Vancouver named North America's most livable city, but...

 Good news from The Economist comes at the same time as bad news from UDI/FortisBC .

Sunset over English Bay, Vancouver
Sunset over English Bay. One of the things that makes Vancouver so damned livable. (photo: Jordan Yerman)

The Economist loves Vancouver

We're Number One (in North America)!

Or so says The Economist, which ranked Vancouver as the third most livable city in the world.

Vancouver was the top city in North America, though overall Canada is well-represented. The Economist's Top Ten:

   1. Melbourne, Australia
   2. Vienna, Austria
   3. Vancouver
   4. Toronto
   5. Calgary (tied)
   5. Adelaide, Australia (tied)
   7. Sydney, Australia
   8. Helsinki, Finland
   9. Perth, Australia
   10. Auckland, New Zealand

The Economist Intelligence Unit's criteria for Most Livable City are:

  • Stability
  • Health care
  • Culture and environment
  • Education
  • Infrastructure

Vancouver excelled in healthcare (Oh, Canada!), education, and culture; though all three are subjects of current controversy, to put it mildly. Still, if you gotta get sick, get sick in Canada.

Canada is very stable overall, and Vancouver is stable whenever we're not involved in the Stanley Cup final. If we're fussing over bike lanes, it means our overall infrastructure is in a pretty good place.

Go, Canada, go

Speaking of the Maple Leaf, look at how Canada crowds the top five. Between Canada and Australia, it looks like The Economist has a thing for countries with low populations whose major urban centres are along the coasts and borders.

Vancouver was Number One in 2011, but hasn't reclaimed the top spot since. Hey, it's tough to beat Melbourne; perhaps quality of coffee is a factor that The Economist does not publicize. Okay, culture-wise, we are not yet at Melbourne's level. We have nearby skiing (I mean real skiing), though, and they do not.

Vancouver also has a low crime rate compared to other major cities. We're also not in the grip of a protracted and bloody civil war: Damascus, Syria is at the very bottom of the list.

Adelaide is a green and cozy city, true, but it has a history of booze and cola falling from the sky. Perhaps one day it may happen again.

Somebody's gotta say it

We must discuss the elephant in the room, though: affordability. The 2014 UDI/FortisBC Housing Affordability Index shows Vancouver’s affordability has actually gone down from last year.

UDI/Fortis Housing Affordability Index by bartjackson



The Economist’s livability index does not take affordability into account, which is kind of strange if you think about it: ostensibly, being able to live somewhere should be a core factor in its livability. Otherwise, one is left to wonder why theme parks aren't included.

In any event, affordability was not included, so one can best interpret the Economist’s verdict as “Vancouver is extremely livable if you’re relatively wealthy enough to call it home.” This is true for any city in the world, but the disconnect between wages and real estate prices make Vancouver... what’s the term for “unicorn” when you’re not discussing something beautiful?

Perth is another unusually expensive city, since those working in the breathtakingly-lucrative mining industry come to town with huge paychecks: a local tech-industry figure described it to me as "the miners' playpen".

It is what it is

When we take the city for what it is (to the extent that critically-thinking people can do so), we find that we have some pretty good reasons to give our chests a thump. This place is truly beautiful, which is why so many are actively engaged in the fights over fracking and the tar sands. And, hey, we also just got Happy Hour here. 

Indeed, Vancouverites may be wondering how Toronto got so high on the list, but that's just local pride talking.

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