Josh Freed: How can you think Montreal is unlivable?

Canada’s second-largest city ranked 142nd on the Globe and Mail’s list of top 100 most livable cities in the country. Is it because too many people choose to live here?

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I’ve long since stopped making fun of Toronto, a city I’ve come to like and admire, even if I still prefer Montreal.

But every now and then Toronto’s media does something so absurd it’s hard to resist.

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The latest is a huge front-page story in last Saturday’s Globe and Mail, about Canada’s 100 “most livable cities,” based on data about things like their economy, safety and affordable housing.

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The most livable city was declared Victoria, B.C., and I’m not arguing. It’s a lovely, small city of some 95,000 souls by the sea for those who like that lifestyle, and can afford an average home price of $850,000 (almost twice ours).

Other top 10 livable cities included North Vancouver, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Burlington, Ont. and Pitt Meadows, B.C.

Some Quebec cities made the top 100 list, like Town of Mount Royal (11th), Westmount (16th), Rosemere (30th) and Quebec City (44th), while Lévis, Laval, Longueuil and Kirkland snuck in too.

But there was one peculiar absence: a city of some four million people with the most interesting street life in Canada, best biking in North America and among the most affordable big-city housing prices and low crime rates in our country, which you’d think might all count for livability.

As La Presse just argued in response to the survey, it’s a city that was named the “best student town” on Earth in a recent Australia-based ranking, along with having 2022’s coolest street in the world — Wellington — or so says London’s prestigious Time Out magazine.

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Lonely Planet Guide recently named it this year’s “third best city to visit in the world” because of its cultural and dining scene.

In 2022 it finished 57th on the annual “World’s Best Cities” list.

It’s a flyspeck town called Montreal that finished — are you ready for this? — 142nd in the Globe survey’s rankings, and well out of the “100 most livable” Canadian cities list.

Frankly I didn’t even know there were that many cities in Canada.

Who else finished ahead of us? Well, there’s Ottawa (24th), Vaughan, Ont. (33rd), Lethbridge (36th), Hamilton (39th), Whitehorse (53rd), as well as Kingston, Waterloo and … I’m sorry to say, folks — Laval!

Montreal’s saving grace is that Toronto only finished 64th, somehow scraping its way into Canada’s top 100 cities.

I was in T.O. several weeks ago and while it’s not my favourite city, it’s one heck of an interesting place, with wonderful neighbourhoods, cultural dynamism, great global cuisine and a very diverse population that lives together almost seamlessly.

But I guess the six million Metropolitan Toronto residents who choose to cram into it are just clueless, because they should go live in Brandon, Man. (22nd), Prince George (35th), or Pickering (26th).

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When you’re talking about livable cities, you’d think that would mean cities people actually want to live in — and some six million people live in Greater Toronto, while four million live in Greater Montreal.

Between them that’s one-quarter of Canada’s population, so I guess all these people are pretty foolish to live in what are evidently two of the least livable towns in the country.

Then again, perhaps it’s the fact so many people live in Montreal and Toronto that make them unlivable, while the most livable cities are often ones not too many people live in, to go by the top 100 list.

If so, why didn’t they name Tilt Cove, N.L., as No. 1, because that’s the town with the fewest people in Canada — five at last count.

Maybe we Montrealers and Torontonians should all get smart and go live in Tilt Cove, or Burlington, Ont. (5th), Guelph (41st), or Dawson Creek, B.C. (80th) — which, of course, would quickly make those towns busy and unlivable.

It’s as if somebody listed the top hundred cities in the U.S. and left out San Francisco, while New York was 60th and Myrtle Beach No. 1. BTW: Only two spots made the list in the Atlantic provinces.

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Yes, I’m a Montreal homer, though I didn’t expect us to be No. 1. We have enough language and construction hassles to reduce our current livability.

But I did expect us to be somewhere in the top 10, or 20, or at least 50. Likewise, whatever Toronto’s downsides, how could it not be in the top livable cities in Canada since that’s where so many Canadians choose to live?

It makes you wonder if whoever oversaw this study has been to the cities they’ve mentioned. I’ve been to over 40 and while many are lovely to visit I wouldn’t choose to live in them.

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I understand the survey started with a specific list of data points to measure — on economy, safety, housing costs, climate, movie theatres and health access.

But when they finished measuring and saw two of the three most important, vibrant, popular cities in our country are distant losers, they should’ve rethought what they were measuring.

Then made sure the “most livable cities” in Canada list included the ones so many of us choose to live in.

Until then, Tilt Cove, here we come!

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