Views on how we got to # 31 on a list that once said we were the greatest.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

August 3rd, 2018



This story is beginning to look like the New Street Road Diet – that one just went on and on.  The massive drop in Burlington’s ranking in the annual Best Place to Live report was really small potatoes as issues go.  But the public is reacting in a less than positive way.

Earlier this week Colin Gribbons, and advocate for better transit service said he “looks forward to the hemming and hawing as most of the current members of Council try to explain this one away.”

2018 banner

Burlington didn’t make the top ten – the city was ranked # 31 after years of being at the top.

Tanner standing

Roland Tanner

Yesterday Roland Tanner, a candidate for the ward 2 city council seat asked: What does that MoneySense Best City ranking for Burlington actually mean for citizens? And then answered the question: “ Almost nothing. A delve into the statistics shows we shouldn’t have trusted the ranking before, and shouldn’t trust it now.”

Lynne Crosby, one of the very active parent participants in the high school closing debates chimed with this insight:

“The interesting part here isn’t so much the drop in the standings but the Mayor’s and City’s response to the drop in the standings. The current mayor tweeted: “New methodology means we lost points this year due to our modest growth compared to other cities growing at a faster rate.”

PARC anxious parent

Lynne Crosby

“Well, actually no. The MoneySense report said: “While it’s true fast-growing cities can face challenges, we believe those difficulties can be absorbed and addressed if local leaders are effective….If the municipality is doing a bad job of handling that growth, it’s likely to be reflected in other areas of the ranking.”

Crosby points out that “Growth is also ranked 8th out of 10 in order of importance. And that is growth with the caveat that it is managed well. The criteria that is 8th out of 10 would not cause us to plummet down to #31.

The high-ranked cities were touted for various reasons by MoneySense, but growth wasn’t one of them.

“There are lots of intangible qualities that make a city a great place to live that can’t be measured. But we believe there are plenty of important characteristics that can be captured by hard data. A liveable city should be prosperous, but affordable. Safe, yet easy to get around. And it should have the type of weather that draws you outdoors.”
Crosby goes on to say: “Then we have our neighbouring community on the lake, Oakville. The City that told the Province: No, we won’t have an urban growth centre in the downtown. The City with the downtown that Councillor Lancaster called “desolate” at a recent council meeting. The #1 ranked city.

“Oakville Mayor Rob Burton has as the header on his Facebook page a graphic touting the fact that in his terms he has controlled growth, and slowed it down as compared to the previous mayor. From MoneySense:


Small town feel and no urban growth in their downtown core.

“Burton says the key to Oakville’s success is maintaining a small-town sense of community, even as the city’s population breaks 200,000. In fact, the municipality’s official name stubbornly remains “the Town of Oakville,” something Burton doesn’t see any reason to change.

“Oakville is a city that calls itself a town and acts like a village,” he says. “Oakville as a community is determined to maintain that town vibe.”

Greg Woodruff, a candidate for Burlington’s Mayor hopped on this one saying:

“First off the whole Money Sense idea is somewhat silly. No “best” place to live exists. People are different and with different tastes, it means everyone’s “best” place is different. However, the fall in rankings can be used to shed light on our current problems. We don’t have any clear agreement of what “best” even is.

“The basic problem is that what the majority of residents think is “best” and what the planning staff and Council thinks is “best” are in direct opposition. If you rely on the “expert” opinion of the day Burlington has too little modern art, hi-density apartment buildings and has far too many lanes of traffic, parking spots and well kept single family houses.

Portal along Elgin promenade

The city has a “portal” in what used to be a parking lot.

“Now I realize to the average person in Burlington going about their lives this comes as quite a shock. However, that’s what the New Street road diet is – an attempt to remove some of those “burdensome” lanes of traffic. That’s why we removed downtown parking for modern art. Because in the minds of some; “best” is modern art and if people don’t come downtown and businesses close – who cares – we got the “Portal” to stare into. That’s why all the hi-rises, because they are the “best” way to hold the most people. And the most people is “best”.

“What made Burlington “best” to local residents was the feeling of a smaller green place with all the amenities, shops and stores we wanted just a couple of minutes away. You could trade a longer commute for a nicer house here with a lawn for your kids to run on. It’s a great place to raise a family. It’s safe, it’s clean, it’s on the water, it’s got low taxes, nice parks – it’s an easy living city. Previous councils implemented a great version of suburban living and the people who settled here agreed.

