that new­com­ers fare bet­ter in small­er communities?

Please leave a com­ment and share your opin­ion. Thanks!

And for more infor­ma­tion on the MoneySense sur­vey, check out the Best Places to Live 2011 list and relat­ed arti­cles.

Planning to relo­cate to Canada? Get help plan­ning your move with our free refer­ral ser­vice.

New con­dos rise above Ottawa’s ByWard Market Photo © Carolyn B. Heller


  • Adam says:

    I cur­rent­ly reside in Toronto for the past few years, I stud­ied at HUMBER busi­ness school. I think job mar­ket in Toronto is not very good. Its just a wel­come house for new comers.Toronto is filled with peo­ple who likes to do labor jobs. However Toronto is real­ly good to live, expen­sive pubs and rapid growth of pop­u­la­tion, com­pe­ti­tion, Crimes occur at only cer­tain places exam­ple. Jane and finch. Perhaps Toronto has mix­ture of city life and rur­al lifestyles. The gov­ern­ment changes rules very often and is now strin­gent in giv­ing per­ma­nent res­i­dents. Lots of wait­ing lists. At Humber school for inter­na­tion­al stu­dents the fee is 6000$ a semes­ter and if an inter­na­tion­al stu­dent fails in just ONE SUBJECT he needs to pay a fee of 1200$, which is real­ly bad. Car insur­ance is expen­sive. Government increas­es bus fare often.
    Thus I would say Toronto is a love­ly place to hang­out, safe but in long term set­tle­ment this is not the right option. Please give your sug­ges­tions on good place to set­tle in Canada no mat­ter the tem­per­a­ture but fac­tors like house afford­abil­i­ty and high­est income/​hourly pay. Thanks.

  • Caroline says:


    I have been look­ing through the past com­ments and have obtained some good information.

    I was won­der­ing how­ev­er where the best place to migrate to from the UK. I cur­rent­ly live in the sub­urbs of London and enjoy being close enough to expe­ri­ence city life but far enough away to not be invloved. Obviously in London it is not half as cold has the tem­per­a­tures can reach in Canada but I am open to deal with the cold.

    I will be vis­it­ing Canada next year and hope to migrate in the com­ing years.

    I would appre­ci­ate any com­ments or advice, thanks.

  • Logan says:

    I Live in Fredericton, NB, and love it here. Beautiful scenery and nice peo­ple. i went on a trip to Ottawa before and i very much enjoyed the city, but noth­ing is like home. In my opin­ion Fredericton should be #1 (Not to be biest). Oh and Montreal is a slum…

  • Ruth says:

    I nom­i­nate Kingston, Ontario. It’s gor­geous here. Right on Lake Ontario, loads of things cities this size don’t nor­mal­ly have espe­cial­ly with regard to the arts. Very walk­a­ble. Small but, yet large enough to have good shop­ping and MANY restaurants…more per capi­ta than any oth­er Canadian city. Easy access to the bor­der. So many advan­tages. It’s about equal dis­tance to Ottawa, Toronto or Montreal too. I’ve lived in Ottawa and Toronto too and like it here best of the three cities. I’m quite sur­prised it was not on the list this time as it has been before.

  • bob levert says:

    I would strong­ly advise against liv­ing in Quebec, peri­od! I returned to Quebec for per­son­al rea­sons about six years ago. My par­ents migrat­ed to California in 1957, I was only one year old. I returned in 2004. After six years, I’m now plan­ning to move to Ontario, Ottawa to be pre­cise. Why? Because the Provincial, as well as the munic­pal gov­ern­ments (espe­cial­ly Montreal), are by far the most cor­rupt­ed bunch of human debris that I’ve ever seen in my life!!! The Prime min­is­ter of Quebec is in bed with the Mafia, the Unions, big Oil Industry, and of course the total­ly cor­rupt­ed con­struc­tion com­pa­nies. There is some­thing about the French Quebecor’s men­tal­i­ty that strikes me very wierd. They have this big chip on their col­lec­tive shoul­der, and they have a low self esteme issue. They blame all their prob­lems on the eng­lish, or the Federal Government. Quebec was rat­ed the most cor­rupt­ed province in Canada a cou­ple of years ago by Mclean’s mag­a­zine! We are the most heav­i­ly taxed province in Canada, have the worst school sys­tem in Canada, the worst health sys­tem in Canada, we are the poor­est province in Canada. Quebec lit­tery gives away it’s nat­ur­al resources, while charg­ing it’s own cit­i­zen sky high prices! Think about this, Montreal, has more gov­ern­ment work­ers (for as small as it is), than Toronto, or New York!!!! Twenty per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion in Quebec, work for the gov­ern­ment. Of course every­one knows about the con­di­tions of our roads, the worst, unkept, patchjobs in all of Canada!! I’ve seen bet­ter roads in Mexico! Because of the cor­rup­tion in Montreal’s munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment, and it’s self serv­ing Mayor, the infra­struc­ture of Montreal is lit­ter­ly falling apart!! We have three bridges that are falling apart because of neg­li­gence. Circulating by car in Montreal is a true night­mare, this com­ing from a guy that lived in Southern California! I’m sure that Quebec has it’s good points, and vis­i­tors may actu­al­ly enjoy them selves for a few days while on vaca­tion, but vis­it­ing a place for vaca­tion, and actu­al­ly liv­ing here, is a whole dif­fer­ent ball game. Quebec is far from being “World Class”, as far as I, and many peo­ple I know, Quebec would be the great­est place to live, but only if the Corrupted Municipal, and Provincial gov­ern­ments, the syn­di­cates-orga­nized crime, and the social­ist men­tal­i­ty were abol­ished. There are of cource worse places to live on this plan­et, like Haiti, Bangledesh, Siberia, Mexico, ect., but, if any­one plans on migrat­ing to Canada, please for the love of God, stay very far away from this crim­i­nal’s par­adise known as Quebec. In clos­ing, I per­son­aly can not wait to get the hell out of this twi­light zone of a place. However, what is real­ly sad to me is the fact that indi­vid­u­al­ly, the Quebecors are great warm, and char­i­ta­ble peo­ple. I just can’t for the life of me under­stand how, or why they per­mit­ted these crim­i­nals in gov­ern­ment ruin this place. Sincerely, Bob

