Home News Best communities in Canada: Why Atlantic Canada comes out on top

Best communities in Canada: Why Atlantic Canada comes out on top

by Marjorie

Melissa Mahoney and her household stand in entrance of their dwelling in Halifax, Nova Scotia. ({Photograph} by Carolina Andrade)

After 15 years of dwelling in downtown Toronto, Melissa Mahoney was sick of the commuting grind. Each weekday, the 41-year-old trainer received up at 5:45 a.m. and left her townhouse within the metropolis’s Regent Park neighbourhood. She’d spend an hour commuting to her job in Whitby, Ont., after dropping one in every of her daughters off whereas her husband dealt with the opposite. Then, on the way in which dwelling, she’d choose up each youngsters and her husband with the family’s single automobile.

Earlier than the pandemic, that grind was value it. On evenings and weekends, Mahoney and her household had easy accessibility to the town’s festivals, eating places and live shows. However with all that cancelled, a long-planned transfer again to her hometown of Halifax seemed extra interesting than ever.

TOOL: Full rating of 415 cities

In June, Mahoney and her husband, Greg Corcoran, offered their townhouse and moved into the 5,000-sq.-foot dwelling in downtown Halifax they’d bought the 12 months earlier than and rented out. Mahoney had taken a brand new job working remotely for the training software program firm D2L, whereas Corcoran continued to earn a living from home as a communications supervisor for Scotiabank. With more room, much less gridlock and fewer COVID-19 circumstances within the area, Mahoney felt like she had room to breathe.

“My mantra previously was, ‘Go go go, should be right here, should be there.’ It’s so utterly the alternative now,” Mahoney says. “Every part is simply simpler. You are able to do 5 issues in a day. Nothing is greater than 20 minutes away.”

Canadians throughout the nation have been making comparable strikes to Atlantic Canada, and our post-pandemic, remote-work version of the Maclean’s Greatest Communities in Canada rating helps clarify why. Assuming distant work is right here to remain, we ranked the identical 415 communities throughout the nation as we did the earlier 12 months, however with a watch towards nice dwelling for individuals who don’t have to fret about discovering a job inside commuting distance. As soon as we eradicated unemployment charges and incomes—classes the place Atlantic Canada has traditionally lagged different components of the nation—the area’s cities rose to the highest.

Halifax took the No. 1 spot, due to its inexpensive housing costs that include all the advantages of metropolis dwelling: wonderful well being care, top-notch web entry and all kinds of bars and eating places. Three different main city centres within the area made the highest 10, with Fredericton taking second place, fellow New Brunswick metropolis Moncton coming in seventh and Charlottetown clocking in at No. 10. Atlantic Canada’s well-known friendliness and group spirit helped these cities rating nicely in the neighborhood engagement class, with Charlottetown doing significantly nicely.

Charlottetown residents take part in a free outdoor fitness class; the city scored well in the community engagement category of our ranking (Courtesy of DiscoverCharlottetown.com)

Charlottetown residents participate in a free out of doors health class; the town scored nicely in the neighborhood engagement class of our rating (Courtesy of DiscoverCharlottetown.com)

All 4 cities made huge good points in comparison with the earlier 12 months’s rating, which was designed with in-person staff in thoughts. Halifax got here in 131st out of 415 in that rating, with Charlottetown, Fredericton and Moncton putting within the backside half at 233rd, 244th and 312th, respectively. That’s as a result of, earlier than COVID-19 and the rise of distant work, Atlantic Canada’s inexpensive actual property was enjoyable to have a look at on-line, but it surely was impractical to take the leap, given the challenges of looking for a job within the area. Add the truth that the Maritimes has loved considerably decrease an infection charges than the remainder of the nation, in addition to the liberty to journey inside the “Atlantic bubble” over the summer time, and it’s straightforward to see why individuals from different components of Canada are making the transfer.

All indicators recommend the East Coast’s acquire is coming on the expense of Central Canada’s main city centres. Statistics Canada information on inhabitants motion exhibits that from July 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020, Toronto and Montreal posted report inhabitants losses, whereas Halifax grew the second-fastest of any main city space, and Moncton additionally grew quicker than common. Housing costs have soared as individuals throughout Canada purchase property within the Maritimes sight unseen by digital excursions, with Fredericton’s U-Haul seller struggling to maintain up with all of the individuals renting transferring vans in Ontario and Quebec and attempting to drop them off at its lot.

READ: One Canada, two internets – Contained in the nation’s disparity

Wendy Luther, chief govt of the financial improvement group Halifax Partnership, has large objectives for capitalizing on the new-found curiosity. Job good points in white-collar, remote-work-friendly sectors have greater than made up for positions misplaced as a result of pandemic, she says, placing the town ready to turn into “essentially the most fascinating metropolis on the jap seaboard” as soon as these sectors rebound as nicely.

“It’s simply an unimaginable alternative for households to dwell in an city or rural way of life because it pleases them,” Luther says. “Should you’re advised by your employer you may work from wherever, why not right here?”

The query of the place to dwell when you may work from wherever is precisely what Maclean’s got down to reply with its post-pandemic model of our Greatest Communities rating. Utilizing information offered by Environics Analytics and the Canadian Web Registration Authority (CIRA), in addition to publicly out there figures from a wide range of sources, we weighted a spread of classes primarily based on how vital we predict every could be to the common particular person and ranked every municipality accordingly.

