I have never been somebody who takes too much stock in rankings. I scoff at the methodologies and poor sample sizes, not to mention the bias inherent in rankings. The last time I really paid much attention to rankings of any sort was when I was applying to graduate schools. But these days, rankings of cities have become a popular feature on many news sites/publications. There is no shortage of prominent publications that have invested significant resources in rankings of cities around the world such the Economist Intelligence Unit. As the world becomes more mobile, these rankings are the go-to source for those interested in travelling around the world seeking better air quality, education and employment prospects. What the rankings all have in common is that Toronto is consistently a top city well within top 10. When the Economist, Forbes and CNN all agree on something, then Toronto must be doing something right.
I don’t disagree that this city has plenty of problems such as massive condo construction, traffic congestion, belligerent public union sectors and homelessness in the downtown core and crimes in different pockets of the city, but this is one of a few cities in the world that has something for everyone. I’ve visited and lived in many cities, and each time I come back with more appreciation. Without travelling outside, we tend to take this city for granted.
Toronto is vibrant. You can experience different cultures around the world without ever leaving the city. The public transit here is also reasonably reliable, although the few subway lines here are nothing compared to some of the Asian cities, but some Asian cities also have more people than the entire population of Canada, and their transit systems are recent developments as cities emerged from poverty or the devastating effects of WWII. Toronto also attracts a large number of investors as well as research scholars who flock to Toronto to take advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities of our fine research universities. I used to see Toronto differently but having traveled so far to so many cities, I realize that we Torontonians really don’t have the right to complain. Yeah, some of you may think other cities are great but did you live there as a resident or as a tourist? The experiences of tourists can be very different because you are not truly integrated into the city’s everyday life. What are the schools like? What are the daily needs of residents? Does the subway/bus come on time? Where are the parks and recreation centers? Tour buses usually take their customers to the best areas in the city like Yorkville or the campus of downtown University of Toronto. None of these areas can reflect the reality of everyday life in Toronto.
As I said, Toronto is far from perfect. But there is something here for all of us. We may not be Austria or Switzerland. But neither country is an international immigration hub or has one of the most diverse school boards in the world. No wonder we are consistently ranked at the top. I am sorry Vancouver, but your greatest asset is your proximity to the Pacific Ocean. I mention Vancouver since it’s our closest rival year after year. As somebody who also lived in Vancouver as a kid, I know that Vancouver has become unaffordable to ordinary Canadians. If anyone has paid attention to the news lately, Vancouver’s real estate market has done all it can to keep out ordinary non-investor Canadians. That leaves Toronto as a true international superstar. This title is well deserved.