St. Albert is still the best place to live in Alberta according to MoneySense, but the botanical arts city is no longer in the country’s top five.
St. Albert fell three spots in the overall rankings. The city is now ranked seventh in the magazine’s Best Places to Live 2017 report. It was beaten out by Ottawa, ranked first for the third year in a row; Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Que; Oak Bay, B.C.; North Saanich, B.C.; Weyburn, Sask.; and Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que.
Sturgeon County was ranked fourth best place to live in Alberta, behind St. Albert, Canmore and Strathcona County. Sturgeon County was ranked 60th overall in the country. Low taxes, high wealth and incomes, and access to health care were among the municipality’s top features.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said he was proud of St. Albert’s top 10 ranking.
“It’s nice to be able to maintain such a high ranking in a hard economic time for Alberta,” he said. “It shows we are continuing to reinforce the right things in the community.”
St. Albert’s robust economy was not lost on the magazine. MoneySense points to the city as “one of the few constants” in Alberta, with an average household net worth of $134,000 — the seventh highest in the country — and stable housing prices in a time of “economic malaise.”
Access to health care and public transit were also highlighted as the city’s top features.
This year marks the 14th edition of MoneySense’s Best Places to Live. The 2017 list ranked 417 cities — almost double the number of communities than the previous year. The report ranks cities as small as 9,000 residents.
Rankings are based on 36 different categories from population growth to unemployment to weather to culture. The greatest weight is given to income and wealth, affordability and mobility.
The expanded pool did affect St. Albert’s rankings. The top B.C. and Quebec municipalities are all new additions.
Alberta’s big cities took another hit in this year’s rankings. Calgary, which topped the list in 2013, is now ranked 75th — nine spots below where it was last year. Edmonton is ranked 96th, down from 48 in 2016.
St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud said she felt bad for the two big cities, which have been hardest hit by the drop in oil prices and subsequent unemployment, but was glad to see St. Albert maintain a high ranking.
She noted that although St. Albert is resilient, it is important to remember the community is not immune to the effects of lower oil prices.
“Although some people are better off, we are seeing that impact (in St. Albert). The cost of living is high in Alberta. There’s no doubt people are struggling,” she said.
MoneySense editor Mark Brown notes this in his breakdown of St. Albert.
“That doesn’t mean the city has got off completely unscathed. St. Albert’s unemployment rate was once one of the lowest in the country; in 2016 it ballooned to 8.3%, which puts it in the bottom quarter of all cities in Canada. But that is one of the few blemishes on an otherwise clean record,” writes Brown.
St. Albert was also ranked the best place in Alberta to raise kids, with an overall ranking of 53 in the country. This marks a significant drop from its 2016 ranking of fourth place.
Crouse said the drop was concerning and questioned whether the data was reinforcing public policy not yet available in Alberta.
Quebec municipalities, where residents have access to provincially subsidized childcare, dominated the top 50 best places to raise children.