Home Canada Real Estate Happiest Cities in Canada: Caledon Paves the Yellow Brick Road for More Ontario Cities
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Happiest Cities in Canada: Caledon Paves the Yellow Brick Road for More Ontario Cities

Income puts a smile on the face of Wood Buffalo, AB residents, while health is wealth in many Québec cities. And, at the end of the day, life is least stressful in St. John's, NL.

by Alexandra Ciuntu
77.2K views
4 min. read

Happiness is as elusive a term as it is subjective, and it encompasses a multitude of aspects, from the pragmatic to the existential. And, although measuring it is somewhat possible due to the many factors that can come into play, there will always be a certain elated vibe that cannot be encapsulated through hard data. But we sure can try.

To determine the level of happiness of the largest 100 cities in Canada, Point2 analyzed 30 happiness-related metrics to create our very own happiness index. From median after-tax income, poverty rate, perceived health, and a sense of belonging to the simplest practical factors like commute time, rainfall and air quality, we split the metrics across four happiness-relevant dimensions: Economy & Real Estate; Location & Demographics; Health & Wellbeing; and Community & Environment.

Data shows that, just like in real life, there is no absolute happiness, as none of the largest cities in Canada ranked high in each and every happiness metric that would get them a “maximum happiness” index of 100. As such, the happiest city on the list, Caledon, ON, has a happy index of 67 out of a maximum of 100. In fact, Ontario cities post some of the happiest indexes in what is already one of the happiest countries in the world.

But, it turns out that, while some Canadian cities might not rank high across the board, many find happiness in their healthy circumstances, caring communities, or welcoming environments. Here are some key findings:

Happiest Cities in Canada

    • The five happiest large cities in Canada are all in Ontario — and it’s not the ones you might expect; Caledon ranks 1st with a happiness index of 67, with Milton, Halton Hills, Clarington, and Burlington hot and happy on its heels.
    • Check out the full list of Canada’s 100 largest cities ranked by happiness.

Reasons to Be Happy

  • Money can’t buy happiness, but it can definitely contribute to it; Residents of Wood Buffalo, AB, and Caledon, ON, find happiness in comfortable after-tax median incomes, while large shares of households in Lévis and Saguenay, QC, are fortunate to spend less than 30% of income on housing.
  • Life is less stressful for residents of St. John’s, NL, and Saskatoon, SK; However, in Barrie and Peterborough, ON, the stress of everyday life can eat away at residents’ happiness.

The Four Happiness Dimensions

  • Québec sweeps when it comes to Health & Wellbeing, with Granby, Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec City, Lévis, Drummondville, and Trois-Rivières enjoying the healthiest positions on the list.
  • Community & Environment is something that cities in Atlantic Canada and The Prairies know a thing or two about as St. John’s, NL, Cape Breton, NS, and Regina, SK, find happiness in their people and surroundings.
  • Québec and Alberta offer the happiest options when it comes to Economy & Real Estate; Places like Terrebonne, Repentigny, Blainville, Strathcona County, and Wood Buffalo enjoy low poverty and unemployment rates, as well as high shares of owner households and after-tax median incomes.
  • The happiest cities in terms of Location & Demographics are in Ontario and British Columbia; Specifically, Milton, Oakville, and the District of North Vancouver are fortunate when it comes to factors such as the share of divorcées, crime severity, and overall appeal that makes people move into town.

Quantifying Happiness: Living in Some Ontario Cities Puts More Pep in One’s Step

Looking for the highest happiness indexes in Canada? Head on to Caledon, Milton, and Halton Hills

Beyond the je-ne-sais-quoi of everyday joyfulness, there are metrics that can help us gauge the overall vibe of a city. Additionally, splitting these happiness factors across four quantifiable dimensions allows us to analyze a city’s forte in terms of everyday happiness.

But alas, it’s impossible for a city to excel at every happiness aspect, just as it’s impossible to rank the highest within all happiness dimensions and their respective metrics. And while there’s no ultimate happy place with a happiness index of 100, data shows that Caledon, ON, comes pretty close. In fact, 7 of the 10 happiest cities are in Ontario.

