Toronto and Montreal Top the Economist's Best Cities List

Did you know that 82% of North Americans live in cities? This means that issues like Urban Safety and Livability of cities in North America and around the globe is key for a majority of the world’s population. Urban safety tends to be a city-specific issue and can be divided into 4 sub-indicators according to the Economist Intelligence Unit:


1. Digital Security

Wi-Fi By Solches [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

[Public Domain]

How often does identity theft occur to residents of your city? What expertise do they have in terms of cyber security and how is it organized to respond to cyber-attacks? Will Rio de Janeiro’s Wi-Fi access go down, for example, because of attacks during the 2016 Olympic Games? How aware is the local population of digital security and protecting their online information for example? These are the kind of questions that matter when ranking a city’s digital security. North American cities, as well as places like Tokyo, do well here.


Top 10 Cities for Digital Security

Top 10 Cities for Digital Security according to the Economist

Rank City Score
1 Tokyo 87.18
2 Singapore 83.85
3 New York 79.42
4 Hong Kong 78.78
5 Osaka 77.00
6 Los Angeles 74.99
7 Stockholm 74.82
8 San Francisco 73.85
9 Abu Dhabi 73.71
10 Chicago 72.90


2. Health Security

Zurich via

Zurich [Public Domain]

How many hospital beds per 1000 population does your city have? How many doctors per 1000 population? How well-run and able to respond to major disasters like an earthquake or a nuclear accident or some other natural disaster or pandemic outbreak, like Ebola, is your city’s health care system? How clean is the air and drinking water in your city? European cities tend to do best in this category.


Top 10 Cities for Health

Top 10 Cities for Health according to the Economist

Rank City Score
1 Zurich 79.05
2 New York 78.52
3 Brussels 77.63
4 Frankfurt 77.38
5 Paris 76.95
6 Osaka 76.55
7 Barcelona 76.35
8 Tokyo 76.26
9 Tapei 76.00
10 Stockholm 75.83



Yarra River in Melbourne via

Melbourne [Public Domain]

How well-run is the transport system in your city? The roads as well as public transportation systems? As well, power generation systems are key in making sure the lights stay on, as well as the information systems necessary to keep the traffic lights running smoothly, for example. How many pedestrian deaths are there per 1000 population? How earthquake resistant are the buildings in your city if you live in a fault zone? A broad mix of cities do well in this category: European, Australian, some Asian and some North American cities like Montreal and Toronto.


Top 10 Cities for Infrastructure

Top 10 Cities for Infrastructure according to the Economist

Rank City Score
1 Zurich 92.63
2 Melbourne 92.28
3 Sydney 91.40
4 Amsterdam 91.27
5 Tokyo 89.79
6 Montreal 89.47
7 Singapore 88.86
8 Toronto 87.57
9 Madrid 87.28
10 San Francisco / Abu Dhabi 86.16


Personal Safety


Singapore [Public Domain]

How likely is violent crime in your city? How engaged are the local police forces with urban communities? How prevalent is gun ownership and does it have an impact on violent crime levels? Is drug use widespread and do criminal groups influence the level of safety in your city? Asian cities clearly top this category, especially wealthy ones like Tokyo and Singapore. Toronto makes it into the top 10 in this sub-category along with Stockholm, Melbourne and Sydney.


Top 10 Cities for Personal Safety

Top 10 Cities for Personal Safety according to the Economist

Rank City Score
1 Singapore 90.42
2 Osaka 90.20
3 Tokyo 89.31
4 Stockholm 87.51
5 Taipei 85.67
6 Hong Kong 85.09
7 Toronto 84.82
8 Melbourne 82.72
9 Amsterdam 82.39
10 Sydney 80.4



Vancouver by Thom Quine

Vancouver by Thom Quine / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

The Economist Intelligence Unit has also compiled an Urban Livability Index in 2011 which measured the relative comfort for an urban dweller across 5 sub-categories. You will notice there is a clear relationship with Urban Safety. Here are the 5 sub-categories for Urban Livability:

