Symon says who wants to move to Calgary?
A recent MoneySense poll put Calgary as the top place to live in Canada, followed among “large cities” by Ottawa, Edmonton, London, ON, and Winnipeg. These cities ranked highly based on their low unemployment rates and high family incomes. And, as you can guess, Montreal did not rank very highly in this poll…
If other criteria, such as the quality of life, the price of real estate, educational possibilities, vibrant cultural life, the chance to speak another language, decent public transit, the presence of top level sporting events, and good cuisine were used instead, some of these other cities would fall off the bottom of the chart.
MoneySense’s extended list–down to tenth ranked Vancouver–also includes Halifax (6th) and Quebec City (9th), indicating that the pollsters did remember Canada continues east of the Ottawa River. But Montreal does not feature anywhere on this list. Nor was it on the list for the “best places to raise kids” or “best places for immigrants” or “best places to retire.” To be fair, three Montreal-area suburbs did make the “best places to raise kids” list: Boucherville (6); Terrebonne (7); and Repentigny (8).
I am curious why, if Montreal is such a poor place for immigrants, why do so many of them keep coming here? All of this suggests that Montreal is probably underrated in the above poll. Friends from the Maritimes have long joked that they went “to Toronto for the money, but Montreal for the fun!”
To be sure, Montreal gets a lot of bad press; from corruption investigations to a car recently flipping over because of a giant pothole. A relative living out West telephoned a while ago and commented about all the awful corruption in Montreal politics. I replied that Montreal at least is investigating its corruption. If similar investigations were conducted elsewhere, they might reveal the same level of corruption–or worse! The potholes are bad in Montreal, but in some suburbs–such as Dorval–they are almost absent.
Until the 1970s, Montreal was the economic powerhouse of Canada and its most populous city. Then, faced with political uncertainties, many company head offices moved down the 401 to Toronto or even to Calgary, pulling population with them. Two referendums on Quebec independence (in 1980 and 1995) sent real estate values into a tailspin. But there was a silver lining to that cloud…
At least until the past few years, real estate values in Montreal were low enough that only parent in many families was obligated to work. The other (usually the mother) had the choice of staying home to look after the kids if she so wanted. The traditionally lower real estate values have also pulled artists and some athletes (not all of whom are paid NHL salaries) to Montreal like a magnet. The Plateau district apparently has the highest percentage of artists per capita in Canada. These are very important assets for our city.
Montreal is probably an important counter-balance for the rest of Canada (especially Calgary and Toronto). To thrive, a country needs both a strong economy and a vibrant culture. Traditionally, Toronto has had a robust economy and considerable cultural life, but it is not really proud of this culture. Movies made there often disguise that fact while movies made in Montreal tend to proudly show off local landmarks. Calgary is an even more extreme example of a city with a very robust economy but little cultural life. Montreal, on the other hand, has a culture to spare, but local unemployment rates are at 10%.
All this to say that, depending on the criteria, Montreal is still the best place in Canada.