THE THREE WORST CITIES TO LIVE IN SASKATCHEWAN

Are you looking for a small, crime-free Canadian city with affordable housing? One where you can safely raise a family far from the crime-laden environment of big, bad urban centres like Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto?

Then don’t go to these three cities in Saskatchewan unless you have a really nice job lined up there or you’re so desperate for affordable housing that you don’t mind police sirens and gang activity practically around the clock.

 

3. Regina

Regina By Tintaggon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

by Tintaggon / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Yes average house prices for a nice 3 bedroom house are what you’d pay for a bachelor apartment in Burnaby BC, but like in the much of rest of the Saskatchewan’s cities crime is a problem that never really seems to get solved in Regina. For a larger-sized city, it recently has suffered Canada’s worst Crime Severity Index numbers.

The Crime Severity Index (CSI) is put together by Statistics Canada and includes all offenses from misdemeanors to murder, but gives appropriate weights to each category of crime. That means, for example, that if shoplifting goes way down but murders rise, the overall crime rate may fall, but the Crime Severity Index will go up to reflect the fact that more serious and dangerous crimes are being committed.

Regina’s CSI index in 2016 was 125.8. The national average for major Canadian cities? It was 70.1.

The reasons for the crime problem include factors like poverty, mental health problems, and gang activity. As well, the economic and social divide between First Nations residents and other Canadians is an unfortunate truth for Regina and other cities in the province. Saskatchewan is also more and more a resources economy depending on shale exploration and mining and not just waving fields of grain. That means young, hardworking (mostly) males that party hard as well. With lots of cash to throw around. While Regina is less affected by this latter problem than cities like Lloydminster, it is still part of the province’s social fabric, and can and does cause additional levels of violence.

Then there’s winter in Saskatchewan. We’re talking freezing cold Arctic air sweeping down like an enormous curling broom brushing fiercely across the prairies and leaving you with nary a lonesome pine to shelter behind. Ok, actually Regina is full of trees and quiet leafy neighbourhoods, but the average winter high in Regina is about the same as the average winter low in Toronto. However, they say it’s a drier cold than in Halifax or Anchorage, so who cares if at night it gets down to 30 below for weeks at a time, right?

Yes, Regina is a rather civilized city with arts centers, a Globe Theatre, a CFL team and museums and parks. But compared to the places that really do have low crime rates, it may not be the best choice for clean safe living. The places that have those low rates? Why cities like big, bad Toronto. Or Montreal and Vancouver.

 

2. Prince Albert

Prince Albert By Carolyn Carleton (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

by Carolyn Carleton / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

After the queen city, where else can you flee to but a city named after Queen Victoria’s husband? That might be a mistake, however, if you thought you were heading to more peaceful surroundings. Prince Albert had a crime rate in 2016 that was nearly as high as Regina’s and Saskatoon’s combined.

The city is located in the center of the province which means it’s Saskatchewan’s gateway to the North. And the center of Saskatchewan is pretty far North by any civilized measure. For example, guess what the record low for Prince Albert in April is? Minus. Thirty. Three. Degrees. That’s springtime. Don’t even look up the record lows for January or February. Hint: March’s record low is -45.6.

The local economy is rough-hewn if you will: agriculture, mining and forestry are major employers. As are government services. That’s secret code for correctional facilities of which there are at least three in Prince Albert. In more recent years several major Pulp and Paper producers have closed down their plants in Prince Albert, throwing workers out of a job.

The city’s police chief has complained that their crime rates would be lower if Statistics Canada included the city’s large transient population when calculating rates. That seems a rather disturbing way to try and polish up the image of your city, by pointing out that thousands of transients, many of them potential homeless people, like to stop off in Prince Albert.

Distant, cold, with limited job opportunities, lots of crime, and a large transient population. You can do better than choose to live in Prince Albert.

 

1. North Battleford

North Battleford By Tungilik (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

[Public Domain]

This small city west of Saskatoon, with a population of around 14,000, has been getting some unwanted publicity as of late. And yes, it’s all about crime, much of it linked to the same causes as elsewhere in the province. Addiction, poverty, mental health issues, and gang activity.

This is a small town with a big crime problem. Unfortunately some of its causes are so local that it borders on ridiculous. A profile of North Battleford in Maclean’s magazine had local officials claiming that around 20% of its crimes were committed by seven local individuals who are “hard-to-house” according to the story. Seven people (young men most likely) responsible in part for driving the crime rate up to stratospheric levels. It’s enough to make anyone turn their U-Haul around and head straight back to Oshawa without even stopping for coffee. Or maybe for the CBC to produce a comedy series filmed locally in order to portray the “sweet” side of North Battleford.

The city’s mayor, Ryan Bater, is trying to play it all down of course. He says that people who have “encounters” with the RCMP do so because of lifestyle choices and that it will take years to convince them to change that lifestyle. That’s an honest assessment in many ways, but do you really want to take a chance on a city that’s deeply divided between First Nation communities and the rest of the town, against a backdrop of a history of suspicion and mistrust that goes all the way back to the Northwest Rebellion? Better to load up your cube van and head to one of those big, bad urban centers where all the good jobs are. And where the crime rate is low, even if the house prices are still too high.

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