As a Canadian, I'm happy. As a Torontonian, I'm outraged.
I got a copy of the latest Mercer Quality of Living Survey, a fascinating document that quantifies city living around the globe based on everything from economic environment to schools to recreation and climate. I'm pleased to say Canada had three cities in the top 15 in the world and five in the top 33 and that, overall, it looks as if the only country to come out smelling sweeter was Germany. Also worth noting is that while the U.S. had eight cities in the top 50, their top rated city was way down at #29, that being Honolulu.
Of course, we can't compete with the U.S. in that top 50 issue as we don't even have eight cities in Canada. Sorry, feeble joke, folks. I think we actually have 11 if you include Brampton and Barrie, but nobody would do that.
It's great that Canada scored three in the top 15. I don't mind Vancouver being fifth, even. I mean, EVERY RANKING IN HISTORY has put Vancouver ahead of the rest of Canada, notwithstanding the 11 straight months of rain they get out there and the lousy coffee and those nasty, healthy-looking people on 4th Avenue in Kitsilano who made so much money in the housing market that they're retired at 32 and have nothing better to do than walk up and down the street, power-shopping with their perfect Labrador retrievers and sipping $25 cafe lattes while dressed head-to-toe in Lulu Lemon clothes as they prepare for a morning jog up Grouse Mountain. I mean, why would that bother someone from Toronto?
No, what's got my designer Holt Renfrew on Bloor Street $85 boxers in a twist is that Toronto - OMG!!! - finished behind, wait for it .... Ottawa. I was sure it was a mistake. But, no, I just finished my first Tim Hortons homemade coffee of the day and it's right there in tiny print on my home computer - Ottawa 14, Toronto 15.
Come on, people. Ottawa??? OTTAWA????
Clean streets? Sure. Easy to get around? Yes. Theatres and cinemas? I guess. But one of the factors here is climate, folks. Climate! Not to mention crime. We know Ottawa is a hot-bed of crime. I mean, why else would Stephen Harper keep building jails surrounded by moats and razor wire and trenches filled with machine guns?
The poll suggests limitations on personal freedom is important. Can you think of any city in Canada where the most high-profile people in town, those being our Members of Parliament, have less personal freedom?
Okay, okay. It's great to see Ottawa be able to lord it over Toronto. We can get pretty stuck up down here in the banana belt, and it's good for T.O.'s massive ego to get taken down a peg. And there's no harm in finishing 15th, is there? And while we can moan about finishing behind our country cousins in Ottawa, how about us finishing so far ahead of both Montreal (22) and, um, Calgary (33). Heh, heh.
Here are a few more highlights:
- Honolulu (see photo) was, deservedly, top dog in the U.S. at #29. Next was San Francisco at 30, then Boston (36), Chicago (43), Washington D.C. (43), New York (47) and Pittsburgh (49). A surprise to me to see Seattle out of the top 50. Ditto San Diego.
- The top 10 consisted of Vienna, Zurich, Auckland, Munich, Dusseldorf, Vancouver (tied with Dusseldorf, actually, for fifth), Frankfurt, Geneva and then Bern, Switzerland tied with Copenhagen for ninth. That's three German cities in the top seven. The Germans, of course, own all of Europe, including the Greek islands, so I guess that makes some sense.
- Sydney, Australia was surprisingly down at number 11, while Melbourne was 18th. I suspect the Aussies won't be happy that Auckland, New Zealand (a very nice town, by the way, with a great climate and superb natural facilities) was way up at number three, while Wellington, N.Z. was 13th; five spots ahead of Melbourne - a city that didnt' quite grab me when I was there in 2000.
- European cities represent more than one-half of the top 25.
- London was the top UK city at 38, followed by Birmingham at 52.
- The worst cities? Of course you want to know. Those would be Khartoum, Sudan (217), Port-au-Prince, Haiti (218), N'Djamena, Chad (219), Bangui, Central African Republic (220, see photo at left) and, drum roll please, Baghdad, Iraq at the bottom with a ranking of 221. Too bad, really, I was planning on making Bangui and Baghdad two of my personal choices for top travel spots of 2012. I've heard the Courtyard Marriott in Bangui has really good in-room movies.
- On the matter of personal safety, all the Canadian cities mentioned above tied for 17th in the world rankings. The safest city on earth, in case you're interested, is Luxembourg. Tied for second were Bern, Helsinki and Zurich, another underrated city in my humble opinion.
It all makes for good conversation around the company free Champagne dispenser, if nothing else. What, you don't have a free Champagne dispenser at your office? Pity you don't work for the Star. We ran out of Dom Perignon the other day but we've still got some Spanish cava on hand, I think.
TAKE YOUR VACATION ALREADY ... AND DON'T TAKE YOUR BLACKBERRY TO THE BEACH
Thanks to the folks at Expedia.ca for passing along another survey. This one shows that 62 per cent of Canadians say they regular or at least sometimes check in with the office by email or voicemail when they're on holidays. That's not actually that high, really.
In fact, Canadians ranked 14 out of 20 nations surveyed in the "I frequently check-in" with the boss category. Most likely to call the office? Folks in India (89 per cent), followed by (surprise) Italy (88 per cent) and France and Japan (87). I don't know about the French and Japanese but I suspect the Italians merely wanted to know whether former Prime Minister Berlusconi had attended any sex parties the night before and, if so, where they could find pictures on the web.
There was a bit of a surprise within the Canadian numbers, I think. The survey found that 68 per cent of folks in B.C. regularly check-in with the office, the highest number of any province. In Quebec, it was 58 per cent.
So, we still check in with the office more than we really should if we're going to enjoy our holidays. On the other hand, the survey found that Canadians intend to take 15 of their 16 average allotted vacation days this year. Last year, the survey found that Canadians were going to leave a full FIVE vacation days unused.
Asked why they wouldn't use all their holiday time, 26 per cent of Canadians said they couldn't afford it, and 15 per cent said they didn't have enough time to plan something. Others said they didn't want to take vacation as the boss would think poorly of them, which is pretty sad. In Ontario, nine per cent of folks said that was the case, compared to six per cent across Canada.
"Canadian workers should never let time or money get in the way of a much-needed vacation," said Sean Shannon of Expedia.ca. "Would-be travellers should plan their vacation as far in advance as possible as the best rates are most often found 60 days out from the departure date; not to mention it gives employers enough advance notice to plan ahead."
A few other interesting bits:
- In Alberta, folks average 20 days of vacation a year. But they only take 15; making Alberta the region with the HIGHEST number of unused holidays.
- The beach RULES. A relaxing beach vacation is the number one choice of Canadians in every province.
- Asked about holidaying at a theme park, some seven per cent of Canadians as a whole cited that as the top vacation idea. In Atlantic Canada, it was 12 per cent. Coming soon - Disney Moncton?
- Across Canada, 26 per cent of folks said they couldn't afford a holiday. In B.C. it was 34 per cent. Must be all those cafe lattes...
Expedia posted some tips for stressed out Canadians:
- Think about your vacation as a well-earned part of your career, not a luxury.
- Plan in advance
- Set limits on your "check-in" time with the office.
- Look for winter promotions. Oddly enough, they recommend using expedia.ca to book a holiday.