 

How happy are Canada’s largest 100 cities? Check out their happiness index and use the filters to rank the 100 largest cities based on four happiness dimensions: Economy & Real Estate; Location & Demographics; Health & Wellbeing; and Community & Environment:

The town of Caledon beams with a happiness index of 67, followed by Milton and nearby Halton Hills with 63, as well as Clarington and equally happy Burlington with 62. Lévis, Saguenay, QC, and the District of North Vancouver, BC, are the outliers of the Ontario happy bubble, which is rounded out by Oakville and Aurora.

Of course, those who've been to rural Caledon know how stunning the experience can be. Expansive, green landscapes, perfumed orchards, wellness retreats, and a pinch of conserved 19th-century architecture make Caledon a postcard come to life.

 

Canada’s Largest Cities & Regional Happiness

While overall happiness rankings may put some Ontario cities on a pink pedestal, zooming in on individual metrics important to residents' happiness shows a myriad of factors in which cities in other regions excel.

Of Canada’s 100 most populous cities, we took a closer look at the happiest in every region. Read on to find out more about what makes the country’s largest cities happy and how they compare to other happy cities within the same region.

 

Happiest Large Cities in The Prairies: Strathcona County, St. Albert, & Airdrie

Data might not point to The Prairies as having the happiest cities in the country, but many cities here shine when focusing on specific metrics that can make all the difference.

For instance, Lethbridge flaunts one of the shortest commute times on the list, and Airdrie has seen one of the highest percentages of people coming and settling in the past five years. Interestingly, while Saskatoon ranks 55th when it comes to overall happiness, it is the second most stress-free large city in the country.

Strathcona County and Wood Buffalo rank well in terms of Economy & Real Estate. What's more, many households in Wood Buffalo (87%) are lucky enough to spend less than 30% of their income on housing. At the same time, Regina and Saskatoon, have the highest sports participation rates and, alongside Winnipeg, boast the highest volunteer rates on the list.

 

Happiest Large Cities in Atlantic Canada: St. John’s, Halifax, & Cape Breton

In data as well as in real life, large cities located in Atlantic Canada are happiest where, perhaps, it matters most: the people.

The highest charity rates among Canada's 100 largest can be found here. Furthermore, data shows that living in Fredericton, St. John's, Halifax, Cape Breton, Moncton, and Saint John comes with a lot of greenness and the best air quality (especially Moncton).

Notably, only 12% of St. John's residents have reported that most days are either quite a bit or extremely stressful. According to Statistics Canada's survey data:

“There are more people in Newfoundland and Labrador who are highly satisfied with their lives than anywhere else in Canada”, says National Post.

 

Happiest Large Cities in Ontario: Caledon, Milton, & Halton Hills

Nearly half of Canada's largest 100 cities are in Ontario — and much of what makes them happy is linked to Economy & Real Estate. For starters, Caledon, Oakville, Vaughan, Halton Hills, and Milton enjoy fortunate median after-tax incomes of more than $107,000, well above the national median.  Furthermore, over 85% of homes in Vaughan, Clarington, and Halton Hills are owned households. Caledon, especially, could be called a homeowners' haven with more than 89% of households owned.

Yet, less pragmatic aspects are also well represented here: Residents of Thunder Bay and Peterborough (alongside Cape Breton, NS) report the strongest sense of belonging to a local community, despite not ranking very high when it comes to overall happiness. Meanwhile, Vaughan, Milton, Caledon, and Oakville are content to have some of the lowest percentages of people who've divorced or separated, among the 100 largest cities in Canada. 

 

Happiest Large Cities in Québec: Lévis, Saguenay, & Repentigny

Lévis and Saguenay are among the 10 most fortunate large cities in Canada — not just in Québec —, with both boasting the largest shares of the population spending less than 30% of income on housing. At the same time, the largest cities in Canada that are located in Québec count some of the lowest unemployment and poverty rates, as well as low crime severity and income inequality indexes.

What's more, according to the Canadian Community Health Survey, good percentages of residents (from 70% in Blainville to almost 79% in Saguenay) report that they are in very good or extremely good mental health, with very small percentages struggling with mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, mania, or dysthymia.

