Ottawa may have a stable economy and a low crime rate, but it's the city's rivers and World Heritage Rideau Canal, along with acres of parkland and walking and cycling trails, that people who call the nation's capital home always mention first when they tell visitors what's so great about this Eastern Ontario gem.

Ontario's waterfront communities grab top three positions
on MoneySense's coveted 'most livable' cities in Canada list

News Archive UPDATE


Congratulations, Ottawa!

For the second year in a row, Ottawa — along with its national capital twin city Gatineau, Que. — has snagged the top spot on MoneySense magazine’s coveted ‘most livable’ cities in Canada list. 

Of the Top 10 cities named to the list for 2011, three are in Ontario, and all are waterfront communities. Joining Ottawa are Burlington, No. 3, and Kingston, No. 4. In the 2010 Best Places to Live survey, the Top 3 cities in Canada were all in Ontario and all on the waterfront: Ottawa, Kingston and Burlington placed 1, 2, 3 respectively.

Spoiling a repeat of an all-Ontario Top 3 this year was Victoria, B.C., which jumped from the No. 8 spot in 2010 to No. 2, thanks to an improving job picture. 

Check out the full MoneySense list and accompanying story online. — April 2011



We hate to say we told you so, but according to MoneySense magazine, Canada’s Top 3 most livable cities are all Ontario waterfront communities.  

Sitting at the conjunction of three great and historic rivers, Ottawa and its sister city of Gatineau, Que., ranked as Canada’s No. 1 most livable city for the third time in the last four years.  

If you head south from Ottawa, down the Rideau Canal to Lake Ontario, you’ll run right into the city that placed second: Kingston. Then continue west and up the lake to Burlington and you’ll have reached livable city No. 3.  

We knew it. Ontario’s waterfront rules!  

True, MoneySense delved beyond the glitz, the architecture, the nightlife and pretty natural features that make a particular city a tourist draw. All they cared about were the practicalities of daily living. That’s why they concentrated only on the factors that really count in making your everyday life pleasant — including climate, culture, schools and municipal services.  

Other things they cared about in compiling the rankings, says magazine editor Duncan Hood: “How much money can you make? What kind of job can you get? How much does it cost to buy a house? How many doctors are available? What kind of infrastructure is there? How much pollution is there? All the things that affect your day-to-day standard of living if you live there 365 days a year.”  

Sunny, smogless days count!

But in the end, weather (including rain and smog days) ranked high among the most important factors in determining the most livable cities. And that’s where southern Ontario shines. In fact, at the top of the list, Oakville, Port Hope and Burlington came first, second and third. After the retirement haven of Victoria squeezed in at No. 4, Mississauga grabbed fifth spot on the weather ladder.  

If you asked the people who lived in Canada’s most livable cities, however, chances are they’d list a number of items important to them that aren’t on MoneySense’s list. Things like parks, trails for strolling and taking the dog for a walk — and water. As one Ottawan puts it: “British Columbians can have their mountains, just give me a lovely stroll along the Rideau Canal any day of the week.”  

That’s what fine living along the waterfront is all about. Green space with plenty of places to stop to enjoy the water views. Bistros and restaurants with waterfront terraces. Inviting links that act as gateways from the “working city centres” to the water’s edge.  

And all three of the most livable cities in Canada can boast they possess all of those things. (Check out our Community Profiles section to learn more about what Ottawa, Kingston, Burlington and Ontario’s other waterfront communities have to offer.)  

Another important factor in deciding the overall MoneySense rankings was average annual household income and again, Ontario waterfront communities ranked high. Oakville came in No. 2.  

Along the way, MoneySense also looked at the characteristics that go into creating a nice place to retire, such as good weather, low taxes, low crime and good health care. When all was said and done, Kingston beat out everyone else in that category, Ottawa-Gatineau was No. 4 and Burlington was 10th. 

'Ottawa is a city where there is always something happening ...'

But when all the factors were considered, Ottawa-Gatineau was crowned Canada’s most livable city.  Its strengths lie in its resilient economy, low crime rate and steady population growth, said the magazine.   Ottawa-Gatineau had also won top honours in 2007 and 2008, before being knocked out of top spot last year by Victoria. But now that skyrocketing housing prices have returned to the West Coast once again, that city slipped to No. 8 this year.  

How are Ottawans taking to their celebrity status? Ottawa resident Randy Ray, a publicist and one of the Trivia Guys (Mark Kearney is the other), authors of a wildly popular Canadian trivia book series, has lived in Canada’s beautiful capital since 1986. He’s raised his family there and is a true believer in the city’s livability quotient.  

“Ottawa is a city where there is always something happening for families and individuals,” Ray tells, “be it the Tulip Festival, Bluesfest, International Children’s Festival, Winterlude, or the annual summer chicken and rib cookoff.  

“Great entertainers pass through regularly, the ups and downs of the Ottawa Senators (the hockey players, not those superannuated folks on Parliament Hill) are always a topic of conversation.”  

Then, says Ray, there are the cycling and walking trails and, if you want to get away from home for a while, there are dozens of attractions within an hour’s drive.  

Former Ottawa TV news anchor and now community ambassador Max Keeping says not only do Ottawans care about their city, “we really want it to be home to every Canadian.”  

Historic downtown, waterfront rate high in Kingston

What makes Kingston such a great place to live? We caught Zoe Yanovsky at the end of the lunch-hour rush at her iconic downtown restaurant, Chez Piggy. Yanovsky’s father, Zal Yanovsky, one of the founders of the Lovin’ Spoonful band, says, “I grew up here and moved away, but I came back. That’s a sign of how well regarded Kingston is — the number of people who come back to raise their families here. It’s still got that small-town feel.”  

“The beautiful, historic downtown that’s been restored, its waterfront, it’s all wonderful,” adds Yanovsky.  

But among all the celebrating that’s going on in Ottawa over its selection as Canada’s most livable city comes a dire warning that it better not rest on its laurels. CTV’s Canada AM website carried this comment from one Kingston resident who thinks his city will do better: “Look out, Ottawa. Canada’s first capital is going to challenge for first.”  

And what are they saying in Canada’s third most livable city? Bruce Cale has been working in Burlington for just six months and is looking forward to his first summer in a community that has come to be known for celebrating its waterfront location. Cale is manager of the Rude Native Bistro on Brant Street, not far from the waterfront, and says he’s been impressed by the “great sense of community here. There’s so much planned on the waterfront, from the Christmas lights lighting, to ribfest, the Sound of Music Festival,” he says.  

Twenty-seven more of our featured Ontario waterfront cities and towns ranked in the magazine’s 183 rated communities. Here is the rest of the list and their order of rank:  

Peterborough 17; Windsor 25; Clarington 30; Oakville 32; Cobourg 35; Leamington 36; Port Hope 42; Pickering 51; Whitby 56; Orillia 59; Ajax 61; Hawkesbury 64; Sarnia 72; Hamilton 77; Collingwood 83; Toronto 85; Barrie 89; Cornwall 92; St. Catharines 93; Belleville 107; Chatham-Kent 115; Cambridge 128; Niagara Falls 131; Welland 136; Kawartha Lakes 137; Brockville 143; and Midland 154. — May 2010