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Six Canadian Cities out of 50 Receive Top Marks for Attracting Newcomers

Waterloo, Calgary, Ottawa, Richmond Hill, Vancouver, and St. John's continue to appeal to newcomers, according to The Conference Board of Canada's report assessing the attractiveness of Canadian cities.

Ranking of Canadian cities on the features most attractive to migrants.

Ottawa, September 18, 2014—Waterloo, Calgary, Ottawa, Richmond Hill, Vancouver, and St. John’s continue to appeal to newcomers, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s report assessing the attractiveness of Canadian cities.

“Attracting skilled workers is crucial to Canada’s competitiveness. Cities that fail to attract new people will struggle to stay prosperous and vibrant,” said Alan Arcand, Centre for Municipal Studies.


  • Waterloo, Calgary, Ottawa, Richmond Hill, Vancouver, and St. John’s remain the most attractive cities to live for newcomers since our last report in 2010.
  • Attracting skilled workers is crucial to the competitiveness of Canada and its cities. Communities that fail to attract new people will struggle to stay prosperous and vibrant.
  • Cities offering centres of innovation are valued the most when choosing where to live.

The report, City Magnets III: Benchmarking the Attractiveness of 50 Canadian Cities, analyzes and benchmarks the features that make Canadian cities attractive to newcomer populations. The performance of these cities is compared on 43 indicators grouped into seven categories: Society, Health, Economy, Environment, Education, Innovation, and Housing. Data is based on the 2011 Census and National Household Survey.

The qualities that make cities appealing have stood the test of time. All of the six most attractive cities in the 2010 ranking are still at the top this year.

“A” Cities—Strong Magnetic Pull

Each of the six cities that earn an overall “A” grade receives high marks in at least two categories and has attributes that draw people to its community, such as a strong economy, a culture of innovation, or a high quality of life. They extend from coast to coast to coast, include big and small cities, and urban and suburban centres.

  • Waterloo shines as one of the top cities for migrants, thanks to its well-earned reputation for innovation and education. The city ranked first in education, second in innovation, and third in the economy category.
  • Calgary is the only city to rank first in two categories: economy and innovation. These two categories lift Calgary to the top tier of cities despite weak results in education, health, and environment.
  • Ottawa’s appeal can be traced back to solid results in four key categories: society, education, innovation, and economy. Ottawa’s weakness is the health category, where it earns only a “C” grade due to low numbers of health care support workers.
  • Richmond Hill is boosted by strong results in education, innovation and society. It is the third-most diverse city in Canada and boasts the highest number of graduates in engineering, science and math per capita.
  • Vancouver is appealing for its overall high quality of life, demonstrated by strong results on society, education and environment. Vancouver is one of the key destinations for new Canadians. The city’s major drawback is housing, where a lack of affordability is the primary reason for a “D” grade in this category, ranking 44 out of 50.
  • St. John’s rank is boosted by strong results in the economy and health categories. St. John’s has the second-best ratio of general practitioners and specialists per 100,000 people. As a result, the city is ranked second overall in health and is one of only two cities to get an “A” in this category.

“B” Cities—Next Tier Of Cities With Magnetic Appeal

In the next tier are the 14 cities with an overall “B” grade, which include a diverse group of suburbs and “core” cities. Toronto and three of its suburbs—Oakville, Markham, and Mississauga— get “Bs“. Toronto leads all cities in the society category, but only receives “C” ratings for innovation, health, and environment. Rounding out the “B” cities are two Vancouver suburbs: Burnaby and Coquitlam; four Prairie cities: Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg; and four government-centres: Victoria, Halifax, Québec City, and Kingston.

“C” Cities—Room for Improvement

A total of 17 cities receive a “C” grade including Montreal, one of Canada’s largest urban centres. Along with Montreal, six other cities in Quebec get a “C” ranking: Gatineau, Lévis, Sherbrooke, Laval, Saguenay and Longueuil. Also in this category are six small and medium-sized Ontario cities: Vaughan, Guelph, London, Kitchener, Burlington, and Thunder Bay. Richmond, B.C., Surrey, Kelowna and Moncton also get “C” grades. Overall, the “C” rated cities have poor outcomes on either economy or society, and in a few instances both. Cities in this class should strive to do better to boost their appeal to newcomers.

“D” Cities—Struggling to Attract

In all, 13 cities make up the “D” list, falling in the bottom half of the rankings mostly on economy, innovation, society and education. The cities in this class are struggling to attract newcomers, with 9 of the 13 cities showing little population growth between 2006 and 2011, and two cities seeing their populations decline. Of note, many of these cities are located in Ontario, including the large centres of Hamilton and Brampton. Greater Sudbury, Windsor, Barrie, St. Catharines, Brantford, Cambridge, Oshawa, Abbotsford, Trois-Rivières and Saint John round out the cities scoring a “D” grade.

Watch Alan Arcand outline the results of this year’s ranking.

The report findings will be presented at a Conference Board webinar, City Magnets: Attracting and Retaining Skilled Workers to Canadian Cities, on October 23, 2014, at 02:00 p.m. EST.

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