By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: March. 31, 2012
At 182nd out of 190 cities in Canada, Squamish was recently ranked as one of the worst places to live in Canada by Money Sense magazine recently.
The rankings were widely reported in newspaper across Canada.
The survey is contradictory, illogical, and penalises us for exactly the kinds of things we are proud of, and doesn’t take into myriad other factors that make Squamish work, says Coun. Patricia Heintzman.
She picked apart the survey, saying it’s unfair to compare Squamish to big cities like Ottawa in the first place.
Squamish has been penalised for not buying enough new cars, a meaningless measure of how well a town is doing, she added.
“Have they done a survey on how many new bikes we buy every year? That might bring us more than a few notches up,” she said.
Coun. Ron Sander said the magazine’s ranking was “truly unfortunate” and a misguided opinion of our community.
“Proof of the great appeal of the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada” is in the considerable growth in population even while our major employers have left the community,” he said.
Money Sense based their information on 2006 Statistics Canada date, and ranked the cities based on points.
A total of 105 points were up for grabs in seventeen categories, such as housing, crime, transit, culture, and unemployment.
The top city in each category received the maximum number of points, and the rest of the cities received descending incremental points based on their ranking.
Of all the communities ranked in the survey, Squamish ranked number one on air quality, 15 for culture, and 27 on household income.
But once the more important indicators start to come up, the downward slide begins.
Squamish ranked a lowly 146 on the employment scale, and it didn’t do too well on the weather either. It ranked a lowly 186 on the weather, surprisingly better on transit at 82, and a good 27 on the household income front.
Phil Froats, the man who crunches the data at Money Sense magazine’s office in Toronto, has a warning for those who demand more than the magazine has to offer.
Money Sense can’t measure the many important things like waterfronts, neighbours, and restaurants that make people feel good about living in their city, he says.
“A person in B.C. loves the sunsets over the ocean but someone in Nova Scotia loves the sunrises,” he says.
“These mean different things to different people, and can’t be compared city to city.”
Nate Dolha, a candidate in last year’s council elections, said Squamish has several problems that it must confront.
“We have an enormous commuter population (and growing), with no commuter services. The transit service we do have is laughable, and is ineffective in part due to poor urban planning – so we earned that rank,” he said.
“Our high unemployment rates are a direct result of no real economic development program, so we wear that one too.”
Squamish relator Nancy Hamilton, however, faulted the methodology used by the magazine.
“Why have I and so many other Eastern Canadians migrated to the West Coast? I think they should have added a few more criteria to their list like losing points for number of Tim Hortons per capita,” she said.
But with some things done right, like buying new cars, Squamish can go up a notch next year.
“Improvement in one area can move a city up a long piece on the ranking,” Froats said.
“The list is very competitive so in some cases an extra couple of points in one category could move a city up 15-20 on the overall ranking.”