    • Carolyn B. Heller says:

      It sounds as if Bob likes the peo­ple of Quebec but has had neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences with the gov­ern­ment and pub­lic ser­vices. Anyone else want to share your expe­ri­ences with life in Montreal, Quebec City, or oth­er places in Quebec? 

      The MoneySense sur­vey put Quebec City at #25 and Montreal at #123 on its Best Places to Live list. How do you think they rank among Canada’s best places to live? Is gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion affect­ing the qual­i­ty of life?

      Readers, what do you think? Please post a com­ment and let us know.

    • marg says:

      I can relate. I was born in Los Angeles in 1957 but have lived
      here in Montreal since 1978. My Mother was French Canadian but
      pre­ferred to stay in Southern California because of the weather.
      What else. It cer­tain­ly has been hard to live here but mov­ing back to the States after all these years seems a daunt­ing task.
      At our age it is good to have social­ized med­ical care even with
      all the wait times. 

      In the past few months Montreal has become a night­mare to
      get around between the crum­bling all at once infra­struc­ture and lack of will of the pow­ers that be to get it all orga­nized. One
      feels like one is in a banana repub­lic. I know there is probably
      a dif­fer­ent set of prob­lems every­where I would go but “go” is cer­tain­ly on my mind too. Now about the climate.…

  • Ray Stephen says:

    And yes i to agree with the oth­ers on this page Ottawa is the nicest big city in cana­da hands down so if you have yet to go you should check it out for yourself!

  • Ray Stephen says:

    So for my opin­ion new­com­ers com­ming to cana­da they would much rather a small­er city in the mid­dle of cana­da or east­coast of cana­da the land is way nicer there is more water, more trees, tons of wildlife, and lots of recre­ation­al stuff, the small­er citys are easy to move to the peo­ple who live there are nicer its not so fast liv­ing where that would bring bad dri­vers like the dri­vers in abler­ta (some of the worst in cana­da) it is just eas­i­er to get comfterble in a small nabour­hood than a big city plus there is less crime bet­ter schools eas­i­er to go to doc­tors, line ups to every buis­ness are always short­er its just more relax­ing your hous­ing is bet­ter spaced out unlike edmon­ton and all of alber­ta your house wont be 3 feet from your nabours house park­ing lots and every­thing out in alber­ta are just big clus­ters of bad dri­ving peo­ple who cause car acci­dents dai­ly. also crime rate are way lover in small places there has already been 22 homi­cides in edmon­ton this year and we are only 1/​4 into the year we will be hit­ting record highs some even match­ing US cities now that is so bad this is cana­da peo­ple come on learn to get a long.

  • Zhu says:

    Living in Ottawa, I’m not sur­prised to see it #1. Ottawa is a very steady place, sur­pris­ing­ly afford­able for a cap­i­tal (and a large city by Canadian stan­dards). It’s also very green and fam­i­ly-friend­ly… plus the loca­tion is con­ve­nient since it’s close to the US, Montreal and Toronto.

    • Carolyn B. Heller says:

      Hi, Zhu,
      Thanks for your com­ment. I spent some time in Ottawa in March, and it remind­ed me what a nice city it is. 

      I was espe­cial­ly impressed with Ottawa’s food scene. I had excel­lent meals at Zen Kitchen (deli­cious veg­an ravi­o­li!), Allium, and the Cordon Bleu Ottawa, plus a yum­my Chinese BBQ pork taco at the Side Door. Also attend­ed a great din­ner, orga­nized by Savvy Company and Thyme & Again, with sev­er­al local food peo­ple, and got to take an abbre­vi­at­ed ver­sion of the C’est Bon Cooking “Foods of the ByWard Market” tour.

      I can see why a city with so many great food expe­ri­ences gets high marks for qual­i­ty of life!