The best

The War of 1812 against the Americans was finished with the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. The treaty after the war left everything as it was before the war, except for all the dead and dreadfully injured people and the property destroyed. But we had a border. It was the same border as always but now it was recognized. It wasn’t by force of arms we won. We won the war because we had everything to lose and didn’t. We won because we didn’t lose.
The country we got to build over the next two hundred years — the best country in the world to live in — is Canada. It’s not me who says it’s the best country in the world to live in. That would be immodest. As far back as 1973, when The Economist made its first attempt to measure quality of life, Canadians came up as the world’s happiest people, with fewer divorces, less crime, more space and a sufficient number of houses, cars and other toys to make us the envy of the western world. In the first eleven years that the United Nations put forth its human development index (HDI), Canada topped the list eight times, including every year from 1994 to 2000. Only Norway competes. On this ranking of the health, wealth and happiness of people from a hundred and sixty nine countries, nowhere else comes close.
Of course the whole notion of a best country is far-fetched. Most Japanese will pick Japan, despite earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear meltdowns. Americans will vote for the stars and stripes, despite their bloody history and failure to reconcile the races. Icelanders will say Iceland is the best. They would have had just claim in 2007 or 2008. In those years Iceland topped the HDI measurements of the most developed countries, with longer life expectancies, better schooling and superior standard of living. In the twenty-one years that the United Nations has been compiling this index, only four countries have ranked number one — Iceland, Norway, Canada and Japan. But topping the list is no guarantee. Even as it basked in the acclaim, Iceland was about to implode as a bizarre contributor-cum-victim of the global financial meltdown. Its three largest banks crashed and the longstanding coalition government collapsed. Emigration numbers shot up as Icelanders fled the economic wreckage. Best is in the opinion of the beholder. On objective criteria, there are always places better in one way or another, and everywhere some drawbacks. Canada has cold. That bothers some.
But, as far as I can tell, it’s the common opinion of objective observers that no place beats Canada for much or by far. A measuring standard put out by OECD in 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of that extraordinary organization, allows a check against other countries across a range of indicators from health to income to social cohesion. The last time I looked, it was hard to beat Canada on this grid, no matter which indicators are chosen. You can try it here. And by the way, while on the subject, Ottawa is the best city to live in. This is well known by those who do in fact live here and by many who visit and is confirmed whenever a Canadian magazine recycles its “best Canadian cities” series (e.g. MoneySense April 2011).


One thought on “The best

  1. Re the “Money Sense” ranking of Canadian cities, a look into just one of the criteria, weather, reveals some rather dubious data. Toronto ranks 22nd, but adjacent Mississauga and Oakville rate fifth and first. Nearby Hamilton, in 40th spot, ranks below Winnipeg, in 35th. And it gets worse as you head into the mild heartland of Southwestern Ontario. London and Guelph check in at the 113th and 114th spots, and Stratford ranks 144th, well below Yellowknife at 133rd! The Montreal region shows similar glaring anomalies. Montreal itself ranks 78th, but Laval immediately north ranks 69th, while Longueuil immediately south ranks 132nd! Head north to nearby St-Jerome, and you’re ranked 104th, or east to Repentigny, and your at 110, even though you’re still within 50 miles of 69th-ranked Laval. You’re at 165 in Lachute, but across the Ottawa River in Hawkesbury, you’re at 50! And if you head south from Montreal, you fall off the chart. Granby is ranked 171st and Sherbrooke 179th, both well below Whitehorse at 131. If these numbers are to be believed, both Southwestern Ontario and Quebec’s Cantons de l’Est have worse weather than the Yukon. If the data on other criteria are as mixed up as this stuff, the whole ranking is probably worthless.

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