Interestingly, Mirabel —  the 25th happiest city among the 100 largest in the country —  saw the highest percentage of people moving in during the past five years.

 

Happiest Large Cities in British Columbia: District of North Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, & Langley

The District of North Vancouver is the happiest city in BC (8th happiest large city in Canada), enjoying a $106,000 median after-tax household income — that's $33,000 above the national median reported by StatCan. Notably, almost 82% of homes in Langley are owned, while in Prince George, a good 84% of residents are happy to spend less than 30% of their income on housing.

But one thing BC has that other parts of the country might be envious of is happy weather — even during winter. Delta residents are the luckiest with an annual median temperature of 11°C, while those living in Nanaimo get to enjoy the best air quality among Canada's largest cities.

Another plus is that those who live in British Columbia have to deal with fewer working hours than in other provinces, with the exception of Québec.

But all in all, British Columbia cities fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to multiple metrics that might contribute to one's happiness living here. For instance, all BC cities analyzed boast unemployment rates of less than 10% and poverty rates below 15%. Around 60% of their population reported that they are in very good or excellent health with less than 25% perceiving everyday life as quite a bit or extremely stressful.

 

Economy & Real Estate: $144,000 Median After-Tax Income Puts a Smile on the Face of Wood Buffalo, AB

Terrebonne, Repentigny, & Mirabel, QC fare best in terms of income inequality

Although data shows that Ontario cities rank highest in terms of overall happiness on a national level, zooming in across happiness dimensions shines a light on other cities beaming with happiness in specific areas of life.

For instance, three Québec cities are the happiest in terms of Economy & Real Estate: Terrebonne, Blainville, and Repentigny all amazing weekend getaway destinations north of Montréal.

All three also happen to enjoy the lowest poverty rates among the country's 100 largest cities, with Blainville also displaying one of the lowest unemployment rates. Furthermore, Repentigny and Terrebonne distinguish themselves with favorable income inequality indexes, which could only add to the residents' happiness.

 

Meanwhile, despite coming in 68th-happiest among 100 cities, Wood Buffalo residents have the highest median after-tax household income on the list: $144,000. At the same time, almost 87% of Strathcona homes are owned — the highest share of owner households after Caledon.

Notably, the 10th happiest city in Canada, Lévis, actually has the lowest unemployment rate, as well as the highest percentage of households spending less than 30% on housing.

 

Health & Wellbeing: Wellness Is Happy at Home in Québec

It has less to do with participation in sports, more to do with the number of hours worked

Wellness is quintessential to happiness, and it just so happens that the six happiest cities in terms of Health & Wellbeing are all in Québec. And, because “health is wealth”, Granby, Saint-Hyacinthe, Lévis, Québec City, Drummondville and Trois-Rivières might just be richer than any other large city in Canada.

 

Interestingly, Québec enjoys shorter working hours than other provinces. Plus, living here comes with some of the lowest shares of residents dealing with mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, mania, or dysthymia. But while sports and exercise are known to contribute to lower stress levels, Québec cities fall somewhere in the middle as far as regular participation in sports go.

 

Community & Environment: It's All About Volunteering, Charity, & a Sense of Belonging

Feeling under the weather is less common in St. John's, NL, Cape Breton, NS, & Regina, SK

Social connection is imperative to happiness. The good news is that being part of successful interhuman relationships often starts with simply being nice — something the typical Canadian knows a thing or two about.

St. John’s, NL, ranks high in terms of Community & Environment (being one of the greenest cities in the country), with the highest charity donor rate. It's also where residents report a strong sense of belonging to the local community (although not as strong as those in Cape Breton, NS, and Peterborough, ON).

As far as volunteering in one's community, Saskatchewan's Regina and Saskatoon are the most involved, with the highest volunteer rate among Canada’s largest 100 cities.

 

Likewise, one element is a surefire way of improving the quality of people’s everyday life: other people. In an interview with Dr. Robert Waldinger, director of the longest-running scientific study of happiness, NPR notes:

"[The] strongest predictors for people to maintain their happiness and health throughout the course of their lives were people who described their relationships as having satisfying levels of quality and warmth. And that applies to a wide breadth of interactions in your daily life, from spouses, close friends and colleagues to the barista who makes your morning coffee or the person delivering your mail.”

