Edmonton doesn't exist?! Hicks on Biz, originally published Edmonton Sun, August 17, 2012
By Graham Hicks
It’s an annual insult.
Every year around this time, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s releases its report on the world’s most livable cities with much fanfare. The Economist is a leading international news and business magazine.
Every year, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto make it in the Top 10. This year, Montreal was the only other Canadian city included, coming in at 16th.
A few years back, tired of this slight, I asked the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation why we didn’t rate, even though Edmonton and Calgary come out neck-and-neck in any survey of Canada’s livable cities.
The answer, finally dug out of the Economist people, was that since Calgary and Edmonton were in such close proximity, only one needed to be scrutinized, and it was going to be Calgary.
We were not even considered for the list! In the eyes of the authors of this prestigious survey, Edmonton does not exist.
There’s an argument for not worrying about lack of recognition – why fret over how others see us, when we know – and have the statistical evidence – that Edmonton among the world’s most liveable cities. The very first Hicks on Biz column, on February 25, 2012, more than made that case.
But it’s irksome from the “can’t get no respect” point of view. Calgary gets the gravy, Edmonton gets the beans. We are forever unable to shake the national perception of Edmonton being Calgary’s wallflower sister. Outside of hockey, energy and academia (the University of Alberta), Edmonton has minimal international reputation - which is not unexpected, given we rank around 350 th in the world’s biggest cities by regional population. Being included in the Economist survey would certainly enhance that reputation.
Here’s another irritant in not being considered one of the world's top “liveable” cities.
Australia’s Perth was ninth in this survey. Please explain why the prosperous but remote regional Australian city of Perth is included, but the prosperous but remote regional Canadian city of Edmonton is not. If it's about climate, our winter cold (January average -11.7C) is offset by Perth’s down-under summer heat (January average 31C).
Why we should be in the Top 15
If Edmonton was included, using the Economist’s methodology, we should at least be in the top 15.
“Stability” accounts for 25% of the weighting: If Toronto and Calgary get the perfect 100 point score in this category, so would we.
“Health Care” counts for 20% of the total: Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, by dint of Canada’s public health care system, had 100 point scores. So would we.
“Culture and Environment” was given another 25%: This is a catch-all category with sub-categories like humidity/temperature rating, discomfort of climate to travellers, level of corruption, censorship, religious restrictions, access to sports, arts, food and drink, and consumer goods. The survey loved Vancouver (100 points) despite the rain, loved Toronto (97.2) despite wet winters and humid summers. Calgary (89.1) must have been slightly penalized for winter.
Where would that leave Edmonton in the “Culture & Environment”? Humidity/temperature – same as Calgary. “Discomfort of climate to travellers” – with winter and mosquitoes, maybe a one/hundredth percentage point behind Calgary. The rest, just as good as Calgary. When it comes to culture, despite having half the population, Greater Edmonton is more active than Vancouver. Let’s give ourselves 89 points for Culture & Environment.
“Education” (10% of the total): Same as all the other Canadian cities – we'd get a perfect 100 points in this category, like all the Canadian cities. In fact, Edmonton schools consistently rank among the world’s best.
“Infrastructure” (20%): We have roads, housing, energy, water and telecommunications as good as any other Canadian city ranked in the survey’s Top 10. We might lose a point or two as our LRT does not (yet) serve all city quadrants, and our non-stop scheduled air links outside North America consist of one flight a day to London, England. Despite freeway gridlock, Toronto had 89.3 in this category, Vancouver 92.9, Calgary 96.4.
For the sake of argument, let’s give Edmonton 88 points, one point less than Toronto for Infrastructure.
Edmonton’s hypothetical score: Stability – 100; Health Care – 100; Culture and Environment – 89; Education – 100; Infrastructure – 88. Using the Economist’s weightings per category, we would arrive at about a 95.4 overall rating.
Vancouver was third in the survey with a 97.3 overall rating, Toronto fourth at 97.2, Calgary fifth at 97.2.
The above-mentioned Perth was ninth at 95.9. Another remote smaller city, Auckland, New Zealand, was 10th at 95.7.
If we scored 95.4, we would have ranked in the top 15.
Up to us
Does Edmonton work hard enough at the day-to-day business of making ourselves known, at least within Canada and indirectly the world?
I’m not aware, for instance, of any staff in the City of Edmonton or Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, charged with the specific task of monitoring national surveys or news stories listing Canada’s top cities with the usual oh-so-grating Vancouver-Calgary-Toronto-Montreal, then tracking down the authors of such reports to constantly remind them that Edmonton belongs in that ranking, right between Calgary and Toronto Dogged persistence usually pays off.
City council just recently established the “City Image and Reputation Initiative” a task force being led by two city champions, polling and advertising expert Maureen McCaw and Yardstick Software’s Chris LaBossiere. One shouldn't be cynical and note that when action is required, bureaucracies create committees . But McCaw and LaBossiere are action-oriented and perhaps can come up with a game plan that includes dogged persistence.
For heaven’s sake, we are one of Canada’s and the world’s most livable cities … we should recognized as such!
Report: A Summary of the Livability Ranking and Overview August 2012
The top ten cities
* Australia Melbourne
* Austria Vienna
* Canada Vancouver
* Canada Toronto
* Canada Calgary
* Australia Adelaide
* Australia Sydney
* Finland Helsinki
* Australia Perth
* New Zealand Auckland
Bottom ten cities (Worst at the bottom)
* Côte d’Ivoire Abidjan
* Iran Tehran
* Cameroon Douala
* Libya Tripoli
* Pakistan Karachi
* Algeria Algiers
* Zimbabwe Harare
* Nigeria Lagos
* PNG Port Moresby
* Bangladesh Dhaka