10 small cities in Ontario just ranked among the best places to live in Canada
The recent urban exodus from large cities has brought an influx of new residents to smaller but still-populous municipalities. This may have the unwanted effect of driving up local housing markets, but it's also bringing new money into these smaller cities and raising their global brand presence in the process.
Resonance Consultancy's Bestcities.org website has ranked the top 25 best small cities to live, work, invest and visit in Canada, and Ontario is very well-represented, with municipalities in the province making up 40 per cent of the nominees.
Bestcities ranked municipalities with populations of less than 200,000 based on a complex set of criteria, the results determined by locals and visitors in 32 areas grouped into six core categories.
These categories include: Place (rating the perceived quality of a city's natural and built environments); Product (key infrastructure including airports, bike paths, educational buildings and museums); Programming (activities, shopping, restaurant scene, nightlife); People (human capital, population growth, creative class); Prosperity (income, poverty); and Promotion (online presence and brand awareness).
Here is where Ontario cities were ranked:
The #3 pick in all of Canada, Ontario's own Limestone City ranked very close to the top of the list, noted for its historic charm and relative proximity to both Toronto and Montreal.
Niagara Falls (at least the Canadian side) is more than just the honeymoon capital of the world, with Bestcities calling it "a pretty sweet place to put down roots and raise a family," and ranking it #4 nationwide.
Following right behind Niagara Falls, Waterloo (with very little mention of Kitchener in what feels like a snub) ranked #5, earning high marks for its position as a leading global tech hub, and Canada's answer to Silicon Valley.
At #7, Burlington earned a nod for its high standard of living, and a balance of nature and urbanity that offer residents the best of both worlds.
Right behind Burlington, Guelph took the #8 spot, noted for its agricultural and educational contributions to the region. Bestcities also cites its "regal Victorian-era limestone buildings and the more than 20 churches in or around downtown, none more spectacular than the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate."
Though it failed to crack the top ten, Milton walked away with a respectable 11th-place ranking, commended for its safety and natural attractions like nearby Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area and some of Southern Ontario's last remaining old-growth forests.
Dubbed the "gateway to cottage country," Barrie was rated the 17th-best small city in Canada for its mix of dining, programming, and natural recreation amenities. Proximity to destinations like Georgian Bay, the Blue Mountain ski resort in Collingwood, plus the rocky shores and forests of Muskoka.
The largest city in northwestern Ontario is also the #21 best small city in the country. Thunder Bay's position on the coast of the world's largest freshwater lake amid the Canadian Shield boreal forest was a key attribute, along with the city's health care infrastructure.
Aurora's "small-town livability and big-time ambition" helped the city crack the top 25, ranking 24th overall for home ownership and economic aspirations.
The 25th and final city on the list is St. Catharines, the largest municipality in Niagara Region. Its city proper may only be home to 141,397 residents, but it ranks high in the food-scene department, while a wave of economic investment is reshaping the city skyline.
The top choices nationwide went to Victoria and Kelowna B.C., some gorgeous locales that are hard to argue against. Still, Ontario came out with ten of the top 25 versus B.C.'s six.
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