 

Location & Demographics: Low Crime Severity Index Puts Halton Region on the Happiness Map

An innate feeling of safety is a strong indicator of how joyful everyday life can be.  For most of us, lack of crime — particularly that of a high level of severity — is crucial in making us feel safe and happy.  Residents of the Halton Region are lucky in this aspect, as Milton, Oakville, Burlington, and Halton Hills flaunt the lowest crime severity index on the list.

Marital bliss might not be the center of everyone's life, but the official dissolution of a relationship can put a dent in anyone's happiness. And data points to some cities as being more conducive to lasting romantic relationships than others. More precisely, only 7.5% of Milton’s population stated that they are either divorced or separated — a happier percentage than in Granby, QC, or Victoria, BC, where the share is double.

 

Sometimes, people’s happiness goes hand in hand with the environment they’re in. Often, daily occurrences like commute time or walkability can make or break someone’s experience of simply existing in a particular city. Although not ideal, commute time in the 10 happiest cities in terms of Location & Demographics falls within a reasonable 15 to 30-minute range, with Mississauga, ON, being the most walkable of the bunch.

Blainville, QC, along with Aurora, ON, prove to be happy options for outsiders looking to relocate given the high percentages of people who’ve moved in and started calling the two cities “home” in the last five years.

While numbers can tip the happiness scale toward certain cities, that’s not to say residents there have already found the Holy Grail of happiness, leaving the rest of us walking hopelessly through life. Sure, happiness means something different to everybody, and it’s up to each and every one of us to discover its meaning. But the socio-economic landscape can often provide a favorable setup to pursue it.

 

Methodology

As one of the top real estate listing portals for the Canadian market, Point2Homes.com connects real estate agents with buyers looking for the perfect home or real estate investment. Point2 is a trustworthy source of news for professionals and journalists covering real estate topics across Canada.

  • For this study, we considered the 100 largest Census Subdivisions (Cities) based on the most recent data from Statistics Canada 2021 Census of Population.
  • The report uses a combination of ranking scores and weighted averages. We analyzed 30 metrics, each graded on a 100-point scale, with an index of 100 representing “maximum happiness”. Metrics were grouped into four happiness dimensions or categories with equal weights, as follows:
    • Economy & Real Estate: Percentage of Owner Households, Median After-Tax Household Income; Percentage of Population Spending less than 30% of Income on Housing, Unemployment Rate, Poverty Rate, Gini Index (inequality index on adjusted after-tax household income);
    • Health & Wellbeing: Life Expectancy (Years), Perceived Health, Perceived Mental Health, Perceived Life Stress, Mood Disorder (depression, bipolar disorder, mania, or dysthymia), Regular Participation in Sports, Hours Worked;
    • Community & Environment: Volunteer Rate, Charity Donor Rate, Sense of Belonging to Local Community, Average Greenness, Air Quality, Temperature, Rainfall, Snowfall, Performing Arts Businesses per 10,000 residents, Spectator Sports Businesses per 10,000 residents, Heritage Institutions per 10,000 residents, and Amusement Parks & Arcades per 10,000 residents.
    • Location & Demographics: Crime Severity Index, Commute Time (minutes), Walk Score, Percentage of Divorced or Separated, Percentage of People Who Moved from Outside the City in the Last 5 Years;
  • Data per Statistics Canada is at city level, with exceptions where lack thereof led to data on the next available standard geographical area being used instead (ex.: metro, province, region).
  • Data on Temperature, Rainfall, and Snowfall as per climate.weather.gc.ca.
  • Walk Score® as per walkscore.com; The study uses a Walk Score estimate based on 15 geographical points distributed citywide for the following locations: Greater Sudbury, Chatham-Kent, Clarington, Strathcona County, Cape Breton, North Vancouver DM, Kawartha Lakes, Caledon, Wood Buffalo, Norfolk County, and Mirabel.

 

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage and freely grant permission to reuse, host or repost this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to Point2Homes.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.

 

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