Sask. cities attractive to newcomers: study

By Scott Larson, The Starphoenix, September 19, 2014

Strong economies have helped Regina and Saskatoon become more appealing to newcomers, according to a new report.

The Conference Board of Canada's City Magnets III: Benchmarking the Attractiveness of 50 Canadian Cities saw Regina place eighth and Saskatoon 12th.

Alan Arcand, associate director, Centre for Municipal Studies, said both cities have seen sizable increases in newcomers as the local economies improve.

"Saskatchewan's resources have fostered rapid growth in Saskatoon and Regina," Arcand said.

Regina and Saskatoon scored B grades for attractiveness.

The report analyzes and benchmarks the features that make Canadian cities attractive to newcomer populations. The performance of these cities is compared on 43 indicators grouped into seven categories: society, health, economy, environment, education, innovation, and housing. Data is based on the 2011 Census and National Household Survey.

"It is mostly (because of) the economy for Saskatchewan," said Conference Board economist Greg Sutherland of the rise in the rankings. "Saskatoon and Regina both scored an A on the economy."

Regina led all 50 cities in economic growth, while Saskatoon trailed narrowly behind in third. Despite their sizable increases in newcomers, both cities still score relatively poorly in foreign-born population and evidence of multiculturalism.

Regina does well in environment and innovation is higher, but scored low in health and housing, Sutherland said.

"Access to to specialists or general practitioners was on the low side."

Saskatoon scored well on environment and had better health rating than Regina.

The top 13 cities were Waterloo, Calgary, Ottawa, Richmond Hill, Vancouver, St. John's, Nfld., Edmonton, Regina, Burnaby, B.C., Markham, Ont., Victoria, Saskatoon and Toronto.

Overall, the top six cities with an A rating offered a unique combination of attributes that add up to a great place to live, the report said.

The bottom five cities were all from Ontario - Barrie, St. Catharines, Brantford, Cambridge and Oshawa - and scored so low mostly because of the decline in manufacturing in those areas. "A struggling manufacturing sector has really hurt them," Sutherland said. "They tend to have a less educated population. They don't rank well in the society category either."

In the report all migrants value cities that offer centres of innovation the most. For university-educated migrants, features related to society are second-most important, followed by a city's economic strength. For migrants without a university education, it's the environment.

Because the Conference Board used data from the 2011 census, some of the cities may not be ranked the same if there was updated information. For example, Sutherland said Waterloo's most famous employer, Blackberry, has fallen on hard times since the census came out.

"If we were using today's data we may not see the same rankings."

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