Mount Tolmie offers a fantastic view of Saanich

Saanich ranked Vancouver Island’s best city

MoneySense statistical analysis says immigrant-friendly community offers employment, health care, low crime and many amenities

According to Island Health statistics, Saanich residents have the highest incomes on Vancouver Island.

And they are among the least depressed.

So maybe it should come as no surprise a recent report by MoneySense magazine has determined Greater Victoria’s most populous municipality as the best place to live on Vancouver Island.

The annual report is based on a number of measurable factors including amenities, income, weather and affordability — 35 categories in total. It looked at 219 communities across the country and assigned each a score based on how they compared against the rest.

When they added up the totals, Saanich had finished 13th overall, significantly higher than its Island runner-up, Comox.

“Of course, was there any question?” acting Saanich mayor Vicki Sanders said, tongue only partly in cheek.

The 2016 ranking was news to her, although she is aware of the community scoring well in previous surveys. She said she appreciates the recognition, and having the numbers back up her personal observations.

“I feel proud as a person who grew up here,” she said.

MoneySense compiled the rankings using statistical data from Statistics Canada, Environics Analytics and other sources.

“While we can’t gauge many of the elements that people enjoy in their cities, the nearness of family, the friendliness of neighbours or even great sunsets, we have measured what can be measured and compared what can be compared,” report author Mark Brown said.

According to the report, which was released in June, Saanich scored among the top 25 per cent of Canadian cities in employment, access to health care, arts and sports opportunities, and crime rate. It finished in the top 10 cities overall for ease of access to walking, biking and transit.

It also received recognition as a great place for new Canadians, finishing sixth in the country in that respect. Employment, apartment rental costs, and an existing immigrant population of 17 per cent were cited as factors.

That was also news to Sanders, but not a surprise. She said the same standard of living, amenities and lifestyle balance that Saanich offers established Canadians also applies to immigrants, and it is complemented by a genuine community effort to welcome newcomers.

The Island’s top-ranked city finished fourth-overall in B.C. after West Vancouver (7 overall), North Vancouver (8), and Port Moody (11). The country’s top five cities were, in order, Ottawa, Burlington, and Oakville, Ont., St. Albert, Alta., and Boucherville, Que.

Among the report’s other interesting findings was that Victoria was ranked as the best place to retire in B.C. and the fifth-best place in the country — in part because of an average property tax of $1,026, a total of 3.73 doctors per 1,000 residents and an average of 319 days a year with temperatures above freezing. The magazine put special emphasis on senior-friendly considerations like low taxes, a thriving cultural community, quick access to an airport and plenty of doctors, when determining the retirement list.

Saanich was also the Island’s top city in the previous edition of the MoneySense report, finishing 12th overall in 2015. Vancouver Island cities in general slipped considerably on the overall list compared to 2015, most notably Victoria, Comox, Courtenay and Campbell River.

Some of those commenting online questioned the validity of a purely statistical exercise.

“I would say surveys like this are inaccurate. What people consider to be the best in a city would depend a great deal on what they value in life,” someone identifying themselves as Robert Grandfield wrote.

“These surveys are totally out of touch with reality. North and West Vancouver are nearly impossible to afford housing except to multi-millionaires. Victoria is fast going the same way. Nanaimo, population around 100,000 with a reasonably large hospital, gets no tick for health facilities or anything else including affordability,” A.J. Willcocks posted.

“Your researchers should spend at least a week in each city surveyed, I doubt they have actually visited any of them, just read up city stats on Wikipedia.”


How Island communities ranked

13. Saanich (12)

71. Comox (25)

91. Victoria (50)

153. Nanaimo (142)

162. Courtenay (129)

172. Parksville (178)

183. Duncan (171)

192. Campbell River (166)

210. Port Alberni (207)

— MoneySense magazine, last year’s rank in parentheses


Follow me on Twitter @JohnMcKinleyBP

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