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business briefing

Briefing highlights

  • Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary lead ‘liveability’ list
  • Global markets largely on the rise
  • Video: Use of social media in the office


Three Canadian cities dominate the top of the latest global “liveability” rankings in a world increasingly haunted by terrorism and where major business centres “tend to be victims of their own success.”

Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary sit in the top five of the rankings released by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the sister of the well-known magazine.

Used by companies and governments, the report studied 140 cities, putting Melbourne at the top and Vienna in the No. 2 spot.

Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, ahead of Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Helsinki and Hamburg to round out the top 10.

The report, which scores cities on stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure, put Damascus at the bottom, with Tripoli, Lagos and Dhaka filling out the “least liveable” category.

That Canada and Australia ranked so well raises obvious questions.

“Those that score best tend to be mid-sized cities with a relatively low population density,” the report said.

“These can foster a range of recreational activities withoug leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure,” it added.

“Six of the top 10 scoring cities are in Australia and Canada, which have, respectively, population densities of 3.1 and 3.9 people per square kilometre.”

There’s more, of course.

“It may be argued that violent crime is on an upward trend in the top tier of cities, but these observations are not always correct,” the EIU said.

“According to the most recently released statistics, after a record low number of murders in 2013, Vancouver saw its murder rate increase in 2014, but 2013 and 2014 were still the years with the lowest national murder rates in Canada since 1966.”

The report noted how the world has been affected by terrorism, war and civil unrest.

Major business centres, meanwhile, “tend to be victims of their own success,” it also noted.

“The ‘big city buzz’ that they enjoy can overstretch infrastructure and cause higher crime rates,” the EIU said.

“New York, London, Paris and Tokyo are all prestigious hubs with a wealth of recreational activity, but all suffer from higher levels of crime, congestion and public transport problems than are deemed comfortable,” it added.

“The question is how much wages, the cost of living and personal taste for a location can offset liveability factors.”

The report didn’t talk about two of the big issues in Canada, housing affordability and the impact of the oil shock.

Homes in Vancouver and Toronto would be out of reach for many people, though that doesn’t necessarily include corporate executives or officials whose governments are paying the tab, and who would have earned huge gains by owning properties in those cities. And, of course, there’s renting versus buying.

And the fact that anyone paid in U.S. dollars gets an automatic discount because of the low level of the loonie, though there’s a new 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers of Vancouver properties.

Both cities also have strong labour markets.

Calgary, hit hard by the collapse in oil prices, is a different story. Home prices in the home of the oil patch are down 0.6 per cent from a year ago, according to the latest reading of the Teranet-National Bank home price index, and 5.1 per cent from their peak.

Calgary’s unemployment rate stands at an elevated 8.6 per cent, based on a three-month moving average.

Video: Use of social media in the office