Greg Woodruff

Candidate for Mayor Greg Woodruff

“The fault for all this is entirely ours. We took the entire thing for granted. We didn’t form community groups. We didn’t demand concrete plans from elected officials. We didn’t comprehend that the government was capable of planning against our wishes. We didn’t give our local candidates $50 at election time. And we didn’t even vote.

“We need a clear plan to break from the over-development – my plan is a 6-floor residential limit. We need a clear plan to control over spending – my plan is tax increases no greater than inflation. We need a clear plan to reduce our traffic congestion – my plan is light synchronization and some extra region supplied HOV lanes.

“Whoever you are going to vote for – challenge them – what their idea of “best” is? What are the specific plans to bring it about on earth. If we don’t the yearly in Money Sense rankings are going to be the least of our problems. Though maybe we can all walk 60 minutes in the shadow of hi-rises beside gridlock traffic and stare at the latest art project.”

2018 listing

Burlington didn’t make the top ten in the 2018 MoneySense rankings – the city placed #31

Mike Wallace chose to be less verbose saying: “Burlington has dropped 21 places nationally in Money Sense Magazine’s annual ranking of the best places to live in Canada. We now are ranked behind all the other communities in our Region of Halton.

Wallace election car

Mike Wallace: Is he hitch hiking or is he going to drive the car – and will it get him to city hall?

“If the current Council can take credit for the past rankings they must take responsibility for the current results. October 22nd is your time to make better choices for the city.”

It will take master politicians at city hall to find a way to back out of this one. Councillor Craven and Taylor aren’t running again. They Mayor has said what he has to say. Councillors Sharman, Dennison and Lancaster may add some comment. It could well become a burning tire that members of the current city council have to wear around their necks.

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2 comments to Views on how we got to # 31 on a list that once said we were the greatest.

  • To say that one Canadian city is a “better place to live” than another Canadian city is a function of what ‘metrics’ you use in the evaluation process. If the decision is primarily based on monetary considerations, then the choice becomes a clinical / spreadsheet process and difficult to argue against.

    From my perspective, there are may other yardsticks that should also be part on the evaluation process. For example. air quality, open spaces, hospital and medical accessibility, public transportation, education system, day-care centers, shopping accessibility, support for the elderly and disadvantaged, air quality, open spaces, etc. are of equal if not of more importance to many residents yet they cannot be measured in the same quantitative way as salaries, house prices, number of cars, etc.

    Burlington has shown phenomenal growth but with this growth comes many other factors that would greatly affect livability. I think that Kwab Ako-Adjei (Senior Manager Government Relations & Strategic Communications) is badly misguided if he thinks that City Hall has “… created and maintained a livable, thriving city where people and businesses want to be …”.

    For example, the traffic situation in Burlington has reached a level of chaos, what used to take 15 mins to travel can now take substantially longer; the infrastructure, e.g. roads and public transportation, cannot support the growth; the air quality is abysmal; the green space that was once an integral part of Burlington (as Kwab states – “… natural features, rural area, escarpment …”) is rapidly being diminished (e.g. ~9,000 trees in the prime Tyandaga area will be clear cut for a brick quarry); downtown parking is a nightmare and every spare acre of land appears to be viewed by City Hall as a high density high-rise tax generating opportunity irrespective of the supporting infrastructure and the desires of the residents!

    Surely this situation played an integral part, either directly or indirectly, in the MoneySense evaluation

    Burlington is indeed a beautiful city but it’s 31st ranking reflects serious issues that need to be addressed – the upcoming Municipal election is our opportunity to move forward and create a City that we can be proud of – we need to elect Marianne Meed Ward as Mayor and also elect those Councillors that have the same mindset and STOP this rampant unsustainable growth!

    • Hans

      Quality of Life – including Ian K’s examples of air quality, open spaces, hospital and medical accessibility, public transportation, education system, day-care centers, shopping accessibility, support for the elderly and disadvantaged, etc. – is not exactly the same thing as Standard of Living but it is the more important feature. I agree that only a change in our municipal leadership, followed by some major staff changes, can prevent Burlington’s further loss of QoL.