  • Stability: This sub-category is given a 25% weighting and measures indicators of:
    • Petty crime
    • Violent crime
    • Terror
    • Military conflict
    • Civil unrest
  • Healthcare: This sub-category is given a 20% weighting and measure indicators of:
    • Availability and Quality of Private Healthcare
    • Availability and Quality of Public Healthcare
    • Availability of over-the-counter drugs
    • General healthcare indicators
  • Culture and Environment: This sub-category gets 25% of the total and measures:
    • Humidity/temperature/discomfort to travellers
    • Corruption levels
    • Religious and/or social restrictions
    • Censorship
    • Availability of sporting options
    • Cultural availability
    • Food and drink
    • Consumer goods and services
  • Education: This sub-category gets only 10% of the total and measures:
    • Availability and quality of private education
    • Indicators of public education
  • Infrastructure: This sub-category gets 20% of the total and measures:
    • Quality of roads and public transport
    • Quality of international connections (airports for example)
    • Availability of quality housing
    • Quality of energy and water provisions
    • Quality of telecommunications


Top 10 Most Livable Cities

Canada and Australia clean up in this survey with only 2 European cities making it into the top ten: Vienna and Helsinki. Vancouver comes in top with Melbourne 2nd, Vienna 3rd, and Toronto 4th. Auckland rounds out the group. 

Top 10 Most Livable Cities according to the Economist

Rank City Score
1 Vancouver 98.0
2 Melbourne 97.5
3 Vienna 97.4
4 Toronto 97.2
5 Calgary 96.6
6 Helsinki 96.2
7 Sydney 96.1
8 Perth 95.9
8 Adelaide 95.9
10 Auckland 95.7


The Top 10 Best Cities in the World

Downtown Toronto via

Toronto [Public Domain]

When you combine these 2 indexes with a Cost of Living index for each city along with Country-specific indexes that rank: the Business Environment, the Level of Democracy, and the Global Food Security Index of the countries in which the cities are located, then you get an overall view of where the best places to live in the world are. Guess which two cities top the overall rankings? Sydney and New York? Paris and London? 

Nope. It’s Toronto at number 1 and Montreal at number 2! Let’s consider what this means. Neither city tops any of the categories listed. But on average, their combined rankings in each category, when added up, place them ahead of the rest of the cities in the EIU survey. For example, Toronto does best in the livability and business environment surveys, coming in at number 4 in both. In the Safe Cities index as well as the Democracy index and the Global Food Security index it comes in at number 8. And in the Cost of Living index (where less is better) it comes in at 70, a screaming bargain if you add up the rest of the benefits of living in Toronto. For example, comparable cities in terms of size and wealth like Sydney, (127), and Melbourne, (123), are substantially more expensive to live in than Toronto.  Montreal has similar but slightly lower rankings across most categories except the Livability index where it comes in at number 16, well below Toronto’s ranking at number 4.


The Top 10 Overall Best Cities to Live in

Top 10 Best Cities to Live in according to the Economist

rank City average Position Across the 6 Indicies
1 Toronto 17
2 Montreal 23
3 Stockholm 25
3 Amsterdam 25
5 San Francisco 26
6 Melbourne 27
6 Zurich 27
6 Washington D.C. 27
9 Sydney 28
9 Chicago 28

In other words, while Tokyo might be the safest city, Stockholm the most democratic city, Melbourne the most livable city, Singapore the most business-friendly city, and New York the best in terms of food security, Toronto does well enough in each category to come out on top overall, with Montreal right behind. Think of it like a decathlon where you have to keep in mind the overall rankings and the results from each event, and see who beats who in the final agonizing 1500 metres, not who actually wins that race, to see who ends up on the podium. Just in case you were wondering, Mumbai is the best city in terms of cost of living, but comes in 44th in the overall rankings.

Managing a successful city is a very complex task nowadays and coordinating across a wide variety of areas to produce positive results is vital in order to achieve that success. For now, Toronto sits at the top. The city will have to manage, innovate, and improve at an accelerating rate to keep its cherished position. You can be sure that rivals like Montreal, Melbourne and Sydney will have a say. As will the giants like New York, Tokyo and London. Competition, they say, is a good thing. 

Read the full report from the Economist here.

Immigrate to Toronto

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