6 cities earn 'A' grade for attracting newcomers

Waterloo, Ont., Calgary, Ottawa, Richmond Hill, Ont., Vancouver and St. John's top list

Waterloo, Ont., Calgary, Ottawa, Richmond Hill, Ont., Vancouver and St. John's are the most attractive cities to live for newcomers, according to a Conference Board of Canada report.

The report, City Magnets III: Benchmarking the Attractiveness of 50 Canadian Cities, compares 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.

“A" cities
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.

•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, said the Conference Board.

•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 has 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. It 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
The 14 cities with an overall "B" grade include Toronto and three of its suburbs — Oakville, Markham and Mississauga. Toronto leads all cities in the society category, but only receives "C" ratings for innovation, health and environment. Rounding out the category 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
A total of 17 cities receive a "C" grade including Montreal and six other cities in Quebec: Gatineau, Lévis, Sherbrooke, Laval, Saguenay and Longueuil. Also in this category are six Ontario cities: Vaughan, Guelph, London, Kitchener, Burlington and Thunder Bay. Richmond, B.C., Surrey, B.C., Kelowna, B.C., and Moncton, N.B., also get "C" grades. Overall, the "C" rated cities have poor outcomes on either economy or society, and in a few instances both, said the Conference Board.

"D" cities
Thirteen 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, said the Conference Board, with nine of the 13 cities showing little population growth between 2006 and 2011, and two cities seeing their populations decline. Many of these cities are located in Ontario, including Hamilton, Brampton, Greater Sudbury, Windsor, Barrie, St. Catharines, Brantford, Cambridge and Oshawa. Abbotsford, B.C., Trois-Rivières, Que., and Saint John, N.B., round out the cities scoring a "D" grade.

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