Young cyclists take in the view of downtown Calgary from Patrick Island on the Bow River. © J. Ashley Nixon
The annual survey of the world’s most liveable cities was published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) this week. In the 2019 edition of the widely-read ranking that indicates how sustainably cities are developing, Austria’s capital city, Vienna held on to the top spot for a second year ahead of Melbourne, Australia. Down Under got two on the podium as Sydney moved up from fifth to third due to improvements in its culture and environment score, reflecting an increased focus on action and mitigation of the effects of climate change. Osaka, Japan came in at number four.
Three of the top ten cities are in Canada. Once again, my hometown, Calgary (5th) came in ahead of Vancouver (6th) and Toronto (7th), making it the most liveable city in North America based on a range of factors, including political and social stability, crime, education, healthcare, infrastructure, and culture and environment.
The EIU describes its methodology as follows: “Every city is assigned a rating of relative comfort for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. Each factor in a city is rated as acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable or intolerable. For qualitative indicators, a rating is awarded based on the judgment of in-house analysts and in-city contributors. For quantitative indicators, a rating is calculated based on the relative performance of a number of external data points. The scores are then compiled and weighted to provide a score of 1–100, where 1is considered intolerable and 100 is considered ideal.” (EIU, 2019)
Stability examines the prevalence of crime, the threat of terror/ military conflict or civil unrest.
Healthcare focuses on the availability/quality of private and public healthcare, over-the-counter drugs and other general healthcare indicators.
Culture and Environment measures various indicators that range from temperature rating, climate, level of corruption, social or religious restrictions, food/drink, and other social indicators.
Education looks at the availability/quality of private and public education.
Infrastructure assesses the quality of roads, public transportation, availability of housing, and other indicators.
The rankings are weighted with stability (25 percent), healthcare (20 percent), culture and environment (25 percent), education (10 percent) and infrastructure (20 percent).
As well as being in affluent countries, two other characteristics shared by many of the leading cities in the EIU survey are their relatively low population density (Vienna is an exception to this) and overall size (small to medium-, although Tokyo is an exception). These features “can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure” (EIU 2018). Smaller cities, compared to the big urban centres of the world, generally suffer less from crime, congestion and transportation deficiencies.
Calgary: most liveable city in North America
Calgary earned maximum points in four of the five categories, coming down (90/100) only in the Culture and Environment category to gain an overall score of 97.5 percent, the same as for 2018, and the highest-ranking of any North American city.
Calgary continues to grow its population. The recently released 2019 census showed a year-on-year increase of 1.4%, that’s 18,367 people more than in 2018 raising the city population to 1,285,711. Some of the factors that have attracted people from all around the world to Calgary include its economic prospects (despite a slow down in the growth of the energy industry compared with recent years); its beautiful location on the Bow River, in the foothills of the Rockies; cultural diversity; and great access to social and municipal services.
The big news from this latest census, however, is that the city population is ageing: the number of births has declined while the number of senior citizens is rising.
Gallery of photographs
Please follow this link to my gallery of photographs celebrating Calgary’s achievement of the top North American city in the Economist Intelligence Unit 2019 Global Liveability Index.
EIU 2019 Summary report
You can download The Economist Intelligence Unit 2019 Global Liveability Index summary report here.