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June 25, 2009

City a magnet

Study ranks Calgary most attractive to Canadians

Sonya Procenko

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Released in December, the study, City Magnets: Benchmarking the Attractiveness of Canada’s CMAs (census metropolitan areas) compares the performance of 27 Canadian cities in seven different domains: Economy, Innovation, Environment, Education, Health, Society and Housing. Each CMA was given a report-card style ranking on each indicator and an overall grade of attractiveness.

The six overall “A” ranked Canadian CMAs were Calgary followed by Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Victoria and Ottawa-Gatineau.  While five of the six top spots were Canada’s big cities, Montreal scored only 14th overall amongst the “B” ranked CMAs.

In the 14 bottom-ranking positions, seven were Ontario CMAs impacted by shrinking manufacturing sector and resulting economic downturns.  Thunder Bay, ranked last at 27th due to no employment growth, very low income growth and a low score in the Health domain.

Essentially, City Magnets “analyzes and benchmarks the features that make Canadian cities attractive to skilled workers and mobile populations.”

“Labour shortages are already beginning to affect some Canadian cities. Attracting highly-skilled workers—and the business investment they encourage—is crucial to Canada’s economic competitiveness in the decades ahead,” says Mario Lefebvre, Director of The Conference Board’s new Centre for Municipal Studies.

“The paradigm of ‘people go where the jobs are’ is changing to ‘businesses going where the people with skills and talent want to live’.  In other words, places attractive to people will also attract business investment.”

The Canadian cities were also compared with 27 metropolitan areas in the U.S., particularly border cities or cities with economic ties to Canada.

In general, the study concludes Canadian cities fall behind their U.S. counterparts on “key economic measures and higher education but offer more affordable housing, better commuting options, healthier lifestyles and better student-teacher ratios”. Calgary, Canada’s star CMA, though ranked behind first-place Washington and second-place Austin. 

Calgary high in Economy category

“The good news is that Calgary held its own among the field of 54 cities, thanks to its league-leading employment rate, robust employment growth and young labour force,” summarizes the study.

Surprisingly, Calgary was the only Canadian CMA to earn “A” or “B” grades across all seven domains. In the Economy domain, Calgary was the only CMA to achieve an “A” score, placing first in seven of the eleven Economy indicators. “Stunning results in per capita income and employment growth underscore the prosperity boom in Calgary,” says the study.

The Alberta economy also scored Edmonton second place in the Economy domain well ahead of Abbotsford, Oshawa and Vancouver.  While in the Innovation domain, the Big Six CMAs earned six of the top nine spots.  Calgary ranked second place and a “B” grade behind  triple “A” rated Ottawa-Gatineau.

City Magnets: Benchmarking the Attractiveness of Canada’s CMAs “builds on previous reports from The Conference Board of Canada aimed at improving Canadians’ quality of life and Canada’s performance in the global economy.”

A not-for-profit Canadian organization, The Conference Board of Canada is a specialist in economic trends, organizational performance and public policy issues. The Board runs conferences; conducts, publishes and disseminates research; helps people network; develops individual leadership skills and builds organizational capacity.

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