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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!