This model of our rating, like previous ones, considers housing affordability, inhabitants progress, taxes, crime, climate, entry to well being care, facilities and group engagement. Our post-pandemic model, nevertheless, eliminates incomes and unemployment charges (since distant staff don’t must search for an area job); distance to post-secondary establishments (since distant training was expanded and refined through the pandemic); and commuting strategies. As a result of it’s inconceivable to earn a living from home and not using a dependable web connection, we additionally added a brand new class score broadband efficiency primarily based on information from CIRA that has by no means earlier than been launched to the general public.

Within the unique model of the rating, suburbs of Toronto and Vancouver carried out very nicely as a result of the job alternatives afforded by proximity to the large metropolis have been well worth the excessive housing costs—a calculus that doesn’t apply to individuals who can work wherever. Nonetheless, the remote-worker model of the rating acknowledges that, even in a pandemic, there are many different advantages to city dwelling.

We’re extra conscious than ever of the significance of dwelling near an excellent hospital, for instance, and having takeout choices from close by eating places—a significant perk even should you can’t sit right down to eat there. That’s why Atlantic Canada’s cities carried out nicely, whereas its rural areas continued to be overrepresented within the backside half.

GALLERY: Prime 25 communities to dwell in Canada

Ian McAllister, an economist at Dalhousie College, says the area’s new-found financial success received’t be felt exterior its city centres and not using a plan. He believes Atlantic Canada’s conventional resource-based financial foundations, such because the fishing trade, will proceed to play an vital function within the area’s post-pandemic restoration. However the small cities the place individuals in these sectors work received’t share the advantages of the remote-work growth and not using a coordinated authorities effort.

Poor authorities planning is at the very least partly in charge for most of the Maritimes’s historic financial woes. In 1992, after a long time of ignoring warnings from scientists about dangerously low ranges of northern cod shares, Ottawa banned fishing the species alongside the East Coast, triggering the biggest layoff in Canadian historical past.

McAllister says elected officers have a possibility to do higher this time, with just a little foresight. “Do they wish to turn into dominated by a only a few giant cities and cities, or do they need a extra balanced form of progress?” he says. “That query has not been requested practically significantly sufficient.”

The growth in new residents and property costs hasn’t been excellent news for everybody within the area’s rising cities, both. Nova Scotia launched hire management and a ban on evictions for the aim of renovating in November in a bid to handle a rising affordability disaster. With the town’s unemployment fee at 13.1 per cent as of December, many long-time residents can not afford to dwell within the metropolis because the inflow of latest, well-off residents pushes rents increased and better.

Rodney Small, govt director of One North Finish (O.N.E.) Neighborhood Financial Improvement Society, has been watching this unfold first-hand. The pandemic has accelerated gentrification in Halifax’s North Finish neighbourhood, he says, the place the Black inhabitants has dropped from 30 per cent to fifteen per cent from 2006 to 2016, as rents have elevated and companies have more and more catered to a rich, white clientele.

Rodney Small, Director of Common Good Solutions Inc. and One North End in front of Uniake Square, a public housing residential area in North End Halifax NS. (Aaron McKenzie Fraser)

Rodney Small, director of Halifax’s O.N.E., says pandemic-related gentrification is pushing Black Nova Scotians out of the town’s North Finish neighbourhood (Photograph by Aaron McKenzie Fraser)

Small says the acquainted cycle of a Black Nova Scotian group being intentionally impoverished and devalued, just for white traders to swoop in and make a revenue by displacing Black residents, is taking part in out in Halifax’s North Finish. He remembers selecting up a replica of WestJet’s on-board journal on a flight in 2018 and being floored by a breathless description of the neighbourhood’s hip new cafés and boutiques—this after years of seeing the neighbourhood he grew up in described as crime-ridden and undesirable in media stories.

Small says he helps laws requiring builders to implement agreements with native communities to make sure new builds will profit current residents. Luther, the CEO of Halifax Partnership, says she’s keenly conscious the town can’t hold welcoming new residents at this tempo with out addressing the stress they’re placing on the individuals who already dwell there: “If housing is a funnel and you place 10,000 individuals a 12 months within the high, however you don’t materially improve your housing inventory sufficient to maintain up, then individuals will probably be pushed out the underside into homelessness.”

So, whereas a sudden inflow of wealth and new residents is an issue any mayor could be thrilled to have, planning for it’s a drawback nonetheless. The area could also be dwelling to the very best communities for distant staff, however individuals who don’t work remotely—and don’t have tons of of hundreds of {dollars} in fairness constructed up from proudly owning property in Toronto or Vancouver—need to dwell in nice communities, too. As individuals like Mahoney purchase and renovate houses, planning will probably be essential to make sure individuals like Small, their new neighbours, don’t expertise progress and prosperity as a change for the more severe.

Nonetheless, whereas there are challenges that come together with the alternatives, the area is having fun with its shift in fortune. Luther says some are having hassle believing it: “It’s taking a while for our residents, our authorities colleagues and others to comprehend this progress is actual.”

At a time when the world has misplaced a lot, nobody’s begrudging a long-time underdog a little bit of well-deserved success.

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