Montreal, welcoming but not liveable?

Which city is at the same time the best in the world for students, the third most exciting on the planet for tourists and the big absentee from the new top 100 of the most desirable Canadian municipalities?

You will probably have guessed it: Montreal.

THE Globe and Mail published last weekend a list of cities “where it is most pleasant to live” in the country. This ranking took into account 10 categories, such as the economy, access to health care and the real estate market, combined with 43 other sub-criteria1.

All this data was analyzed for 439 cities from coast to coast, then placed in a huge mixer, to concoct a top 100 which has its share of mysteries.

Besides the absence of Montreal, which remains a remarkable place despite its many faults, I was very surprised to find Quebec only at 44e rank.

The capital has been cited for years as one of the most dynamic cities in Canada, with its bustling economy and its still hyperaffordable houses (not to mention its beauty recognized by UNESCO).

It is as if the question of the cost of living had been relegated to the background of this list, even though it is a crucial issue when the time comes to choose a city to settle in.

Which, in my opinion, removes a layer of seriousness from the ranking of World.


Which city is the most attractive in Canada, then?

Victoria, British Columbia.

Anyone who has already visited it will be able to confirm it: the municipality of 95,000 inhabitants is magnificent, with its accessible seaside, its temperate climate, its exquisite architecture, its vast cycling network, its local shops in abundance…

It is also one of the most expensive municipalities in the country. Homes there sell for an average of $862,000, and the average rent reaches $1,704 per month. But all of Victoria’s other qualities were enough to “counterbalance” its exorbitant prices, according to the World – and thus ensure the leading position.

With the exception of Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary, the municipalities that occupy the top ten spots in the ranking are all very expensive. The average value of homes in this top 10 stands at $1.13 million.

How does Quebec position itself in this ranking? Canadian ?

Not very well.

There are only 12 Quebec cities, out of 100, and the best rated are far from being the most affordable. In order, there is the rich Montreal enclave of Mont-Royal, in 11e position (average house price: 1.4 million), followed by the even more opulent Westmount, in 16e place (average price: 1.8 million) and Rosemère in 30e position (average price: $665,000).

Splendid cities, but which are far from being within the reach of all budgets.

Further down the ranking is Quebec, at 44e rank, where the average house price is just $339,000. It’s one of the few places where young, middle-class families can still buy a home without sinking themselves into debt. As proof, note the Worldbarely 16% of households in the capital spend more than a third of their income on housing.

(Confession: I regularly consult real estate ad sites to look at all these beautiful single-family homes that I could afford in Quebec, for the price of half a Montreal condo.)

Critics have been pouring out since Saturday in the comments section of World, some denouncing, for example, the absence of cities in the Maritimes. It’s a classic: no one is ever happy – except those at the top.

There are still some interesting aspects with this interactive ranking. You can, for example, choose the best city according to your personal tastes, based on a series of criteria. A great example of data journalism, well executed, whether you agree with the conclusions or not.


Which brings us back to Montreal. And, more broadly, to the validity of rankings of all kinds on the “best cities” published almost every month.

I tend to always take these rankings with a huge grain of salt. Their methodology is often opaque, or even non-existent, and the criteria used are as elastic as a ball of modeling clay.

Let us remember, for example, that the magazine Time Out named Wellington Street, in the Montreal district of Verdun, as “the coolest in the world” in 2022. Without wishing to offend the proud Verdun residents and their sparkling commercial artery, this nomination left many wondering. Me included.

Depending on the rankings, Montreal appears sometimes as a masterful masterpiece, sometimes as an absolute dunce, and often in a much more realistic in-between than the 142e position granted to him by Globe and Mail last weekend.

Some loose examples:

The metropolis was named 60e best city in the world by the firm Resonance, in October.

Still last month, Lonely Planet named Montreal as the third global tourist destination to visit, thanks to its abundant cultural offerings and its vibrant gastronomic scene.

In March, Montreal was ranked by an Australian site as the best student city in the world, ahead of 338 other municipalities from 85 countries.

Proof that we must always observe these rankings with a caveat, Montreal was also named the smartest city on the planet in 2016. This same metropolis which still cannot provide its public transport system with a mobile payment in 2023…

It goes to show that you have to take some (a little) and leave some (a lot), with these thousand and one track records.

All the real estate values ​​mentioned come from the rankings of the Globe and Mail and may not reflect price variations in recent months.

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