If you wanted to live in the most wonderful city in Canada and just moved to Kelowna, don't read the current issue of MoneySense magazine.
According to the eighth annual feature on Best Places to Live in Canada, Kelowna is only ranked 76th out of 200 cities from coast to coast. That is better than last year's 144th. And it beats Penticton at 109th and Vernon at 116th. Both of those cities ranked higher than Kelowna last year.
According to the magazine, Kelowna's improvement was due in large part to the improved unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent in 2012, down from eight per cent in 2011.
Kelowna also didn't rank in the top 10 of other categories: the Best Places to Retire, Best Places for Kids, Best Places for New Immigrants or Best Mid-Sized Cities.
"Out of 200, it's not too bad," joked Corie Griffiths, business development officer with the Central Okanagan economic development commission.
"You can question any of the metrics for any of these studies, regardless of how they positioned Kelowna and the Central Okanagan. But when you're looking at some of the metrics that MoneySense traditionally does use around employment, housing prices, crime, weather and household income, we do rank favourably.
The median list price for all residential units is now about $340,000. A single-family home is in the low $400,000 category.
"We have fantastic infrastructure in the region as it relates to health care, an emerging young professional scene or culture, the top 10 busiest airport in Canada and close to two million tourists come (to the region) a year. When you're looking at not only the metrics that MoneySense uses but some additional influencers, it's very easy for me to say why Kelowna is such a great place to live and to conduct business."
A lot of these studies focus on new single-family units and total employment income, she noted.
"What's really unique about the Okanagan is that we have a much higher proportion of pension, retirement and investment income, which actually bumps our total income up. But when you only look at the employment income, it skews the number," she said.
"The reason why we are not the lowest-cost place to live as it relates to residential construction is because we're a great place to live. What do they know?" joked Catherine Frechette, communications manager for Tourism Kelowna.
"Kelowna is tops in our books because of lifestyle. You can stop at a winery on your way home and pick up your wine that you're going to have with dinner. We have recreation right from our doorstep. For many people who love golf, it is the one of the longest and driest golf seasons," she said.
Even for those who don't love golf, the fact that Kelowna has one of the longest and driest golf seasons in Canada means lots of warm and dry weather for other activities such as cycling, she said, adding Okanagan Lake is another attraction.
"Kelowna gets 1.5 million tourists annually and that is actually up 27 per cent over five years ago. Our tourists are also agreeing that this is a pretty great city. Tourism is one of Kelowna's top economic drivers so that is very telling of how great a city is when one of its top economic drivers is the enjoyment of its amenities and activities and attractions."
For the first time, Calgary earned the top spot, knocking off three-time champ, Ottawa, which dropped to sixth. High incomes and an abundance of jobs, fuelled by the boom in the energy sector, are among the reasons it jumped from 14th last year.
The annual scorecard not only shows the top cities in the country but paints a picture of the changing fortunes of various regions in Canada.
"Calgary's climb to the top of Best Places to Live highlights how well the West did overall in the rankings," said Jonathan Chevreau, MoneySense editor.
"This year, with the addition of the separate rankings in categories for small, medium and large cities, MoneySense is able to provide Canadians with even more comparative information they can use to make a smart decision about where to live, raise children and retire."
Mayor Walter Gray also joked: "I subscribe to MoneySense so you're telling me when I go home, I should phone and cancel it."
The city doesn't give too much credence to these kinds of surveys, he said on a serious note "because it obviously depends on what they use for the measurement criteria."
Personal choices are different, he noted. "Otherwise, we'd all own exactly the same breed of dog, the same breed of cat or we'd all be married to the same woman."
Every two years, Ipsos Reid conducts a scientific poll for the City of Kelowna. The 2012 survey showed 90 per cent of respondents said Kelowna is "a very good place to live" and 93 per cent said it was "a great place to play," recalled the mayor. "If people say that... it's a pretty great city in my view."
Recent census data shows Kelowna's population has grown by 9.6 per cent since 2006 compared to the average growth in Canadian cities of 5.9 per cent. "So we're growing almost twice as fast, the fourth fastest growing city in Canada after Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon, all in Western Canada."
Those at the top of the list have provincial and national headquarters and-or are smaller cities with large universities, both producing stable employment bases which is one of the criteria, he noted.
"The bottom line from our standpoint would be that while the survey is interesting and Kelowna appears to have shown progress - that's not going to necessarily make us feel ecstatic or anything - people generally don't make their decision on where to live based on surveys. The best indicator is probably which areas are experiencing growth. Growth reflects real-life decisions being made by real people."
Among other Canadian cities: Toronto jumped from 47th last year to 28th, largely due to the city's population growth of 5.27 per cent. Fredericton, N.B., dropped to 78th from seventh because of slipping incomes and higher home prices.
Beyond financial measures, the magazine also considers other key factors that contribute to community's livability, such as weather, access to health care and crime. In total, MoneySense's Best Places to Live ranks every Canadian community with a population of 10,000 or more in 33 different categories.