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Home of the free

Canada is among the world’s most prosperous countries, though it has slipped a notch in the latest annual ranking by a European think tank.

That aside, it’s the freest country on the planet, according to the Legatum Institute’s prosperity index.

The report released this week rank Canada as No. 6, down a shade from last year’s fifth spot.

On the various sub-categories, Canada ranks eighth for its economy, 15th for entrepreneurship and opportunity, seventh for governance, a high second for education, 11th of health, ninth for safety and security and sixth for “social capital.”

We also hold the No. 1 spot for personal freedom, which, all things considered, is a nice note for Stephen Harper to go out on as he hands over the government to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals tomorrow.

Topping the overall prosperity list is Norway, followed by Switzerland, Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden. Rounding out the top 10 behind Canada are Australia, the Netherlands, Finland and Ireland.

At the bottom of the rankings of 142 countries are Burundi, Chad, Haiti, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.

“Canada is now the freest country in the world, having risen five places to first in the personal freedom sub-index,” the report said.

“The country is the most tolerant of immigrants in the world - 92 per cent of people think the country is a good place for immigrants,” it added.

“It is also the fifth most tolerant of ethnic minorities - 92 per cent of people think that the country is a good place for ethnic minorities. Ninety-four per cent of Canadians believe that they have the freedom to choose the course of their own lives - the fifth-highest in the world.”

The London-based group has consistently ranked Norway as No. 1 since 2009, while Switzerland has held the No. 2 spot for three years running.

Canada has been generally around the same area, though down from last year and the year before, when it was ranked No. 3.

Our eating habits

A new Nielsen study not only says a lot about society’s changing dining habits, but also serves as a road map for Canada’s food services industries.

The recent study shows that many Canadian boomers dine alone, and primarily at home, while millennials opt for easy-to-make meals, with many eating at work.

“So that means they’re either grabbing convenient on-the-go meals or eating out altogether 30 per cent of the time,” Nielsen said of millennials, or those between the ages of 19 and 37.

“Boomers, on the other hand, are eating more meals prepared at home, and they’re less particular about how long it takes to prepare them.”

Fifty-six per cent of boomers dine alone, almost double that of millennials.

There are lessons here for restaurants and others in the food industry, given that these two groups together represent more than half of Canada’s population.

You can see the differences in the chart above, and what they suggest for the industry.

For example, Nielsen gives a heads-up to the industry by noting that 40 per cent of Canadians say they’ve had a snack instead of a meal when they’re hungry.

“There is a massive untapped opportunity to gain market share in the nutritious, portable and easy-to-eat meal alternative market that snack manufacturers could fill,” said Susan Dunn, Neilsen’s executive vice-president of global professional services.

Coupled with that is the fact that the millennials of today will be the biggest generation “as the numbers of their boomer parents are starting to decline,” Nielsen said.

Which is a polite way of saying they’re dying.

Stat of the day

$5.1-billion
Sales in the food services and drinking places sectors in August, up 0.5 per cent from July: Statistics Canada.

What to watch for today

It’s pretty much all about corporate earnings.

Investors are hearing today about quarterly results from Herbalife, Iamgold, Kellogg, McGraw Hill, Mosaic, Pengrowth, Silver Wheaton, Sleep Country Canada, Tesla, TransCanada and WestJet, among others.

Video: It's getting more expensive to rent

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